Sara Butler | Editor
Uptown bands to shine at Normal Heights music festival
Many know Uptown neighborhoods play host to a thriving local music scene, but some may not know they host the largest free two-day music festival in all of Southern California.
This Normal Heights festival, Adams Avenue Street Fair, is celebrating its 37th year the last weekend of September. Hosted by the Adams Avenue Business Association, the annual event features six stages and 80 musical acts.
Talent bookers scout local bands for the show to get the best of the best on the San Diego music scene. Ten music acts were also accepted through the festival’s online submission process, receiving 200 total entries.
Some of the bands performing at the festival are Uptowners, including Wild Wild Wets and Jonny Wagon & The Tennessee Sons.
Casbah owner and local music mogul Tim Mays booked the Wild Wild Wets to headline his stage on Saturday night. This is the self-described “dark and dancy, party-psych,” band’s third year playing the festival.
Yielding from North Park, Ocean Beach and Echo Park neighborhoods, band members include Mike Turi (vocals/synths), Taejon Romanik (guitar), Sarah Linton (bass), Marco Piro (drums) and Priscilla Castro (percussion).
In previous years, Wild Wild Wets played the street fair alongside “local royalty,” including The Donkeys and The Creepy Creeps.
“We perform all over, but the Uptown music scene is where we started rustling feathers,” Turi said. “We love seeing the continued support that everyone is still giving each other in aims of making a better scene.
“We enjoy playing big local events like these, so we can play with bands we love like The Schitzophonics and The Loons, who we don’t get a chance to play with very often,” he continued.
Making its Adams Avenue Street Fair debut is Uptown music scene newbie, Jonny Wagon & The Tennessee Sons. The “hillbilly R&B” band was invited by Steve Kader to perform on the Roots Rock stage Saturday.
The band is made up of Jonny Wagon (vocals), Daniel Crawford (guitar), Ben Zinn (guitar), Andre Carrera (bass) and Jeff Hawthorne (drums), who hail from University Heights, Normal Heights, North Park and Ocean Beach.
“Most of us all hang out and work in or around the University Heights area,” Wagon said. “You can usually find us at Lancers most nights.”
Though this is the band’s first time at the Normal Heights event, front man Wagon has previously performed at the festival, as well as many other local street fairs, with other music acts.
“Some of the things I like about AASF [Adams Avenue Street Fair] is the sea of talent that perform on and off the stages … the food of course, and the neighborhood vibe of all the burrows coming out for the weekend to celebrate,” he continued.
Scott Kessler, executive director of the Adams Avenue Business Association, echoed Wagon. He noted that “people come out for a good time and hopefully revisit the business district and local storefronts in the future.” The festival is the organization’s main marketing and fundraiser event, which runs the association all year.
“[We] want residents to have a fun time … it’s a big celebration,” Kessler said. “The hope is that people will attend the street fair and continue to hang out on Adams in the times between the other special events.
“Any revenue from the event goes back to community improvement [in Normal Heights],” he continued.
In addition to the music, this year’s festival features 300 arts, crafts and retail booths; four beer gardens; food vendors; and carnival rides. New this year is a Cornhole Tournament on Mansfield Street, where attendees can free play or register to win cash prizes. The festival — known for its beer and wine offerings — also expanded its drink menu, partnering with rum sponsor Kenny Chesney Rum, that will be serving rum cocktails at the event.
Adams Avenue Street Fair is Saturday, Sept. 28 from 10 a.m.–10 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 29 from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights. For the full music line-up, visit bit.ly/adams-ave-st-fair.
—Reach Sara Butler at email@example.com.