Bands battle it out at Buskerfest in downtown Long Beach

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Kristen Naeem
Local Long Beach band BLCKNOISE performs for a cheering crowd during the community music festival Buskerfest in downtown Long Beach on Sept. 7.

Eight local and regional bands competed for a $2,500 prize at Buskerfest–– a free community music festival hosted by the radio station KCRW and the Downtown Long Beach Alliance on Sept. 7.

Attendees casted their votes for the best band by placing wooden tokens, distributed by the Downtown Long Beach Alliance, into different buckets.

“Buskerfest is a day-long celebration of the best of Long Beach’s local music scene,” the Downtown Long Beach Alliance stated on its website. “To open the show, eight local bands will perform street-corner style sets, on the backs of flatbed trucks, while the crowd throws wooden nickels for their favorites.”

The bands Palm Trails, Spirit Mother, BLCKNOISE [sic], Gemma Castro, Fellow Robot, Pollen Collective, Devil Season and The Captain’s Son competed for a cheering crowd on four different stages with BLCKNOISE emerging as the winner.

BLCKNOISE was formed in Long Beach in 2010 by two musicians, Donovan Brown and Victor Ujadughele.

Ujadughele told the Signal Tribune that after playing together for the past decade, BLCKNOISE’s favorite type of events are still local ones such as Buskerfest.

“Our goal is to play around the world but to always bring it back home,” Ujadughele said.

On its online platforms BLCKNOISE describes its musical genre as new soul or indie soul.

“Fusing neo-soul crooning with intricate arrangements and indie rock aesthetics they have crafted a universally appealing package that many consider to be the future of soul music,” according to the band’s website.

While BLCKNOISE was the most popular band based on the amount of wooden tokens it received, the crowd vocalized support for many of the other bands.

The audience shouted for Spirit Mother to perform an encore after the band’s turn had finished, which they were unable to do because of the competition’s time constraints.

Kristen Naeem | Signal Tribune
Local band Spirit Mother competing against eight other groups in Buskerfest’s contest in downtown Long Beach on Sept. 7.

Spirit Mother is a rock band from Long Beach that utilizes guitar, bass, drums and violin in its songs.

Spirit Mother vocalist Armand Lance told the Signal Tribune that although the band had a difficult time getting to the festival, which in turn influenced their performance, they would definitely be performing in Long Beach again.

While only one band can win, all bands that play at Buskerfest are compensated.

“All competing bands are paid for playing, but the winner of Buskerfest will receive a prize package of $2,500 to support them [in] further[ing] their career,” according to the Downtown Long Beach Alliance website.

The event also provides exposure to smaller bands from Long Beach due to the amount of people who attend and participate in the contest.

“Serving as a launchpad for local musicians, this good-natured competition draws thousands who cheer for their favorite acts and dance in the streets,” the Downtown Long Beach Alliance website read.

Buskerfest is named after the term “busking” which refers to performing on public streets for money.

Along with the performances by competing bands, the three headliners Jonathan Wilson, Primrose Forever Sanctuary and Jade Jackson played at this year’s Buskerfest.

The headliners were musical artists of diverse musical genres such as folk and psychedelic rock, rockabilly and country.

Buskerfest is part of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance’s Summer and Music program, which brings music related community events to the downtown area.

As of press time Sept. 10 neither KCRW or the Long Beach Alliance had responded to the Signal Tribune’s questions.