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This Long Beach Festival Has a Great Gimmick

Ray BarbeeEXPAND
Ray Barbee
Photo by Ben Clark

Long Beach is overflowing with talented musicians. The city's haunts are crammed with rockers and DJs, not to mention Cambodian rappers.   

But it has relatively few music venues.

That helps explain the popularity of the annual (and free) Summer and Music series, which hosts a plethora of outdoor shows.

The capper is Buskerfest, which returns this Saturday, September 6, in the East Village Arts District in downtown Long Beach. 

It's got a great gimmick:

Ten bands will play stripped-down, mostly-acoustic, 30 minute sets on one of three, decorated, 20-foot flatbed trucks.

Attendees, meanwhile, are given a roll of wooden nickels upon their arrival. They proceed to toss them into the basket of the bands that most wow them. The winning act gets a $2,500 credit toward a vinyl pressing with Pirate’s Press.

Over the past half-decade, Buskerfest has seen memorable flatbed performances by acts such as Cold War Kids, Tijuana Panthers, and Avi Buffalo.

This year, some 3,000 estimated attendees will take in sets by acts such as pro-skater/debonair jazz-influenced guitarist Ray Barbee and rollicking rock ‘n’ rollers Thy Squid. There’s also the bluegrass-tinged Jesse Daniel Edwards, punky hip-hop hybrid Ghetto Blaster$, The Moderates, So Many Wizards, and Classics.

Bands who won't be competing for your nickels include “cowpunksurfabilly” founders The Ziggens and Eastern Conference Champions.

Buskerfest was co-founded by Rand Foster, owner of iconic indie record shop Fingerprints. The event came about when Foster and Summer and Music co-founder Justin Hectus were working on pro-busking legislation for the city council, which ended up passing.

“Because Long Beach has only a few live music venues and a lot of great bands, our goal was to empower artists to hit the streets,” says Foster. After obtaining some funds from Downtown Long Beach’s business improvement council and the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, they were all set. 

"We were in the enviable position of being able to use the event to direct not only attention, but also some much needed funding into the local music scene," adds Foster. 

May the best group win! Or at least the one with the most wooden nickels. 

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