Photo by Chris Glaeser

Scores of people jammed the cordoned-off streets in downtown South Pasadena Saturday night for the 11th annual Eclectic Music and Arts Crawl Festival as the Gin Blossoms regaled the people crowding the main stage.

The final attendance numbers, derived from merchants, ticket sales, public safety officials, and vendor responses, are still being tallied, but early returns from officials indicate this is the largest Eclectic in the city’s history. Past years have seen upwards of 12,000 people walking and enjoying the shuttered streets that open up Mission Street down to the Gold Line station at Meridian Avenue to pedestrians, baby strollers and other forms of non-motorized transport.

Small Fight Erupts

The warm evening was being enjoyed by festival-goers including kids of all ages when a minor squabble involving three or four people erupted in front of the restaurant Radhika Modern Indian at 966 Mission St., which momentarily upset the night’s tranquility.

Apparently, a small group of people got into a “minor scuffle” at around 7:30 p.m. for an unknown reason in front of Radhika, police said. One person was arrested for battery and the incident is under investigation. No one was medically transported and all were treated and released at the scene, according to fire officials. One eyewitness said a man suffered what appeared to be a black eye.

No Other Issues

Police and fire officials reported no other issues during the event, which was touted as a complete success. Part of that success is attributed to preparation, officials said.

“Anytime we have an event like this where we expect 10,000 people potentially or more, we always go ahead and open up the emergency operations center,” So Pas Fire Chief Paul Riddle sad during the event. “We let the County of Los Angeles know that we actually have this event going on. We create an event just as a precaution because they will help us with those resources. We also establish an incident via our Verdugo Dispatch so we have the incident already established.”

There were 11 firefighters staffing the Eclectic along with paramedics. Riddle said the event has historically been without incidents. Last year, he said, they did have one minor medical issue.

“But again, you are always preparing for the potential of whatever that may be,” he said. “We preplan exactly where the responding units will stage. How they are going to get into the area.”

New Police

Chief Wowed

The new So Pas Police Chief, Joe Ortiz, echoed Riddle’s comments and added a “wow.”

“Wow, all I can say is ‘wow’,” Ortiz said, referring to the event itself. “It’s very organized. I’m happy to be here. It’s a beautiful day. It takes a lot of planning with the fire department, the chamber, the other departments. In law enforcement, we are always scanning to see if any bags are unattended. If any children are by themselves. Folks that may be lost. Folks that may have had too much to drink. Folks that are looking to cause problems. So, we have more of a proactive approach. Trying to keep the crime out and (make sure) everybody has a good night.”

Meanwhile, the Gin Blossoms took to the West Stage at just after 8:30 p.m. to an enthusiastic crowd.

The Gin Blossoms Interview

Lead singer Robin Wilson, who has been with the Arizona band since its inception, coming up on 31 years ago, said he was excited to play the Eclectic in South Pasadena.

“The ride over here I was noticing how nice South Pasadena is,” he said before taking the stage. “It’s a great feeling to play live and get to see hundreds of people singing my lyrics back to me. These are songs I wrote in my bedroom 29 years ago. It’s incredible to be so far from home and go into virtually any community in North America (and) be able to have that impact.”

Wilson also reflected on the upcoming summer tour of the Blossoms and even lamented some of the changes in the music industry over the last three decades as he sat for a brief interview in the green room, which was staged in the back patio of the local barbershop, The Square Deal, 1108 Mission St. The Square Deal’s lush back patio also served as the event’s green room for not only the Gin Blossoms but the Dustbowl Revival as well.

“Our next tour begins at the end of May,” Wilson said. “We’ll go across the United States. We’ll be on tour all summer probably doing 55 shows this summer.” The Gin Blossoms do about 100 shows a year and released a new record last summer, Mixed Reality.

“Our fans like it, but records don’t really sell anymore,” Wilson said. “I guess we’re doing OK on Spotify and we’re getting some airplay on Sirius radio but people really don’t buy records. It’s hard to compete. I heard that something like a year’s worth of content is uploaded every hour. It’s easy to just get lost.”

The biggest change Wilson has seen over the last 31 years with the Gin Blossoms has been the way music is delivered and he said it’s not all positive.

