"I thought there would be maybe a couple of hundred people here and that it would be a pretty good event but, damn, I didn't think there would be this many people here and that it would this great a party. Hell yeah!," exclaimed Dan K -- one of the many attendees at last Friday's East Bay Express party.
The Oakland biker/hip-hop artist (who a few years back had a feature on him in the East Bay Express) was excitedly shouting over the music coming from the main stage at the Oakland Museum of California, where the independent East Bay weekly was hosting its "Old School" themed "Best of the East Bay" free party. Meanwhile, behind him, one of the hella fun night's many performers, longtime Berkeley ska group The Uptones (pictured above), ripped into their appropriately old school hit "Out to Sea."
"Crazy....in a good way," laughed Amoeba Music's Naomi about the scene. She and fellow Amoebite Rachael were kept extremely busy tending to the long line of music fans who patiently waited for their turn to spin-to-win prizes including CDs, DVDs, and lots of Amoeba swag, including bags, hoodies, and turntable slip mats. (Amoeba was one of the main sponsors of the event.) A little later, headlining act Flipper was scheduled to sign autographs at the Amoeba table.
Taking a much needed break from the Amoeba wheel of fortune to survey the thousands in attendance, Naomi exclaimed that there were "a hundred times more people here than I expected. It's such a great party!" adding that Amoeba Records' recording artist Brandi Shearer had done a nice set a little earlier on the main stage (which I missed). She also advised me not to miss Hottub's upcoming set, informing me that the Oakland electro rap group, fronted by three fun female emcees, is produced by former Amoebite Jason Stinnett -- a cool guy and talented artist who had appeared on one of the Amoeba Music compilations.
And boy, was Naomi right about Hottub, whose MySpace very accurately describes the group as sounding like "John Waters meets Daft Punk at a 2 Live Crew show" and whose set was just amazing! I'll bet money right now (takers for a $10 bet?) that Hottub are going to be huge: it's just a matter of time.
Joining Jason (aka Jay-Sonic) towards the back of the stage was Hottub's keyboardist Funky Finger Mark. Together they laid down the infectious grooves for the three front women: Co-Co Machete, Loli Pop, and Ambreezy, who killed it on the mics in a fun old-school, party-rocking way, much to the delight the excited crowd, who pushed their way up front to be as close as possible to the fun onstage.
On the Entrance Stage, the other outdoors stage near the museum main entry point, the scheduled performers of the entertainment- packed night included the Kev Choice Ensemble (pictured below), DJ Malachi, Won Way (AKA Juan from Amoeba Berkeley), and B'Nai Rebelfront.
Inside, where many of the museum's great exhibits were open for viewing, there was a non-stop barrage of fun things to see and do. There was even plenty of stuff to keep kids occupied at the Chabot Space & Science Center Kids Zone, including seeing other kids performing on the Bandworks (an East Bay school of rock for kids) stage.
I caught the kick-ass, rockin' performance by Minus One (pictured below), whose members (14 & 15 year olds from Berkeley and Oakland) were all very entertaining and super-talented musicians.
KALX radio (90.7FM Berkeley) was in the house, with several DJs from the never boring UC Berkeley radio station present, including former KALX DJ Laura In The Living Room and current DJ Buttercup (Mondays 6-9AM). Buttercup was the winner of the East Bay Express award for best radio DJ in 2006 and was also one of the two MCs on the event's main stage. The other MC (as in master of ceremonies) was Bukue One (pictured left), a renaissance man if ever there was one, who, in addition to rocking the mic, is a talented graffiti artist, skateboarder, producer, and manager (Del tha Funkee Homosapien is his client).
As DJ Dyloot spun trance in the background, Bukue-One (AKA Mr. Generous) informed me of what he's been up to music-wise and handed me a plastic dropcard (looks like a phone card) with URL links & codes to download his new tracks, including "Watchyaknow (Riddim Mix)."
Additionally Bukue-One, who was featured on Independent Sounds: Amoeba Music Compilation Vol. III, contributed to the big live graffiti installation. Joining him in the live, on-site painting of the beautiful, large scale, double-sided graffiti canvas piece were the artists Kush 2, Kufu, and the highly respected longtime East Bay graffiti artist Refa-One of TCB. I had a chance to chop it up with Refa, who reminded me that slain East Bay graffiti legend, and his late, great old school graf partner, Mike "DREAM" Francisco's birthday is coming up in the next few weeks.
I asked Refa (pictured right in front of Friday's large graf piece) what his take was on the current state of graffiti in the East Bay?
After some thought he replied with a smile, "There are two answers to that question." Following another pause he continued. "Lost," he said, was the first of the two answers, and he quickly added his second answer-- that graffiti in the East Bay is "making a comeback from the hood, where a lot of kids are now doing a lot more graffiti again."
Among the wide variety of booths and stands set up were Sungevity, who were promoting their solar electric power systems which, with oil near $150 a barrel, attracted a lot of interested individuals.
Also popular with attendees (especially kids) was the Head Over Heels Gymnastics and Splash Circus, an Emeryville non-profit organization dedicated in promoting healthy living to kids. "We instill a love of physical activity at an early age, which is needed, especially in this age of obesity in kids -- a time when parents fear letting their kids out on the street to play," said the organization's assistant director Dierdra Bassel, noting that their summer camps are popular with a growing number of East Bay kids and their parents. Scroll down to see picture of their exhibit on Friday.
At another great booth geared toward the well-being of young people sat Keith "K-Dub" Williams (pictured right, behind the table full of handmade graffiti baseball hats he designed), an Oakland educator who works in developmental arts and whose resume includes teaching art in the Oakland school system.
K-Dub's current projects include drumming up support for Oakland's Skate and Arts Park at Defremery Park (1651 Adeline St.), which is designed "to provide Oakland youth with a safe and legal place to skate." The skate park is part of Town Park, created by "a conscientious group of Oakland residents" and one of its other goals is to be a public arts center where youth can create murals and other urban art forms. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Flipper, the final act of the perfect night, took to the stage, music fan and East Bay Express business manager Matthew Ayotte smiled widely backstage and summed up the successful party.
"An unbelievably great event with nothing but positivity all around," observed Ayotte. "There was a little bit here tonight for everyone. And even though we took a bit of a risk with the wide mix of all different styles of music, it somehow all worked perfectly."
Indeed it did! And the fact that the East Bay Express is now a completely independent and locally owned publication makes the success of this big party all the more significant. Mark your calendars now for the 2009 East Bay Express' Best of the East Bay party!