.Silicon Alleys Year in Review 2014

Old becomes new again in reunion between music, arts

SOFA SO GOOD: The return of the SoFA Street Fair in September was one of many signs that San Jose’s arts district is making a revival.

With 2014 coming to a conclusion, now is the time to reflect on some of the highlights from this page over the last year.

More often than not, this column unfolded as a harmonization of old and new. It featured beginnings and conclusions, esoteric cycles of eternal return, and Buddhist-style bardo states of transition. In some cases, all of those features even emerged in the same paragraph. All in all, the columnist seemed to experience San Jose as a hall of mirrors, cracked in a zillion places, with the columnist simply entering the scenario to discover its myriad reflections.

For example, the SubZERO Festival replicated itself into two days instead of one. It was like a biology experiment, a conscious breathing organism that somehow doubled in size, right there in the microcosmic laboratory of South First Street. A two-day congregation of subcultures and creative types finally demonstrated that artists do indeed want to be here. In the same way Iggy Pop once took the stage at the Rock Hall of Fame and said, “Move over Woodstock, we won,” I just wanted to say, “Move over Tapestry in Talent, we won.”

Since SubZERO tends to prioritize the visual and participatory arts, later in the year it was fantastic to see a few legendary impresarios from San Jose’s alt-rock & roll past reincarnate the original SoFA Street Fair to huge success. The live-music-centric event, which originally incubated in that same South First laboratory from 1992-2001, came roaring back with all those original bands, plus tons of new fans. People of all ages and generations attended.

Continuing on both those fronts, a totally new-for-San Jose gathering called The Commons erupted out of nowhere, thanks to some help from the Knight Foundation. The events shattered the spacetime continuum back to the fin-de-siecle era of Paris. Classical musicians collaborated with dancers. Poets, choreographers, painters, hackers, sculptors, event planners and graphic designers all congregated and inspired one another in the same place, and everyone seemed familiar with each other’s work. It was exactly the type of cross-disciplinary creative exchange one finds in the most creative urban places anywhere else in the world, to be honest. And if this event continues, it will make people want to live here, provided the real estate bullshitters don’t decide to ruin everything.

In 2014, this column also reflected an international mirror. This year the anti-man-about-town journeyed back to the Emerald Isle and returned with numerous ideas. Dublin is one of San Jose’s Sister Cities and this year various flavors of poetic inspiration rose to the surface. In one column, he waxed international about Dublin’s “One City One Book” program, which featured a new publication of Dublin-based poetry. San Jose will eventually do something similar, I’m guessing. That same trip also drove the columnist to research the brief moment that Oscar Wilde delivered a lecture in San Jose, in 1882. Hopefully we can build a statue or a plaque someday to commemorate that event. On the Eastern Front of influence, San Jose’s Japantown came back into the forefront several times, with multiple divine streams of influence, both male and female, making their way into this column space. A newly organized Japantown Artwalk emerged, including Empire 7 Studios, Cukui Clothing, State of Grace Tattoo. What’s more, a voluminous 500-page hardcover coffee table book of Japantown history also emerged.

Sportswise, the San Jose Earthquakes began preparing for the opening of their new permanent home, Avaya Stadium, by spending all of 2014 celebrating their 40th anniversary. The original incarnation of the team first exploded in 1974, so at the beginning of 2014, the team officially rebranded itself into a multigenerational family that took every single era into account. The party at San Pedro Square Market drew at least a few thousand people to the streets outside, while inside the garage-bar space, Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen, along with his side band, the Old Firm Casuals, performed the official Earthquakes theme song, a tune he wrote for the team.

Finally, near the end of 2014, this page broke the news that the Blank Club would soon shut its doors. Owner Corey O’Brien will open a new club under a different name on South First Street. Let a new year and a new era begin!

Gary Singh
Gary Singhhttps://www.garysingh.info/
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.


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