Addressing the clearly appreciative audience that packed the outdoor area of the Oakland Museum of California on Friday night (August 7th) for the East Bay Express' (EBX) mega 2009 Best Of The East Bay Party (BOEB), Goapele perfectly summed up the positive vibe of the entire evening.
"It's so good to be in Oakland and to have something positive like this going on," sincerely spoke the hometown soul singer between songs from the Amoeba Music Main Stage, articulating what many people must have been thinking at this huge, culturally diverse and uplifting event.
Accurately subtitled Subcultures and only in its second year, the Oakland Museum staged happening has fast become an important local cultural event, this year attracting 20,000 people -- more than double the expected number, according to Jody Colley, the publisher of the independently owned and operated alternative weekly.
After making her observation, Goapele, along with her tight four piece band, launched into the artist's new song "Milk + Honey" -- a song that incidentally appeared on the 15 track Best Of The East Bay Party 2009 CD Sampler, the free CD that was being handed out at the event that free to the public.
The 2009 Best Of The East Bay Party was off the hook and clearly was a resounding success on every level. It was so well attended that by mid evening the museum had to stop letting people inside. There was so much to do during the seven hour event, from the 13 bands on the Amoeba Music Main Stage, to the Oakland Faders DJ stage at the entrance, to the performances going on simultaneously at the theaters inside the museum building, to all the things happening outside like the dope live graffiti installations (including Estria), and the professional contact sports, and the attractions inside in the garage like the long row of games to play. Oh and the regular museum exhibits, including Squeak Carnwath's extensive show that incorporates lots of vinyl record imagery, which were also open to the public all evening, were alone worth the trip.
In short, it was entertainment overload, and there was no way you could possibly take it all in, even if you tried your hardest. Naturally, like most folks in attendance, I did try my best to do it all and see it all, and while I may not have seen and done everything (I actually only scratched the surface), I nonetheless had fun, hella fun -- just like at the 2008 Best of the East Bay Party.
As you entered the Oakland Museum on 10th and Fallon Streets -- right opposite Laney College -- and came down the flight of concrete steps to the entrance the outdoor stage, where last year Kev Choice was among the performers, this year there was the Oakland Faders DJ Stage, where the hometown DJ crew threw down some sick ass beats and grooves.
"We started really early, at 5pm, and slowly but surely the multitude of people kept increasing. Every five minutes twice as many people were arriving," said the Oakland Faders' DJ Platurn, a former Amoebite and amazing DJ who echoed Goapele's sentiment about the evening. "It was fantastic and pretty amazing to witness an event like this go down in the East Bay, and in the Oakland Museum of all places!" During a good chunk of the time the Faders spun, some dancers were seriously breaking to their beats.
Once inside the museum there were many different directions to head. I headed left down the hallway, just past the bathrooms, to the Lecture Hall theater space that seated a couple of hundred or more-- but no one was sitting down. Instead they were up and out of their seats swaying and clapping along to the inspiring gospel music of the 15 member strong Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. It might have been Friday evening at the museum, but it was like Sunday morning in church. Check the brief video clip below of the choir, who were just one of six acts, ranging from music to comedy and improv, scheduled in the Lecture Hall on Friday.
Oakland Gospel Interfaith Choir at EBX party, 2009
Others included the Pan Theatre Improv Troupe, who I missed, and stand up comedian Thandiwe Thomas, whose set I caught part of. He was really funny, and won the crowd over as he shared his witty, observant tales of the people he has encountered, like a grumpy AC Transit bus driver and also talked about what it is like to be black and gay in Oakland. Meanwhile, outside the Lecture Hall, the line for the ladies room remained inordinately longer than the men's room right beside it all night long. But that's always the way at packed events! When will venues ever think ahead and plan the women's rooms proportionately and bring equality to the bathroom line?
Besides the Lecture Hall, there was the Museum Restaurant Stage with The Dynamic Faye Carol and others scheduled, and the Electronica Underground area on the fourth level with a lineup that included Mephisto Odyssey and Dyloot, who was at last year's party also. There was also the International Dance Stage in the James Moore Theatre -- another lecture/performance space that seats two or three hundred.
