music in the park san jose

.Past and Present: Two Annual Events Return to SoFA District

On April 21, Viva CalleSJ takes over. Then, on April 28, the SoFA Street Fair returns

music in the park san jose

From a French Catholic saint to Kurt Cobain, the ghosts of 417 S. First Street will continue to haunt and bless upcoming neighborhood events in the SoFA District.

This Sunday, April 21, Viva CalleSJ returns with another full-street closure, allowing everything except cars to take over South First Street all the way down Monterey Highway to Martial Cottle Park. Viva CalleSJ is one of the greatest, most inclusive projects ever to emerge in this town.

The following Sunday, April 28, a vibrant-for-decades live music gathering, the SoFA Street Fair, returns with multiple outdoor and indoor stages, conjuring up the gritty, glory days of 417 S. First, when it was the Cactus Club (1988-2002), one of the rock venues that originally spawned the SoFA Fair in the first place.

Cactus was our CBGB. At that time, every national touring band at the club level knew Cactus. It put San Jose on the map for years. The ghosts still haunting that building remain inseparable from the landscape. The roll call includes Kurt Cobain, Johnny Thunders, Country Dick Montana, Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone, Dee Dee Ramone, Steve Harwell, Mojo Nixon and many others that are likewise no longer with us. Seems like once a year I add someone else to that list.

Yet that was only the ’80s and ’90s. As I just recently discovered, thanks to the marvels of the History San Jose photo archive, for about half a second in the ’50s, that same building was the temporary home for the St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Shop. The addresses next door housed the Nu-Age Accordion Studio and the US Barber Shop. What’s now the parking lot on the southwest corner of First and San Salvador was the Corner Club Tavern for decades, before it became abandoned and then burned down.

In Santa Clara County, St. Vincent de Paul, the Society, goes back to 1946 and has moved around a bit, with thrift stores and operations in various cities. For this brief moment, St. Vincent enjoyed the future Cactus Club building, so I must amend my ghostly survey even more.

Let me thus reveal that the original founder of St. Vincent’s, Frédéric Ozanam, is also haunting 417 S. First St. There is no other logical course for me to take, so I will now go back even further.

On April 23, 1833, a young student at the Sorbonne, Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam, congregated with six of his friends and started the Conference of Charity, which later evolved into the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Out of their own pockets, they were helping destitute and marginalized people in the slums of Paris. Shortly thereafter, Ozanam received his doctor of law and his doctor of literature degrees, and the Sorbonne hired him on the faculty. He devoted his life to social justice and helping the poor.

The following century, during World Youth Days in Paris, Pope John Paul II beatified Ozanam on Friday, August 22, 1997, in Notre Dame Cathedral. This was the first time anyone had been beatified within the actual city of Paris.

Meanwhile, in 1997, many of us getting hammered on $1.75 Bud drafts at Cactus Club were unaware of the historic vibes transmitted down through the centuries. We knew Saint Kurt of Cobain had once graced the premises, but we knew nothing of St. Vincent de Paul. Even though the thrift store operations only occupied 417 S. First for a brief moment, it was enough. The Society and the landlord courageously took advantage of an empty building and put it to good use. What a concept.

Viva CalleSJ and the SoFA Street Fair will soon be upon us. These are two of the finest operations this side of San Carlos Street. They’re both family friendly. A year ago, at the SoFA Street Fair, I saw more parents in Slayer and Rancid shirts holding hands with their kids than I’ve seen at any other San Jose event.

I predict that each event will be a tremendous success. Participants will be happy to know the blessed ghosts are with them. The spirits of Frédéric Ozanam and Kurt Cobain will watch over everyone, especially the poor and downtrodden—just like they always did.

Gary Singh
Gary Singh
Gary Singh’s byline has appeared over 1500 times, including newspaper columns, travel essays, art and music criticism, profiles, business journalism, lifestyle articles, poetry and short fiction. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press) and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. An anthology of his Metro columns, Silicon Alleys, was published in 2020.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Giveaways

Enter for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to Capers Eat & Drink in Campbell. Drawing May 22, 2024.
Enter for a chance to win a $40 gift certificate for Poor House Bistro in San Jose. Drawing June 5, 2024.
Metro Silicon Valley E-edition Metro Silicon Valley E-edition
music in the park san jose