It’s a fact of life. People are resistant to change. Nightranger is no exception, especially when it comes to our hometown hood — happy, shiny, shaggy-people-filled Silver Lake. So we were skeptical about the new Sunset Junction Street Fair route, which saw the festivities — usually beginning at Sunset near Fountain and ending at Hyperion — veer off at the fork that leads to Santa Monica Boulevard this year. Saturday our fears were confirmed as we tried to navigate a stroller (yeah, we’re one of those gals now) through the narrower aisles weaving in and out of neo-hippie posses (headbands still not dead?) and other overaccessorized scenesters under a brutal sun. The most popular booth Saturday afternoon was the “Water Wars” game, in which overheated fest-ers paid four bucks to slingshot water balloons at each other. Quite the spectator sport, though Cinnamon Roll Gang’s Marcel de Jure (sharing a space with Local 1710 Boutique’s Rico Adair) found their booth next to the splashy contraption, all, uh, wet. But everyone’s moods seemed to mellow as the sun went down. Artist Mear One had a nice crowd for his live art session in the street, as did bodacious belly dancer Europa (a fair fixture) of Raks Majnoun at the Hoover stage. We saw all the Bates stage rock — Autolux, Blonde Redhead, Ben Harper —from afar on Saturday: The front of El Cid (which holds its annual Kiss or Kill gatherings during the event) became Nightranger’s home base, thanks to the blaring, beer-drenched atmosphere near the big stage. Luckily, there was a new element this year: monitor screens, which were helpful but gave the sets an arena-rock feel. So not the amiable li’l street party we grew up with.


Which brings us to the end of Saturday night. As we made our way over to see Morris Day and the Time (yes,the monitor helped there too) we ran into none other than festival organizer Michael McKinley, with Spaceland booker Jennifer Tefft. “Why the new route?” we asked him. We heard it was because of complaints from businesses along Sunset but found that hard to believe. (Let’s get real, those bizzes never getso much foot traffic!) He confirmed that was part of it, but, in a rush, declined to go into other issues. He got very verbal, though, after we told him who we wrote for. He is not a fan. “The Weekly has said bad things about me,” he ranted. Not sure what he was referring to exactly, but there were few publications that didn’t trash the guy after the entrance “donation” was raised to 15 bucks last year. “People complain about the admission and question where the money goes. But they don’t acknowledge what we do for the community. The new trees along Sunset, the new fountain and square at Lucile, the farmers market there, the kids we get off the streets. Plus, this thing costs $600,000 to put on.” Maybe he should tell that to the poorer locals (many of whom actually carried signs near the entrance in protest of the fees).


Despite our conflicted feelings about the new ?route, the screens and the admission fee, we will ?give McKinley big props for one thing: bringing in the ?I & I Soundsystem’s Shakespeare & Aurelito to book the Sanborn stage. The dread-headed duo’s pumpin’ reggae ice cream truck has been the coolest (even without any frozen treats), multi-culti hub at the fair for several years now, and the good vibes were extended this time with their eclectic, über-rhythmic offerings, including fierce funky femmes Sy Smith and Medusa on Saturday and the global grooves of Rocky Dawuni and DJ Cheb I Sabah on Sunday.An impromptu performance by Very Be Careful in front of the truck on Sunday saw tattooed mamas in maxi-dresses grinding amid elderly Latino gents in fedoras, shirtless queer boys and families of all colors. It was a gregarious gumbo of locals that really captured the spirit of the neighborhood — and fairs past too. Overall, Sunday was gayer (and not just in the homo sense). The temps were more bearable and the bands seemed to bring out more colorful, hair-conscious crews, especially during the Buzzcocks (whose set was tight and sprite). The ’Cocks might look older, but they can definitely still get it up musically. In general the sound quality for all the stages was excellent, though even with clear vox and sharp synths, She Wants Revenge came off droney. We’ve seen them incite dance frenzies, but Sunday it was more like a limp sway. Maybe everybody was just burned out by then. We sure were.


As usual, S.J. saw its share of self-promotion. Amid the handfuls of promo crap, we actually got hit up with stuff we’re interested in — including swag from the Dead Ponies, singer Y and the Derby Dolls (set for a bout this Saturday at Industry Hills Expo Center). And though some bizzes may have been happy not to be engulfed within the festival (like El Pollo Loco, which used to be the secret way to sneak in), others did what they could to entice passersby, including Good restaurant (with a parking-lot beer bust), The Living Room décor store (with a live-music-filled after party) and two yummy new spots: Intelligentsia coffeehouse and vegan eaterie Flore. Both opened their doors for the first time last weekend and were packed enough to suggest they’ll be welcomed in the neighborhood. Guess change isn’t always a bad thing.

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