New York is known as the birthplace of hip-hop. Detroit unleashed Motown onto the world. Seattle was ground zero for the grunge movement. And Oakland? Well, Oakland will perhaps always be saddled with the memory of its ill-fated but kinda wonderful (at the time, at least) hyphy movement. But it's also a city with an eclectic musical history, and a rich hagiography that includes icons like Lenny Williams and the emcees of Hieroglyphics. It's the only city that can claim Walter and Edwin Hawkins, brother-patriarchs in a veritable gospel dynasty. It has a distinctive blues sound that combines Southern influences (imported via the Southern Pacific railroad) with a gospel-ish tendency to strain and stretch out the notes. It neighbors the city where psychedelic folk had its genesis; to its north lies one of most influential punk scenes in the world. It's known for having an embarrassing amount of good music and a dearth of music venues. Thank goodness for Art & Soul.
Now in its eighth year, this music, art, and dance festival is the Everest of multiday exhibitions in Oakland. It's known for featuring performers from virtually every Bay Area subculture and walk of life, from rappers to repertory companies to bluesmen who'd come up from the Fillmore pimp game. This year's event features pop rock group the Matches, known for its convoluted backstory (underground warehouse shows, guerrilla marketing, a hard-won deal with Epitaph) and crisp, hard-edged sound. They'll headline Saturday's show, alongside Latin band AguaLibre, jazz vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, blues singer Rhonda Benin, hip-hop duo Zion-I, singer-songwriter Hyim, and roughly eighteen different dance ensembles (one of which will perform a tribute to popular music videos).
Sunday's highlights include popular folk duo the Indigo Girls, rock band the Beautiful Losers, renowned indie hip-hop crew Hieroglyphics, Fito Reynoso & Ritmo y Harmonia playing Cuban salsa, spoken-word emcee Ise Lyfe, and the ever-inspiring Kev Choice Ensemble. The fest caps off with yet another amazing lineup on Monday, including Howard Wiley & the Angola Project, soul-rock band Legally Blynd, a fashion show by young local designers, an intergenerational gospel showcase, singer Stephanie Mills and the hit outfit Rose Royce, and the legendary Lenny Williams. Also featuring community murals, industrial art, huge vendor bazaars, a kids' zone, and cuisine from all parts of the globe, it's about as much variety as anyone can sustain for three days. August 30-September 1 at Frank Ogawa Plaza (14th St. at Broadway, Oakland). Noon-6 p.m., $10 for adults, $5 for youth. ArtandSoulOakland.com
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