San Diego Music Thing

by Isabella Place

The San Diego Music Thing could be considered a miniature version of Comic-Con, but for bands and artists. This two-day festival not only offers musicians (and related professionals) the opportunity to see more than 100 bands in 14 venues around town, but also offers mentoring panels for those interested in the music business.

Contained mostly in North Park, the main hub of action takes place at the historic Lafayette Hotel. Conferences began in the morning, presenting topics ranging from songwriting, marketing your band and everything in between. Speakers included industry professionals to various musicians.

Several iconic speakers spoke about their past experiences and divulged opinions about the current state of the music industry. The panel which featured Chuck D, founding member of Public Enemy, not only entertained the audience with stories of his band’s rise during critical times, but also emphasized the importance of how cities would have better radio stations if the stations played at least 40 percent local artists on air. Chuck D said doing this would greatly increase any band’s potential for national or even global success.

Nightlife was also a major portion of the Music Thing’s event calendar with most bands performing after 7 p.m.

Logistically, it’s smart to have a strategy for venue and barhopping during the evening hour events. Maps and schedules were provided for your convenience, but winging it added fun to the night, allowing attendees to stumble upon new bands and artists. Taking place mainly in the heart of North Park, more than half of the bars such as Bar Pink, U-31 and The Office were within walking distance, but a few others including the Casbah and Tin Can Alehouse required a cab ride or a lift from a designated driver. Though Soda Bar and Eleven are further down El Cajon Boulevard than the bars in North Park, it’s an easy walk from one to the other because they are only a few short blocks apart. The close proximity of the venues added to the overall experience of the festival.

Performers included San Diego legends Pinback, Gregory Page and Get Back Loretta. Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge also played host to a number of acoustic artists such as Josh Damigo and Colin Clyne. Dance fiends Jamuel Saxon lit up Sunset Temple Room Saturday, and Blackout Party blew the roof off U-31 Friday. There are too many performers to name, but it’s undeniable all of them were top quality.

The real beauty of the festival was the all-access badge (or bracelet), which granted barhopping privileges without paying a cover at each location. This was an effective system, allowing patrons to enjoy various bars and venues, even if their intentions were not to attend the festival.

This well-organized event gave newcomers to San Diego a taste of the music scene in one of the most talked-about neighborhoods in town. This is not Gaslamp, but a casual experience with real talent, where patrons were able to seriously rub elbows with some upcoming artists. If you’re thinking about starting a band, are ready for the next step in your musical career or simply enjoy going to music festivals, be sure to catch San Diego Music Thing.