“The delivery system for music is the biggest change,” he said. “When we started out, it was the very peak of the music industry; record sales and stuff. Now it’s streaming and YouTube and things like that. That’s been the biggest change.”

The West Stage, considered the festival’s main stage situated in the center on Mission Street, also featured the Eclectic mainstay, South Pasadena Transit Authority, which has played all 11 festivals; Incendio; Dustbowl Revival; and the Gin Blossoms.

Festival Deemed a Success

Laurie Wheeler, president and CEO of the So Pas Chamber of Commerce, said the festival was going smoothly and she would be evaluating the attendance numbers over the next few days.

The festival in past years has attracted upwards of 12,000 people, officials have said.

Produced by the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with DeepMix Entertainment as well as the city of South Pasadena, The Eclectic is a collaboration with local organizations including Friends of the South Pasadena Library, South Pasadena Music Center & Conservatory, and South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC). Donations to The Eclectic Friends of the Arts in South Pasadena, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, help keep the festival free to the public.

Throughout South Pasadena, on several stages and venues, many of the musicians are local flavors, such The David Plenn Band, who performed on the Library Carnegie Stage to a standing-room only crowd. The Plenn band received a standing ovation and even played an encore.

Little Silver Hearts appeared at the Mission Tile West Stage and Tisa Adamson sang at Simplee Boba. The Gold Line Stage had a lineup that included the Elliott Caine Quintet, Dot Cotton, Day Job and the Buzzrites, each of which includes familiar faces to South Pasadena. This is just a small sampling of the musical acts that played the festival Saturday night.

Festival Costs $100,000

The festival costs about $100,000 to put on, according to officials, and that doesn’t include the fees that are waived or other expenses knowns as “soft costs.”

The Eclectic pays for all the entertainment and derives funds from several sources including the business improvement tax (BIT), chamber trustees, beer and wine sales, sponsors and grants.

The result is the music fete has become the last free music festival in the San Gabriel Valley of its size featuring name acts like the Gin Blossoms or last year’s headliner, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

One music lover came from Inglewood because of the music, especially the jazz that was being offered.

Kenya Ellis said her attendance at the festival was simple: “I wanted to hear some good jazz music.”

She did acknowledge she had never attended the Eclectic before and seeing all the bands that were playing she changed course just a little bit. She came for the jazz but stayed for all the Eclectic had to offer.

“Actually, now I want to hear all of it,” she said just outside the So Pas Library’s Community Room on El Centro where Julie Vari seduced the crowd with her melodic melodies, paving the way for the David Plenn Band that shook the rafters with rock ‘n’ roll to a standing-room only crowd. “I just came out to hear the music. I had no idea about the Eclectic Music Festival. But I’m here to find out about it. I like this festival because it brings all types of people together, all for the same reason: to hear good music. It’s also because of the City of South Pasadena. I love the charm, the venue here. I think it’s a combination of all of this. I think it’s incredible.”

The concerts at the Carnegie Stage ended with Grammy-nominated songstress Luciana Souza and Otmaro Ruiz.

Eclectic is Best Yet

Brad Colerick, the event’s music director, said this year’s festival was a resounding success.

“This is the best yet,” Colerick said in the green room at the Square Deal Barbershop. “Everything is going really well.” Colerick, who books the multitude of acts for the Eclectic, spent the afternoon and evening riding a bicycle up and down city streets to ensure all was going according to plan. He said it was and afterwards echoed those sentiments, saying the festival was a huge success.

So much so that the party continued at his small office on Oxley Street where people crammed into his work billet to salute the 11th Eclectic as well as in his parking area where a recreational vehicle had planted itself with an open fire pit  surrounded by happy festival-goers singing. He sent everyone home at midnight.

He summed up his thoughts on the festival in an earlier interview.

“It’s our 11th year and we keep growing and growing,” he said. “This is truly an exciting time of year for us. South Pasadena is such a unique community with a diverse population and strong support for the arts. This festival is a highlight for So Pas that features so many other fine artistic endeavors sponsored by community groups and the city throughout the year. Yes, it’s about the music. The art exhibits. The films. But it’s also about our city, South Pasadena. The best place. Don’t believe me, come see for yourself. You’ll see.”

The planning for next year’s 12th annual Eclectic Music and Arts Crawl Festival will begin shortly.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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