Unsuspecting joggers ran into the center of music at the Eastlake Music Festival on Saturday, May 23. Some detoured and went on their way but many stopped to join the hundreds of people who were spread out on blankets to listen to the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, see TURFInc, or if they didn’t join those who left at 5:30 to watch the Warriors, they caught The Seshen as the sun went down behind the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Center.

The day started out grey and cold, but that didn’t keep Oaklanders away from the second annual Eastlake Festival. Held in the amphitheater on a revitalized section of Lake Merritt, the festival spread across Lake Merritt Blvd. to the parking lof of the defunct Henry J. Kaiser Center where there was beer, a DJ, face-painting and a bounce house for kids, and a variety of food trucks and craft booths. The use of the setting is not a coincidence as the festival promoted the hashtag #savethehenryj. In the past the center served as a music and community gathering space, and the hope is that it will again.

If Oakland’s loss of diversity and rapid gentrification are the topics du jour, the Eastlake Music Festival joins events such as Hiero Day in attempting to take a stand for keeping the city open for all. The festival starts this out by remaining free. As the day’s host noted in between sets, “There is a value in this community that is not about money.” Not only is the event volunteer-run, but bands are not paid to attend: instead they apply to play and are voted in.

The festival’s central location at the ever popular lake and the free admission makes it one of the most family-friendly music festivals in the city. It also makes the day a hodgepodge of class, race, gender and age.

The crowd were treated to a variety of music, including the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and Oakland Future Trio, which is a fantastic youth jazz group, as well as dance with TURFInc.

Artists who played the stage didn’t shy away from politics and the desire for change. Antique Naked Soul sang about democracy and protest, and Khafre Jay from the nonprofit Hip Hop For Change led the crowd in calling for the promotion of socially conscious hip-hop.

The day got a little off schedule, which meant that the significant number of folks in Stephen Curry jerseys didn’t make it to headleaners of two of Oakland’s most hyped bands, Waterstrider and The Seshen.

Overall events like this that allow longstanding and new Oaklanders alike to gather together are essential as the city continues its growing pains. The Eastlake Music Festival is what Oakland is, and what Oakland should always be.



4 Responses

  1. OaklandNative

    I went to the event. Though the pictures here suggest otherwise, there were African Americans there.

  2. A

    I went as well and can attest there were African Americans present, however, I didn’t need to really say that because I can simply look at the pictures taken.

    Not that you’re concern but I also saw Asian Americans there despite what the pictures suggest otherwise.

  3. Oak Life Church

    We had a bunch of volunteers helping out for a second straight year- was so fun to see our community come together and enjoy the culture and scenery of our city with so many others! Congrats to Chrystal, Chang, and Steve for having the vision and gumption to pull off such a great event. Loved working the beer station!


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