After an opening weekend of performances in Oakland, the Thirteenth Annual Mission Creek Music And Arts Festival ("MCMF") kicks off in full today with a variety of performances throughout City venues and performance spaces over the next eleven days. Although it began as a single day concert featuring eight bands, Mission Creek has grown over the years to include interdisciplinary performance arts showcases, a mini-fest focusing on music from throughout the Americas, and a film series, in addition to concerts with some of the Bay Area's best bands.
For people interested in the local arts, the festival includes a diverse array of offerings attributable to Mission Creek's DIY, volunteer-driven programming. The downside of this model might be that year to year you never know quite what you're going to get, but this unpredictability also remains one of the fest's unique charms. This year's MCMF is packed full of exciting concerts, with some lineups definitely worth your concert dollar.
One of the highest profile shows at MCMF actually won't require a dollar at all. Saturday, July 18th, the Fest holds an afternoon-into-the-evening free show at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park. Los Angeles psych trio Dead Meadow headline the show, but there are plenty of great locals on the bill, including Sub Pop singer-songwriter-producer Kelley Stoltz, garage-pop luminaries Persephone's Bees, and electro-folk-pop band Rubies. The event runs from 11am to 8pm, but be sure to get there on the early side to catch two of my favorites, Birds & Batteries and Leopold and His Fiction. Birds & Batteries mixes a strong electronic experimentalism into their take on American rock, while Leopold plays blues-rock with an intensity that makes for great live performances.
More appropriate for a drunken evening than a breezy afternoon, Thee Oh Sees headline another great Mission Creek event on Thursday, July 16th at the Eagle Tavern. The SF quartet are hands down one of the best live bands in the Bay Area, delivering raucous, catchy sets of garage rock that remain fresh and entrancing, even after you've seen them three times in two weeks (which I did earlier this year). The band's latest record, Help, was released earlier this year on In the Red Records, and is highly recommended. Bandleader John Dwyer also co-founded Castle Face Records to champion bands he believes in, and he's put out full lengths from several awesome local acts, including psych-pop band The Fresh and Onlys and one-man-band-turned-bandleader Ty Segall. Both join Thee Oh Sees at Thursday's show and have high-profile releases coming out on the influential Woodsist and Goner labels respectively.
Picking a few shows to highlight out of a diverse 50-plus event lineup necessarily feels like a highly subjective and myopic endeavor, incapable of even touching on the whole gamut of MCMF offerings. Perhaps it's best to end with an affirmation that if you look closely enough, there's probably something at this year's Mission Creek that's up your alley. By offering samples of the Bay Area's many indie microclimates, the festival has already succeeded in bringing a sense of common identity to an otherwise diffuse music and performance scene.