Street Scene aimed for Coachella Lite, still packed good tunes

    The first word I could come up with to describe the new Street Scene setting, out of the streets of the Gaslamp and into the parking lots of Petco Park? Underwhelming.

    Gone were the days of the Street Scene Experience, replete with a menagerie of eclectic and interesting foods, shops and people. Instead of a West Coast Mardis Gras for everyone over 21, we were treated to a Coachella Lite for the kiddies. It was heavy on the moneymaking, but light on the character that has become such a beloved part of Street Scene.

    Patti Smith: The veteran punkstress emerged onto the stage amid cheers from the oldest people I’d seen since I arrived.

    Looking like a wizened manzanita branch, dressed in a torn shirt bearing a self-inflicted peace sign, the 57-year-old played a set demonstrating the range of her music, from slow minimalism to fiery punk rock. Voting was encouraged early and often during the show, which climaxed with 1988’s “People Have the Power.” With only two minutes left in the show, Smith made sure the audience got the message to “fucking vote” before strapping on an out-of-tune guitar, lending some distorted noise to her band’s thunderstorm of a closer, breaking off all of the strings one by one, and reminding us all what “punk rock” really means.

    Jimmy Eat World: The defection of these Arizona-hailing emo-avengers to the pop radio airwaves has incurred the wrath of many former fans in recent years.

    Luckily, at this year’s Street Scene, Jimmy Eat World made sure not to let down any of their fans, playing new and old hits alike. They began with a shout-out to their neighboring home state, and then the title track of their yet-to-be-released album, Futures, which looks to be a slightly boring sound-alike to the 1999 masterpiece Clarity.

    They filled out the rest of the show with the well-loved “Lucky Denver Mint,” “Blister” and “Goodbye Sky Harbor.” From their popularizing Bleed American, they played through energy-filled, audience-chanting versions of the title track, along with “A Praise Chorus,” “The Middle,” “Your House,” “Sweetness” and “Get It Faster.” From the upcoming Futures, they played the monosyllabic singles “Kill” and “Pain,” as well as “Nothing Wrong,” which made it sound like Jimmy Eat World brushed up on their emo with repeated listenings of Weezer’s Pinkerton.

    Not to disappoint the few diehard fans in the audience, “No Sensitivity” was included off of their split EP with Jebediah. Like or hate their brand of hyper-pop-emo, Jimmy Eat World can put together a damn entertaining show.

    A Tribe Called Quest: These reunited legends of hip-hop — Ali Shaheed Muhammed, Phife Dawg and Q-Tip — played for the first time in seven years to an audience of adoring fans, young and old, on the very streets of our own San Diego.

    From the very inception of this Street Scene’s lineup, this was destined to be its greatest moment. Trading lines like the childhood friends they are, A Tribe Called Quest assaulted the audience with air-thickening jazz loops and lyrical precision, still sharp after seven years. For many, it was a chance to see the group that typified the early ’90s for them, when they were in college and still listened to cool music. For others, it was a chance to hear live what had been heard on the stereo hundreds of times.

    For everyone, it was akin to a revival meeting, hot and claustrophobic, but thick with love. They rocked everyone the fuck down. If you weren’t there, you missed it. If you were there, you won’t forget it.

    Blackalicious: Straight outta Sac-town, Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel were joined by labelmate Lateef the Truth Speaker for a heart-filled show. In addition to playing brilliant tracks from NIA and Blazing Arrow, the group banged out songs from Gift of Gab’s solo album, 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up.

    The futuristic funk of the Arrow tracks allowed Xcel to lay down his own brilliance on the steel wheels, supported by a brilliant female backup vocalist. It was a chance to sit back and listen to the skills.

    Toots and The Maytals: Toots Hibbert, the legend, the progenitor of reggae, sang and danced his way into the hearts of an audience comprised of young Sublime fans and middle-aged drunks. Publicizing his new album True Love, Toots invoked a time when live shows were the ultimate manifestation of the artist. He played all his hits, from “Monkey Man” to “Pressure Drop,” danced his famous side-to-side dance and sang with the soul of Jamaica.

    Though dancing to the music was, at first, ill-received by the younger crowd, the heaps of ganja smoked almost communally by the audience effected a change from audience stoicism to the dancing, shouting passion that Toots expects from his audience.

    By the end of his set, everyone was singing along to such famous songs as “Country Road” and the often covered “54-46 (That’s My Number).” There’s nothing like a good reggae show to perk up your spirits, and the Maytals could play a good reggae show out of an iron lung.

    Foo Fighters: Dave Grohl just wants to have a good time. Filled with energy from the start, the famous Foos ripped through songs from every album, including such nonsingles as “Hey, Johnny Park!” and “Stacked Actors.”

    The memorable moment of the show? When a fan made his way onstage to shake hands with Dave, and was asked if he had the balls to take his balls out for the audience. After the big-screen-projected cat brains were put away, Dave responded, “You’re awesome, dude. Nice balls. Now get the fuck off my stage.” Dave then went back to the superhits without missing a beat, occasionally musing upon the big deal made over balls.

    But hey, the man’s already made legendary music. Let’s just let him have a little fun.

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