East End Block Party in Santa Ana returns, putting community and culture front and center
The East End Block Party, an all-ages music and arts festival, has been a staple in Downtown Santa Ana culture for almost a decade. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, it was a major blow to the culture of Orange County’s “Golden City.”
Now, the East End Block Party is back for 2022 and with it includes local artists, vendors, businesses, food, a beer garden, car show, and best of all, visitors from across Santa Ana and beyond are able to attend the festival for free.
“My whole motivation is being able to provide and bring these opportunities to people in our city,” said Tyson Pruong, the festival’s promoter. “Every day is just more motivating being able to provide those opportunities, not just for artists and musicians, but anybody who wants to give back to the community.”
The festival will be held Saturday from noon to 10 p.m., anchored in the plaza in front of the Yost Theater. The lineup features an array of acts such as legendary Bay Area hip-hop group RBL Posse and their Compton counterparts 2nd II None, pop-funk band Undecided Future, genre-bending rock band Asiatica, psychedelic indie band Levitation Room, and Chicano rock band 3LH.
East End Block Party started as a way to put a spotlight on Downtown Santa Ana, showcasing one of OC’s most well-known cities as the treasure that many locals have known it to be for generations.
On a team full of Santa Ana natives, marketing and branding coordinator Sara Marshall says this project has struck a chord for her as it’s her first year joining the team behind the East End Block Party festival.
“I really think that Santa Ana has so much. I mean, not only potential, because I really feel like it’s already thriving on its own. But I really want Orange County — the rest of Orange County — and even California, to recognize what a gem Santa Ana really is,” Marshall said.
Making its way back with a bang after two years off, the festival will feature live mural paintings from streetwear shop GCS, break dancing sessions from Saint City (an urban arts sanctuary) and a skate zone in collaboration with OC Ramps and Charlies Tattoo Studio — these are all headed by Santa Ana businesses and locals.
“We’re excited to bring it back. And we think that the community and people are ready to get back,” said Ryan Chase, president of Downtown Inc. and a major sponsor of the event. “I think there’s been so much demand with COVID and everything else that people are eager and excited about coming back to this.”
This year, the festival will be teaming up with local EDM promoter Tropicaza to present the Tropicaza Stage. This is East End Block Party’s first all-house music stage, where attendees can drop by at 4 p.m. and stay till the end of the night to listen to a lineup of deep house DJs at DTSA’s Fourth Street Market.
Visitors can also stop by La Santa — a nearby music venue on 3rd Street to check out more music acts for just $1 on top of the two free stages already offered at the festival.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing Santa Ana artists, or artists that are really involved in the Downtown Santa Ana scene, like Gucci Mar, Samy Love, Blake Jones,” Marshall said. “I feel like these people have been involved for several years, and it’s really nice to see them share the stage with other legendary acts as well.”
All three artists Marshall mentioned are Santa Ana locals, and they are going to be performing their own solo sets for the first time at the festival.
Mariajose Jimenez, also known as rapper Gucci Mar, performed at East End Block Party in 2019. Though she didn’t have her own set, Jimenez was invited to perform her single, “Pretty.”
“It was just such a dope event the first time I went, and I remember saying, ‘Dang, I’m gonna try and be a part of this somehow, and try and make more music or put myself out there a little bit more,’ ” Jimenez said.
“And it happened,” she added.
Growing up, Jimenez went to Downtown Santa Ana every Sunday with her mom and stopped by the money exchange to send money to Mexico.
“I remember there used to be a carousel in downtown. And we would either go on the carousel or [my mom would] get me one of those fruit cups from the vendedores just for going with her and behaving, so definitely Fourth Street was part of my childhood growing up,” she said.
Samantha Margarita Ramirez Hernandez, whose stage name is Samy Love, spent most of her childhood in Orange County and around Santa Ana after moving from Mexico. But she didn’t officially make her residency in Santa Ana until after finishing community college.
“Ever since then, [Santa Ana has] been my home and I want it to be my home forever. That’s where I want to lay my roots and where I felt the most at home,” she said.
Ramirez met Jimenez and Jones at the Coollab Project, another gem in Santa Ana that invites musicians, poets, artists, and visual arts creatives for monthly open mic and jam sessions building a connected arts community.
“Sam and I met at the Coollab and that’s, what I mean — it’s like a place that just brings musicians together especially at times like when it’s most needed,” Jones said.
Recently, the three of them worked on Samy Love’s latest single “CAUTION,” featuring Gucci Mar and produced by Jones.
Keeping their roots, the music video was shot in Santa Ana, riding around 5th Street, El Salvador Park, 2nd Street and a few other locations in the city.
“Even if [we] don’t speak the same language, you can feel the messages in the music, so I’m definitely blessed and really excited to be able to do that for the community,” Ramirez said. “To be able to go out there and show them my love for them through my music.”
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