Some cities just have it figured out, and Santa Ana seems to be one of them.
If the crowd reaction was any measure, the third annual downtown East End Block Party last weekend proved that eclectic all-day festivals can work if combined with little pieces of awesomeness for everyone.
From noon until after 10 p.m., there was a disarming mix of fresh music, old-school vinyl, classic cars, food and family-friendly activities. Four main stages combined with random alley acts to give attendees plenty of choices.
Mike Watt, co-founder of the Minutemen, was probably the most famous headliner, but in many ways, it was the sheer volume of acts — more than 40 — that gave the event its gravity.
The names are maybe not as important as the enthusiasm. Most are young acts who give that extra effort because they don't know how to do anything else. Those at the party found it raw, infectious and endearing.
Rapper Hotboi, for example, finished his set when his small son ambled onstage and asked for the mic. To the oohs and awws of the crowd, the boy said he was "so proud of my dad."
"My son just almost made me cry right there," Hotboi said.
Over on the Orange County Music League stage, one of the promoters of the event, rockabilly veteran group the Altar Billies, gave a solid, foot-stomping set.
Throughout the day, there were generous, polished performances that sometimes belied the young faces. Many of the musicians have not been together long, but it wasn't always obvious.
Super Lunch, for example, drove down from Pasadena for its first gig in Orange County. The surf punk band recently released an EP on Penniback Records, but the group has only been kicking around seriously for less than a year.
In addition to the music there were many other activities and vendors — art, clothing, jewelry, kids' crafts and more.
In the parking lot in front of the Yost Theater, the Beat Swap Meet hosted an impressive collection of vinyl from "dozens of invited record collectors, private dealers, independent shops and record labels from all over the West Coast and beyond," according to the organizers' promotion.
The genres were too numerous to name, but they included blues, funk, hip hop, latin, metal, new wave, punk, rap, reggae and rock.
Also in this area was Alonzo "Lonzo" Williams of "Straight Outta Compton" fame. He was in the World Class Wreckin' Cru and had a book signing for "N.ot W.ithout A.lonzo."
Nearby was perhaps one of the more popular live displays — the break dancing. Elbow to elbow with small kids sitting up front, teams competed throughout the day.
Meanwhile, about 80 custom cars by Curious Entertainment lined up with open hoods and gleaming modifications.
The music was the driving energy throughout the event. It was impossible to catch every band but there were guaranteed surprises throughout the day.
On the Top Acid stage, in addition to Watt, were SadGirl, Dante Elephante, Beach Bums, PITY PARTY, Playboy Manbaby (Arizona), MELTED, Red Wizard, The Side Eyes, Blackwülf, Great Electric Quest, Gold Vine, Janelane, Astro Samurai, Girl Tears, Katarina, Sister Crowley, Mechachief, The Red Pears, The Rooms, Dead Bedouin, Whaja Dew, Paper Days, Lords of Beacon House, Time and Energy, The Grinning Ghosts, Wyrm, The Mad Walls, Wandering Gypsies, Dancing Tongues, Naked Machine, Velvet Merlin and more.
On the Konsept stage were Jay Taj, Just Chill, Apollo Bepop, West$ide Kev, Critical Thought, Griff, Joshua Moore, Hotboi, Pretty Pape$, R&D and ChaseMo, and Rufio Spenz. There were also deejay sets with Sarisuk, Vangala, Real, Nate Millions, Mixx, BSuave, Alpha Q and CornBreeze. In addition, there were Konsept residents AllieRockk, Arthur Caves, Karlton Phre$h, DZYD, Clemmie Williams, Bear and Eddy Rotten.
Finally, over on 4th St., were The Altar Billies, Enhance OC, Caveman Voicebox, Too Bad, Spare Parts For Broken Hearts, Chad Martini, FESTE, The Alienated, Bristol to Memory, The Trems, The Barebones, Chameleon Technology, Saint Blasphemer, The Alley Crabs, The Taco Truck Band, Pappa Midnight, The Sky Catching Fire, The Standard Affiliates and Sapien.
The sheer number was nearly what could be found at a daily Coachella lineup.
DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at email@example.com.