Entertainment & Events

A day to remember at the Ocean Beach Music and Arts Festival

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Eight stages featuring 23 bands playing an assortment of blues, jazz and swing music.  Streets lined with booths featuring art from over 80 local artists.  Discounts on food and drink from local vendors, and a craft beer garden.

Without rubbing it in too much, all I can say is that, if you weren’t in Ocean Beach this past Saturday for the OB Music and Arts Festival, you missed out on one hell of a fun day.

Fortunately, this writer was lucky enough to be in attendance, so without further ado here are a few of the highlights from my day filled with sunshine, food and booze, tunes, and visual pleasure.

Food and Drink

As soon as I approached Newport Avenue, the location of the festival in Ocean Beach, a few things took me by surprise.  First, parking and traffic was not as bad as I thought it would be.  Second, buying tickets and getting wristbands for access into the festival was incredibly easy as there were multiple ticket tents set up on every corner of the street.  Right off the bat, kudos goes out to the organization of the entire event.

Once I entered the two-block radius of the festival, the art was immediately accessible and the music could be heard pouring out of many of the local venues.  It was hard not to get sucked into the tunes as I walked down the street, but as an experienced festival-goer, I knew what had to be done: a nice basecoat of food and beer for my stomach before a day out in the sun.

I chose to go for a slice of pizza and a delicious Belgian beer from Newport Pizza, a local eatery at the heart of Newport Ave.  After placing my order and flashing my festival wristband in order to get a discount, I was told that they were not participating this year and I would be paying full price.  Not a great start, and on a side note, what’s the deal with that, Newport Pizza?  You’re one of the best pizza joints in Ocean Beach, you’re at the center of the festival, why can’t you give your customers one day of discounts?  Needless to say, I wouldn’t make that mistake again.

There were plenty of other food and beer choices to be had that day at a discount price, and I for one would make the most of it.  My food for the day would include another monster slice of pizza that was being sold at a food tent set up in the middle of the street, a massive helping of french fries, also being sold at the food tent, discounted fish tacos from South Beach Bar and Grill, and plenty of delicious beer from both the beer garden and some of the musical venues.  And a coupon booklet filled with deals from local eateries was handed out with my entrance bracelet, so when I’m finally hungry again after all that food, I can go back to OB for more eats.  Nicely done festival.


I can’t say that I’m a hugely artistic person, but some of the art on display at the OB Music and Arts Fest was simply beautiful.

There was a ton of variety as I walked from tent to tent on “Art Row,” from photography that featured some of the great San Diego scenery, to actual painting of that same scenery, to some more obscure pieces such as the one I ended up purchasing for a reasonable price.  There was a large amount of hand-crafted items from woodwork to surfboards to clothing available for purchase as well, which was cool.  And because much of the crowd was located in the music venues, Art Row offered a chance for some breathing room, sunlight, and a break from the tunes.

“Honestly, this is one of the best festivals I do,” artist Maynard Breese told me towards the end of the day.  “We got a lot of people coming through to check out the art.  I thought it was fun, it was well laid out, the volunteers are fantastic, it was busy . . . I really enjoyed it.”

Another great thing about the art row was that, if you didn’t want to buy a $30 wristband for access to all the concert venues, you could still check out the displays as it was free and open to the public.  Although, if you didn’t have a wristband, you missed out on a lot of great sounds throughout the day.


During every show that I caught at the festival on Saturday, I thought to myself, “This is probably one of the best acts here today.”  But then I would see the next band and think the same thing.

That’s a good day of music.

The first show I saw, The Robert Walter Quartet, was at a venue called Electric Ladyland, and it was incredible.  An inconspicuous little doorway led to a dark hallway adorned with murals of Jim Morrison, Janice Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, which led to a candlelit room with more awesome artwork and Indian-style throw rugs on the floor . . . a great atmosphere for a concert to say the least.  And the band’s style, a funky jazz sound that had your feet tapping immediately, fit the mood perfectly too.  It was a great vibe to start off a day of music with.

Next up on the itinerary was the main stage featuring Dr. Lonnie Smith, a Hammond B3 organist whose style was less inviting to dance to, but captivating none-the-less.  I had never heard of him before and felt silly for it afterward as you could just tell he was a jazz legend by the way his hands worked over the keyboard.  Plus this was my first opportunity to check out the craft beer garden that was situated about 100 yards away from center stage, and that didn’t disappoint me either.

I decided to cut out of that show early to take a walk down art row when I stumbled upon this next band, Hot Club of Cowtown, at a venue called The Harp, and it was probably the best thing to happen to me all day because in my opinion they offered up, honestly, the best show of the festival.  A trio of musicians playing a fiddle, a stand-up bass and a guitar, their style of swing jazz had the crowd going wild.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4NIiRK2y-c

It’s not that the headlining acts were disappointing by any means, but I came away with the feeling that smaller bands like this really stole the show on Saturday.

“The festival is fantastic,” Hot Club of Cowtown fiddle player Elana James told me after the show.  “We’ve never done this festival but the thing I like about it is that it’s a jazz festival.  We do play swing so we usually get grouped into more country festivals so to be at a jazz festival is really cool.  This is just a really great festival, maybe one of the best we’ve ever done in our career.”

As the day wore on, I was torn between trying to catch some of the headlining acts at the main stage and some more of the lesser-known ones at the smaller venues so I decided to do a little of both, and wasn’t disappointed in either.  Charlie Musselwhite and his blues harmonica put on an incredible show, the Donald Harrison Quartet and their New Orleans-style jazz was great, and Charlie Hunter played the jazz guitar brilliantly.  And then, of course, the day finished up with recent Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Jon playing against a back drop of the sun setting and the OB Pier on a gorgeous evening, singing his famous lyrics, “Must’ve been the right place, but it must’ve been the wrong time.”

Lyrics I had to partly disagree with, at least in regards to the second line.

If you didn’t catch the OB Music and Arts Fest this past Saturday, plan accordingly for next year.  You won’t be disappointed.

photos and video courtesy of Steve Trader

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