Being a late-comer to the local rock and roll scene (After six years, maybe I have to stop calling myself that), I only attended my first Sunset Junction in 2006. It was already a paying event, so I wasn't even aware it had ever been free. I didn't know it's history, nor had I ever been much of a participant in community affairs for a couple of decades.
For the first year of my music journey, I really wandered alone around the fringes, allowing one band to lead me to another and one show to open up the door to more shows. Until the Sunset Junction of August 2006 I was going to between 4 to 7 shows each month, but this was the first festival I had gone to since Woodstock, and at that point I was desperate to hear as many new local bands as I could find. I was following Earlimart, Irving and Great Northern around at that time (in fact, the three bands were on the same bill at El Cid on May 20, 2006, a fantastic show) and they were the first local bands I became obsessed with. I had worked up the courage to go up to them after their sets and say 'hello, I like your music', but I was too intimidated by their talent to allow the conversation to go much further.
So, I went to the 2006 Sunset Junction on Saturday, Aug. 26 to see Great Northern. The weather was perfect, the crowd was sparse and friendly during the day, spray tents were set up to combat the relentless sun, the beer was refreshing and the music was sublime. I'd also quit cigarettes a couple of weeks before, and I was really starting to notice the positive health effects. Everything conspired to make a perfect day. One after another band took the Bates Stage and each one impressed me. The Minor Canon, The Little Ones, Monsters Are Waiting and Lavender Diamond all won me over and I was ecstatic. Becky Stark made me feel like I'd fallen down the rabbit hole and awakened in a Disney-inspired, fevered acid dream. I took a break, ate some food and watched The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (who didn't do much for me) and then Eels, who completely blew me away.
After that experience my concert-going shot up to nearly a dozen a month, and continued to escalate to my normal 3-5 shows a week over the next year. And I (almost) never missed another Sunset Junction...until this year. By 2007, I was starting to meet musicians so some of the bands had members I'd met and was beginning to know, so I was glad to see Division Day, The Pity Party, The Parson Red Heads, The Broken West and Sea Wolf.
Things started to really escalate once I began this blog in May, 2008, after realizing my passions were shifting and my future belonged to the music world. I wanted to be able to participate and give something back, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. By the time of the 2008 Festival it became, basically, just hanging around with friends, and the bands were Bodies of Water, Castledoor, The Happy Hollows, Radars To the Sky and one of the headliners, Menomena. Another great time that ended up going late into the night as I sat in the balcony at El Cid with members of Walking Sleep (at the time called The Flying Tourbillion Orchestra) watching Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros at one in the morning. Unforgettable.
In 2009, I skipped Sunset Junction because I was presenting my first FEED YOUR HEAD show for the EP release of Summer by Seasons at Pehrspace on Saturday August 22, 2009, so I had to miss the Festival. By the time I went back to it last year, things had changed. It was getting bigger and more crowded and frankly, too spread out. I ran between the two stages at the far ends and managed to see Moses Campbell, Pollyn, Andy Clockwise, Eastern Conference Champions and Everest. All bands killed it and it was a lot of fun, I even managed to go back on Sunday and see Leslie Stevens and the Badgers and Red Cortez, but something had changed.
But for it to go down this way was disappointing. Whatever the quibbles and complaints of residents, the apparent mismanagement at the top of the organization and the city's thinly veiled contempt for the event itself, all combined to bring the end of an era. I'd be surprised to see it ever rise again, and at least we have many alternative and interesting attractions that involve street fairs and music. I'm still sorry to see it ended. It was, especially in those first years I went, a rare and gratifying opportunity to rub shoulders with many of the different communities that make up this fabulous city of ours. The chance to just relax in the sunshine and be overwhelmed by wonderful bands.
People are scrambling all around to try to find venues and theatres for the stranded bands to play in, and I applaud their efforts. I only hope the musicians are the last ones to suffer any hardship because of this. Anyway let's look forward and I'll see you at The Eagle Rock Music Festival and Street Fair.
Late Update: There is a mad scramble to play weekend shows all over town, particularly on the east side. Kevin Bronson is doing a fantastic job of getting the information out there. Keep checking Buzzbands for the latest news.