Mean Streets?

Though we understood why many decided to boycott this year’s Sunset Junction street fair (the $15 entrance fee did seem steep compared to the $5-$8 “suggested” donation of years past), we couldn’t stay away — after all, we live a block away! Still, what we encountered at the entrance Saturday evening was downright aggro. “It’s not a donation! Pay the cover or you ain’t getting in,” the young gal taking money snarled when we asked if it really was mandatory (some publications had reported it wasn’t). We were also informed that being a neighborhood resident (within two blocks), we could have picked up a free wristband at Tsumani Coffeehouse days before. And how were we supposed to know that? Many we spoke with also felt strong-armed into forking over the dough — and questioned if it truly went back into the neighborhood — though a few of our more enterprising (and broke) pals managed to sneak through El Pollo Loco. The “VIP lounge” over at Cliff’s Edge was also a bone of contention for boycotters, but we found it to be a nice, chill environ in which to escape the crowds.

Anyway, the hubbub — and long line — at the door made us miss Redd Kross (see review above), though we did catch The Eels at the Bates stage, where, as always, the lewd and tattooed were congregated. (We spotted everyone from rock-show-gig regular Danny Shades and filmmaker John Roecker to artist Kari French.) The vibe turned droney and claustrophobic when Black Rebel Motorcycle Club went on, and craving a less crowded (and less self-conscious) scene, we boogied over to the fair’s two dancing areas, the spot in front of reggae DJ dudes I&I Soundsystem’s ice cream truck and the stage featuring old-school spin wizards Cockni O Dire and DJ Higher. Drunk on cheap beer and too much sun, peeps grooved right till the plug was pulled. For a second it felt like Junctions past, though vendors such as Touch Candy’s Rico Adair weren’t feeling it. “It might as well be in Brentwood this year,” he said.

Sunday was more like old times: more femme boys in leather, more pinup-style cuties pushing strollers, and more black-clad freaks — especially during Hank III’s schizo country/metal set and ghoulie grinders The Cramps, featuring old drummer Harry Drumdini, and Lux Interior working a new blond ’do. And even as things change (and get pricier), they really do stay the same: The rides were still creaky (and the guys manning them still creepy), the food was still greasy, the lines were still long for everything (El Cid’s Kiss or Kill party was nearly impossible to get into), the local businesses were giddy for the foot traffic, and long-lost scenesters (singer Candye Kane, belly dancer Europa, street magician Christopher Wonder and venerable crazy clawed hostess Diz) suddenly re-appeared like it was yesterday. The Junction has always been about bringing together all facets of the community — the hipsters, the gays, the low-rent artists and familias, and even though many say it’s changed now that big money’s involved, begrudgingly or not, we’ll be back. It’s kinda like those credit-card commercials. Cover = $15 . . . Beer = $6 . . . Souvenir = $20. Seeing old pals, comrades and crushes = priceless . . .

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