Local Bands Play East Village Streets at 5th Annual Buskerfest

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Photos by Menchie Caliboso

Having not attended BuskerFest since its inception in 2009, I made my way to the East Village Arts District this past Saturday with a zealous curiosity about the changes creative duo and event coordinators, Rand Foster and Justin Hectus, brought to this year’s festival.

From my recollection of BuskerFest in 2009, I remember four flatbed trucks planted throughout two streets, fully unplugged acoustic sets and one main stage for the festival’s winner. Four years later, BuskerFest now has three flatbed trucks closing only one street, a moderately long line but efficient system for beer consumption, amplified instruments and vocals, and a full-out jam session to close out the night in lieu of a closing performance by the festival’s winner.

buskerfest4Upon arriving to BuskerFest, 10-piece funk/soul band Move inundated my ears with their rendition of Arethra Franklin’s “Respect” and certainly kept the audience energized, with some audience members dancing while inadequately keeping their beer from spilling… or dancing and trying to keep their toddlers from getting too far.

I looked around and immediately noticed the beautifully inter-generational crowd indulging in local music. Afterwards, I made my way to the third stage for blues-rock duo Brother C & Sister J, who also performed at last year’s BuskerFest. I only caught “Bad Woman Blues” and a cover of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” which culminated with Brother J fervently throwing his necktie to the audience.

Driven by my commitment to catch as many bands possible, I walked over to the second stage during mid-set. Local trio Dumb Love graced the audience with a traditional busker setup-–acoustic guitar, stripped down drum set and a stand-up bass. Equally notable was the unique décor of this flatbed truck–a stage backdrop concealed with old vinyl covers. Again, an inter-generational crowd attentively listened to the lead singer’s raw emotions behind the band’s jolting melodies and poignant harmonies.

And probably the cutest sight was to my left-–a toddler clapping his hands to the rock ‘n’ roll music. My peripheral auditory perception took notice of the next band warming up their instruments at the first stage. It turned out to be five-piece band Fathers & Suns who invited a migration of audience members to their stage with the opening chord progression of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”

buskerfest6Next on my list was Carly Ritter-–a five-piece band from Los Angeles. I felt ambivalent about seeing a band from Los Angeles play at a uniquely Long Beach local-music festival, but this was forgiven once I heard their angelic three-part vocal harmonies and the lead singer’s genuine gratitude for being there. Their calming rhythms, mellow accordion and jubilant guitar created a sonic space fit to soak in the serene sunset.

Lastly, another returning contestant from last year’s BuskerFest, indie rock band The Fling welcomed Long Beach newcomer Angela Bachmann to the first stage as their back-up vocalist for the night. At this point, audience members seemed exhausted from dancing, but The Fling successfully swayed the audience to rest and recharge with their sweet even-tempered songs.

Not surprisingly, The Fling is signed under indie rock powerhouse Dangerbird Records. My favorite part of BuskerFest and perhaps a newly integrated concept to the event was the closing jam session shared between all participating band members. After I stepped out to quickly devour my dinner, I walked back to the first stage where former Long Beach Post writer Greggory Moore lead a cover of The Doors’ “L.A. Woman” with band members from Move, Fathers & Suns, and The Fling. Who knew that Greggory Moore could rock out like Jim Morrison?

buskerfest5Then came covers of Talking Heads, Bob Dylan and The Band, in which BuskerFest contestants Dennis Robicheau and Rainman also joined. With at least 15 people onstage at one time, the audience exuberantly sang along and danced with these interactive performers.

As an audience member, I would like to see an eclectic lineup next year that is more representative of the music of Long Beach. We are not just a city of rock music. We do have hip-hop, jazz and Latin music too. And how did two contestants return to BuskerFest for their second time? To be fair, I think we can all appreciate that the coordinators of BuskerFest made proper improvements to accommodate the needs of the people with sound amplification, a larger beer garden, and an extended dance party to close off the night.

Now, you’ve probably made it this far into this review to find out this year’s winner. Drum roll please… give a big congratulations to Fathers & Suns

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