The SoFA Street Fair returns to San Jose’s South First Street arts, culture and nightlife district this Sunday for a day of music, food, beer, art and much more. It marks the fourth such event since festival organizer Fil Maresca brought the party back to life in 2014 after more than a 10-year hiatus.
As has been the case with the past three fall SoFA Street Fairs—and 2016’s inaugural spring event—the focus will be on local bands. However, Maresca says, there is another focus he and his team have been devoting energy to this year: keeping SoFA Street Fair free and putting a little cash in the pockets of local artists.
“All the bands have always done SoFA Street Fair for free,” Maresca explains of the event he began back in in 1991. The festival remained free until 1995, but began charging a $5 cover from 1996 until 2001 to help cover the costs of running the show.
“We want to avoid that this time around,” Maresca says.
In order to avoid charging folks at the gate, the SoFA Street Fair team have turned to the Silicon Valley virtual payment firm Square and their product “Square Cash,” which, like Venmo and other similar apps allows friends to transfer money wirelessly to one another for free.
This year’s SoFA Street Fair will be giving each band what Maresca is calling a “virtual tip jar.” So far 87 are slated to play on 16 stages, and every one of those bands will be assigned a “cashtag”—like a Twitter hashtag, only with a dollar sign preceding the band’s name, rather than a pound symbol.
“I’m really pleased with it,” Maresca says of the system, explaining that at each stage, a band’s cashtag will be displayed. Attendees who have downloaded the Square Cash app, can then use a given band’s cashtag to tip them. Minimum tips are $2, and one dollar from every tip goes to the SoFA Street Fair. The rest goes to the band.
Follow Light by The Gentle Cycle
So, for example, Maresca explains, if someone donates $20 to a band, that group will get $20 and the festival will get $1.
This year’s festivities feature four outdoor stages—two for live music, with bands performing staggered set times so attendees don’t have to choose one act over another; one DJ stage, wedged between The Ritz and The Studio rock climbing gym; and, of course, the crowd-pleasing UGWA wrestling ring.
Some highlights of this year’s musical performers include David Brookings and the Average Lookings, who recently released an excellent self-titled LP. They play on the William Street Stage at 2pm. San Jose blues metal quartet ZED, who also recently released an excellent LP, Trouble in Eden, will also take the William Street Stage at 5:30pm, followed by ascendant alt-rock band Citabria at 6:30pm, and then rock-soul-funk sextet Sweet HayaH headlines the stage at 8pm.
Other clubs in town will be getting in on the action as well. Craft cocktail bar Haberdasher will host Mark Arroyo jazzy rock trio at 5:30pm; and at 7:30pm Cafe Stritch will host psychedelic garage rockers The Gentle Cycle—led by local psych-rock celeb Derek See of The Careless Hearts, and, more recently, The Chocolate Watchband.
Scene veteran Chris Landon will perform at the SoFA Market at 3pm and Uproar, a new music and art space taking over the former space occupied by Zero1 will be hosting Wax Moon at 3pm, Mitchell Lujan at 6:30pm and Bird and Willow at 7:30pm.
As for art, The Exhibition District—the local non-profit responsible for putting up large-scale murals all over downtown San Jose, including their most recent piece on the side of Hotel De Anza. Exhibition District leader Erin Salazar was recently profiled in Metro’s Fall Arts issue.
SoFA Street Fair
Sep 11, 2pm, Free
South First Street, San Jose