By Joyell Nevins
Music spilled out onto the streets on Saturday, April 27, as Adams Avenue Unplugged, sponsored by the Adams Avenue Business Association, kicked off its seventh musical walk-about. Nearly 10,000 music fans came out to hear 80 different artists sporting steel drums, cellos, guitars, trumpets, and even harmonica s. The musicians performed in 24 different venues up and down Adams Avenue from Kensington to University Heights.
“It is such a pleasure to play here,” singer-guitarist Nina Francis said, who was nominated for Best Singer-Songwriter at the 2019 San Diego Music Awards.
Francis grew up attending Unplugged’s parent, the Adams Avenue Roots Festival, and approached it with wide eyes and wonder as a child. Now a grown-up, she made a special trip down from Los Angeles to continue the tradition from the other side of the stage.
While the Roots Festival may have changed names and removed the street vendors, Unplugged has kept the same diversity of acoustic music. Blues, soul, folk, jazz, country and other genres all showed up on the schedule this year.
“We couldn’t have done [the festival] without the amazing contribution of the many performing artists,” said Scott Kessler, Unplugged coordinator and executive director of the Adams Avenue Business Association.
The lineup was a hodgepodge of bands, duos and solo artists. Musicians performed in venues as different as they were: bars, restaurants, coffee shops, a church, a water store, and even in front of an auto mechanic shop.
That last privilege went to Dan Dimonte of the Dan Dimonte Trio and his drummer Zac Tatum. Dimonte was tapped to play when Kessler heard him perform at a local art gallery. The idea emerged to turn a space beside the food court at Smitty’s Service into a stage as well.
“It was a blast,” Dimonte said, noting that foot traffic didn’t just walk by. “People were hanging with us.”
Some festivalgoers came out to support a specific artist, while some just strolled up and down the main drag, entering wherever their ears took them. Some of the bars became so full, bouncers had to turn people away because they were at capacity (those pesky fire codes!). Many of the musicians themselves visited other artists or made an appearance at the fest’s official after-party at the Air Conditioned Lounge.
Unplugged also boasted two headliners — multi-instrumentalist David Lindley, and Grammy Award-winning Gaby Moreno — and those ticketed concerts were completely sold out. Even businesses not sporting stages got into the festival spirit, offering specials or staying open late.
If you weren’t able to come out on April 27, or just want a continual replay, check out the “Adams Avenue Unplugged” Spotify playlist and enjoy a musical feast for your ears.