Dancers included the Urban Prodigy Performance Co., the Vietnamese Nguyen Dance Company, and Frederique, who did an amazing belly dance performance to a variety of good music that included a drum'n'bass fueled track.
It was really impressive how well the entire museum was utilized. As Amoeba Marc, who was in attendance with his wife and daughter, noted midway during the evening, "It's a really excellent use of the whole space, using all these rooms for music."
Meanwhile, in the main outdoor area immediately stage right of the Amoeba Music Main Stage, were the Amoeba Music booths, where Naomi S and Tarin (pictured below) and the rest of the Amoeba Music crew (including photographer Kaitlin, who took all of the amazing pictures on this Amoeblog) had been at the museum from early in the day readying for the 5pm sharp opening time. The row of Amoeba booths (see video below) included the Free Gold Watch operated T-shirt silk-screening booth that was cranking out various Amoeba Music logo shirts -- many designed by Amoebites such as Billy at the Berkeley store. Amoeba Music, as one of the major sponsors of the BOEB event (not to mention voted "best record store for 2009"), is a big fan of the EBX. "The East Bay Express is a really wonderful and truly unique organization and one that Amoeba is enthusiastic to work with. Their events are always incredible," noted Amoeba's Naomi S., reminding me of the Andy Warhol themed 3rd Annual Amoeba Art Show + Factory Party from earlier this year, also thrown in conjunction with the East Bay Express and a most memorable event.
Matthew Henry, the founder and designer of Free Gold Watch, had a crew of five people, including Oscar Herrera, pictured right, working the silk-screening of the various Amoeba Music T-shirt designs. As the Souls of Mischief readied for their anticipated set on the nearby Amoeba Music Main Stage, Matthew confided, "Actually, this is the first time we have ever done the silk-screening out in a public space like this. It's different but it's definitely a fun experience -- and rewarding, since a lot of people don't know how shirts are made." Free Gold Watch, who will be featured in detail in a future Amoeblog, is located near the Amoeba Music San Francisco store at 1767 Waller St.
Once hometown heroes the Hieros started their set you could literally feel the energy level of the crowd surge and when the Souls of Mischief kicked into their ever popular single "That's When Ya Lost" off their sixteen year old debut album ('93 Til Infinity), the crowd went crazy. The Hieros got love from the both the audience and from the stage. A little earlier, during her stellar set, Goapele gave major props to the Oakland collective for being instrumental in getting her start several years ago. The soulful songstress took to the stage at 8:30pm and instantly she had the crowd in her hands. With her face all over town on the cover of the East Bay Express BOEB issue in the days leading up to the event, she was already the star of the night. Her performance, enhanced by her funky four piece band, sealed the deal. Goapele's style is rooted more in classic 70's or 80's soul rather than what typically passes as "soul" or "rNb" these days, and draws as much from jazz as it does from old skool soul.
Her 2001 composition "Closer," which remains her most recognizable song and biggest hit, is one of those timeless soul masterpieces (along the lines of Roy Ayers' "Everybody Loves the Sunshine," which she incidentally covered in her set). The song just gets stuck in your subconscious and one listen has you humming it for days. I know because I've been humming it ever since Friday!
Equally impressive was Goapele's band, who effortlessly shifted from funk, breaks, r'n'b and jazzy grooves into rock. Introducing it as "not an original, but a song you might know," Goapele and her band pleasantly surprised the crowd when they launched into an inspired cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Maps" that Karen O fans loudly approved of.
As Goapele sang and poured her heart and soul into her music, and the crowd no doubt ruminated on how wonderful it was to have such a positive event happening in Oakland -- a city so long mired in a negative light -- I glanced out at the sea of happy faces of all races, ages, and orientations enraptured by the Oakland born-and-bred artist and I thought, Damn, it's so good to be here in Oakland, California and to be a part of this memorable event! Only twelve months until Best of the East Bay 2010! But if you plan on going, get there early to ensure admission to the East Bay party of the year. Meantime, peep the wonderful pictures below from this year's party, all taken by Amoeba's Kaitlin. To see all of Kaitlin's photos from Friday check out the Amoeba Flickr.
Amoeba Music Booth @ 2009 Best of the East Bay party c/o EBX