Sunset Junction, Rolling On

Get a Taste of Silverlake’s Annual Street Fair

Words and photo by Gabriel Hutchison

Near the end of summer, in a trendy district of Los Angeles, I endure the heat for a weekend of legitimate festival vibe. That’s because for the past five years I’ve found enough reason to coat my skin in sunscreen and tote a camera on my shoulder to take part in Sunset Junction, a diverse freakshow where almost every lifestyle and hipster fashion type gets represented. SLCC_map2.gif And it’s only logical that this 26-year-old event—which happened on August 26 and 27 this year—is held annually in the artist-laden, gay-friendly neighborhood of Silverlake.

sunset%20junction.jpg These days, Silverlake gets a lotta press for its music scene, which is always properly represented at Sunset Junction. In years past, freshman performances by bands such as Silversun Pickups have generated a buzz. Most recently, Monsters Are Waiting and Darker My Love were sporting the hometown pride. But while such homegrown artists are a familiar treat, the established acts that play each year—which have included Sonic Youth, X, Guided by Voices, and the reformed New York Dolls in years past—are the reason for the continually larger attendance. The Cramps and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club handled the duties as 2006’s rock headliners, with support coming from the Drive By Truckers (whose singer Patterson Hood is pictured), Hank Williams III, and eels. Soul, dance, and R&B also have a place at Sunset Junction, as this year’s appearances by Ashford and Simpson, Millie Jackson, Richard Street, and Nona Hendryx attest to.

Though musical acts are the centerpiece, Sunset Junction is not your usual expensive-beer-and-concert-t-shirt party. Indeed, offering more than simply good live music has long been the goal of its organizers. The result? More of a streetfair, where artisans and importers sell their unique, often labor-intensive clothing, jewelry, and art—the kind that makes you happy when you’re able to get your hands on one of the precious few in existence.

And then there’s the food, which harkens back to block parties of old. Rather than healthy California salads with sprouts that you might expect at other arty Southland fests, Sunset Junction offers the real deal in fest food: grilled corn, greasy sausages, gyros, lemonade, all of which should be washed down with the ample people-watching that typifies this freaky scene.

All of that’s why I turn to hot weather, live music, grilled goods, unique crafts, and fruity folk for one weekend every year—especially because at the end of the day, Sunset Junction’s proceeds go to funding community programs in Silverlake and other surrounding neighborhoods. So join the crowds next year, and make the trip down to L.A. for one memorable weekend.

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