Arts Listings

Music Set to Fill Laurel District for Weekend Solstice Celebration

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Friday June 22, 2007

The Laurel Summer Solistice Music Festival, inspired by the Fete de la Musique, a solistice celebration initiated in France 25 years ago to bring people into the streets to hear and make music and now a worldwide phenomenon, celebrates its second anniversary this Saturday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m., in Oakland’s Laurel Village district. 

The festival features an extraordinary array of performers of all types in local venues and on the streets. Among the more than 65 musicians performing are legendary jazz saxophonist Hal Stein, Korean folk singer Miena Yoo, and jazz-pop-funk-fusion duo Gemini Soul. The festival will include an exhibit which will feature artists, photographers, and craftspeople from across the Bay Area. 

The original festival was initiated in France by the Ministry of Culture under Jack Lang. “The response was spontaneous and huge,” said French native Stella Lamb, now an Oakland resident. “It’s now celebrated in 220 countries. It became a wave effect, reaching one place after another. It’s inspired by the old midsummer celebrations and bonfires of St. John’s Day—and before that, pagan festivities—but it’s not a religious celebration, more like a dance party. It must be out in public—and it must be free. Singers and musicians of all levels of skill are encouraged. We have jazz, zydeco, hip-hop ... well-known groups and amateurs—everyone who has the desire to sing or play in that moment.” 

The festival was initiated and is carried out by local volunteers. “We’re enthusiasts,” said Lamb of the volunteer group that puts on the Laurel Village fest. “None of us were experienced in putting on this sort of thing.” Different locations in the neighborhood, “inside and out,” including streets, parking lots, some businesses and the Laurel Elementary School become music venues for the day.  

Mark Baldwin of the Laurel Village Association recalled last year, after the festival, “someone came up to me and said, ‘I’ve lived here for over 25 years, and this is the best thing that’s ever happened to the neighborhood.’ That made us all feel good!”  

Well-known Bay Area jazz figure Hal Stein, who performed last year (with his daughter on vocals) and is up for an all-instrumental gig this year, agrees. 

“Greg Glenn, the owner of the Laurel Lounge, got a special barstool for me and personally made a video documentary,” he said. “Since then, playing there, I can see a difference in turnout. It all comes from a lot of cooperation.” 

The entry point to the festival is a welcoming station alongside the Laurel Lounge at the intersection of 38th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland.