Park it on the free way

THE FREE ISSUE: Mission Creek Music Fest's free concert gives it away. Plus: Unagi, Pink Mountain, and more
Hear Dead Meadow in the grass


FREE ISSUE/SONIC REDUCER Free. To be you and me. From sea to shining sea. As the wind, as the air, as information, as that music you downloaded through Lime Wire. Careful with the mellow, but the last time we checked our sparsely filled-out wallets, we all realized we can use a little free these days.

And considering the grand triad of free open-air shows in San Francisco — one encompassing the underground gatherings at Toxic Beach/Warm Water Cove and Potrero del Sol Park and the well-funded and organized massives like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Stern Grove (Altamont doesn't count, grandpaw, 'cause the Speedway is outside city limits), Mission Creek Music and Arts Festival's first free, all-ages, outdoor concert at Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in John McLaren Park is, honestly, looking pretty awesome.

Full disclosure: I've been sitting in at MCMF meetings of late and helping out where I can. But even if I was looking in from the outside, I'd be swayed by the event's Bay-dominated lineup: Kelley Stoltz, Persephone's Bees, Bart Davenport, the Moore Brothers, and Leopold and His Fiction, as well as the newly added Birds and Batteries and the Aerosols. Los Angeles' Dead Meadow will rock the green grasses of the park in the headlining slot, Canada-via-SF combo the Rubies hold down the middle, and Spain's Xoel Lopez, who some have dubbed the Beck of Spain, teams with chumster Bart Davenport for an intimate turn in the spotlight, but otherwise this local-centric show with an emphasis on psychedelia-tinged indie rock (judging from his freewheeling ways, Garcia might approve) could be considered the leafy spot where the underground meets the overground.

"You can go with a bunch of your friends and hang out and drink wine and enjoy the show," as MCMF producer Kymberli Jensen puts it. She organized the show along with Neil Martinson of SMiLE! "Personally that's something that's really appealing for me, and it's accessible — especially in these hard economic times. People need something to lift the spirit."

And it's remarkable that it gets done at all, during this nu-depression. Back to those MCMF meetings — rambling affairs consisting of a multitude of eager voices, much wine and snackings, and a slew of passionate opinions. Sponsorship of the fest has been hit particularly hard as a result of the economic meltdown, and few Mission District merchants have coin to spare. As a result, Jensen says MCMF has made a "conscious decision to do fund-raising throughout the year. The economic times have hit everybody — and have hit us very hard. We made a commitment to do this park concert, and many times we were asked to scrap it. But we worked six months on this, so we're going to do the best we can."

As a result, Jensen and Martinson have put up their own cash to make this free show happen — hoping to recoup some of the costs with a raffle and donations. The dream: that one day of free music extends to two or three next year, with an emphasis on emerging performers and accessibility for music- lovers of all ages and income brackets. Because no one, especially Marlo Thomas, wants great music to become the exclusive reserve of elite patrons able to shell out for cardholder or VIP privileges. After all, MCMF isn't about the money, as Jensen reminds me. "None of us get paid," the second-year producer explains. "We break even, if that.

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