SoFA Kings: Jonny Manak and the Depressives aren’t actually that sad. They’ll be playing their rollicking brand of skate punk at this year’s SoFA Street Fair.
The SoFA Street Fair is returning for its second straight year since awakening from its decade-long hibernation last September. The Fair’s original reign, which lasted from 1992 until 2001, bookended one of the most exciting eras in the history of downtown San Jose—at least for fans of alternative art, music and culture.
It was a time when the South First Street Area arts district—SoFA—was thriving. The street was home to a glut of music venues, including Marsugi’s, the Cactus Club, F/X and Ajax. Nirvana, Helmet, Sublime, Green Day and No Doubt all played shows in the SoFA district.
But then the dotcom bubble burst, the Twin Towers fell and the SoFA district went into a decline—along with the rest of the country and downtown San Jose. Fil Maresca, organizer of the SoFA Street Fair, turned his attention to different ventures, but he never gave up on the district; he’s always kept an office in downtown San Jose.
Last year, seeing the effects of Silicon Valley’s second big tech boom—the new restaurants, bars and young professionals filling up the newly built apartment towers—Maresca felt that the time was right to “reupholster” his beloved SoFA Street Fair.
His instincts were spot on. With veteran ska-punks Fishbone headlining, and more than 50 local and national acts supporting, the festival was a success—drawing large crowds and garnering favorable press from a number of local outlets.
This Sunday, the festival returns with more than 70 bands performing on three outdoor stages and scattered at 13 venues around town. That’s a lot of music—literally more than any one person could hope to listen to on a given day.
Don’t let #FOMO send you into a tailspin. We’re here to help. Here is our list of six can’t-miss acts at the SoFA Street Fair. Follow this to the letter, enjoy your beer and the total absence of needing to make any kind of decision.
Belle Noire, San Jose
This local quintet is recommended if you like Dredg and Saosin. With echoing guitars, punchy bass lines and heavy breakdowns, Belle Noire expertly navigates a Bermuda triangle of saccharine sweet melody, lush and ambient atmospherics, and powerful riffs.
Cemetery Sun, Sacramento
Hailing from our state’s capital, Cemetery Sun are aptly named, as they find the sweet spot between dark lyricism and sunny vibes—kinda like a bad trip on a beautiful beach. Their current single, “(Hard Drugs) Fake Love,” is reminiscent of The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather” in the verse before breaking into a Receiving End of Sirens-esque wall-of-sound chorus.
Citabria, San Jose
After taking a few years off to let intra-band tensions cool down, Citabria have returned with a blazing-hot mashup of psych-soul and alt-rock. They recently brought down the house at The Ritz, where they performed most of their excellent new album, Exit Reality. Key track, “The Animal,” absolutely rips with its stuttering, Moog bass line, soaring vocal harmonies and jet-plane guitars.
David Brookings, San Jose
He’s been playing music for 25 years, recorded three full-length records at the world-famous Sun Studios in Memphis, and he has more than 130,000 views on YouTube. How have you not heard of this dude? Hey! Don’t stress. That’s what this guide is all about, remember? Brookings—and his band, the cleverly titled “Average Lookings”—play feel good, catchy rock songs. His 2010 album, The Maze, is a collection of 11 compact and jangly pop gems about everyday life.
Jonny Manak and the Depressives, San Jose
You might say that the Manaks are a musical family. Jonny’s brother, Chris, is also known as Peanut Butter Wolf, the founder of Stones Throw Records. But where PBW is an expert on the ones and twos, Jonny is a punk rock pro—penning lightning-bolt blasts about drinking beer, eating pizza and skateboarding. You’ve likely heard his work on MTV, even if you don’t realize it, as he writes many of the gritty punk-rock tunes used in various Dickhouse productions. Yep, those are the Jackass guys.
Talkie, San Francisco
Their Facebook page says they are from San Francisco, but we know they’re really a bunch of South Bay—or Southeast Bay—boys. Founded in Fremont, Talkie play a jangling and bouncy brand of indie pop.
The SoFA Street Fair is this Sunday, Sept. 13, from 2pm to 10pm. More info.