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Something’s Cooking in Normal Heights: Meet Adams Avenue Unplugged

Adams Avenue in Normal Heights

A brand new type of weekend music and art festival is about to debut on Adams Avenue. And the musical celebration is going to be bigger, better, and more expansive than ever before. Adams Avenue Unplugged, which will take place the weekend of April 21-22, will transform the thoroughfare for two miles, from Texas Street on the West an into Kensington to the East. The festival boasts more acoustic music options, over a larger area, than the previous annual musical events, which have become a tradition for so many music lovers in San Diego. You can expect a highly diverse musical menu served in and around nearly 30 restaurants and shops in the neighborhoods – as well as three community stages, in an amazing 170 live performances.

The event is free, open to the general public, and music won’t be the only thing to enjoy. In Adams Park and among the business district storefronts, artists and crafters will be displaying their wares in an open-air market. Since there are plenty of arts and crafts businesses already established in the area, so the variety will be endless.

The Adams Avenue Business Association (AABA) is again producing the festival, just as it has for 30 Adams Avenue Street Fairs and 17 Adams Roots Festivals before it. But this year’s event is going to have a whole new look. In the past, Adams Avenue was closed to vehicles for six to eight blocks, and many stages were set up in the vacant street. For Adams Unplugged, a much longer stretch of the avenue will be involved, and the street will be open. The performance spaces this year will be more intimate, and offer club-like settings, primarily inside and alongside neighborhood restaurants, coffee houses, and bars. There should be plenty of room for everyone.
To help visitors make the most of the festival, a free trolley service will be provided on Adams Avenue, to keep people moving back and forth, and, of course, to help ease the amount of walking necessary. Parking will be more spread out than before, but it’s still limited to residential streets, so plan ahead (Adams has some spots, but watch the time limits on Saturday). A good option is the bus (MTS routes 2 and 11), the MTS routes 2 and 11 service the area. The event will offer a bike valet, and comfortable shoes are a must. Your feet will thank you.

What really sets Adams Avenue Unplugged apart is, of course, the music. The number of performance slots and locations are unprecedented. Past Street Fair and Roots Festivals were successful events with around 70 presentations, on five to seven stages. This year, 170 acts performing at 27 locations will not only be a San Diego musical first, but will set an exciting new standard for a neighborhood already known for outstanding musical celebrations.

Moving much of the music inside local establishments will provide the most exciting and noticeable changes for those experienced in the neighborhood block party traditions and for the event organizers. Being able to pair the Avenue’s unique dining and drinking establishments-each with its own special ambiance and selection – with free musical performances – will make Adams Avenue the place to be on the second to last weekend of April. The AABA hopes to accommodate the community’s regular customers by offering them a special musical treat as well as treating musical aficionados and foodies to the areas rich traditions and historic charm.

Programs will be available at the event, and music is scheduled from 11am until 9pm on Saturday and noon until 7pm on Sunday, with some performers playing multiple sets to give fans more chances to catch their favorite tunes. Performances and schedules will be announced mid-March (check, the San Diego Troubadour, and local media outlets).

While the festival is getting bigger, it is also moving much of the music from what has been a block-party atmosphere to an experience that will make a connection with visitors, and pair the Avenue’s unique dining and drinking establishments-each with their own special ambiances and selections-with free musical performances that will make Adams Avenue the place to be on the second to last weekend of April. For the neighborhood’s regular customers, it’s a free, special music. For the festival goers, it’s a chance to soak in the traditions and charm of one of the San Diego area’s classic neighborhoods. For the AABA, it’s a win/win.

There is something for everybody at Adams Avenue Unplugged. For families and people who have especially enjoyed the past festivals, there will be three outdoor public stages; these will be kid-friendly and include outdoor seating.  One stage is located in the small park next to the Kensington library,  the main stage is in Adams Park at 35th and Adams (which also the site of the open-air arts and crafts fair). On the West end near University Heights, the Adams West stage will be located in a private lot.

The music of Adams Unplugged is being made possible by the booking efforts of four veterans of the local music scene, each of whom has played a role in past Adams festivals.  Kent Johnson,   one of the Unplugged talent buyers, is co-publisher of the Troubadour, a performer in his own right, and has booked past Roots Festivals. Lou Curtiss of Folk Arts Rare records, a music historian, collector and festival organizer who booked the Roots Festival for most of its existence as well as founded its precursor- the San Diego Folk Festival-is back to add his selections. Louis Brazier, who has developed performance program at Lestat’s and has booked stages for the Street Fair is bringing his expertise. Also on board is Steve Kader, who has been involved with Adams Street Fair for more than a decade as well as booking for venues such as 4th and B.

The AABA, made up of area business and property owners, oversees a business improvement district (BID) program under contract with the City of San Diego, with a mission to promote and revitalize the Adams business corridor. Promotions such as Adams Unplugged are supported and underwritten by both the City and local neighborhood stakeholders. Over the past 20 to 30 years, San Diegans have seen many enhancements in the Adams neighborhood that have made for a more livable and viable community. These upgrades have been associated with the success of events such as Street Fair, Roots Festival and now Adams Avenue Unplugged.

For more information on the event and other projects of the AABA please go to If you are interested in performing in this or future AABA events, please send a sampling of your music, a brief bio and picture to (Or if you know one of the above mentioned talent buyers, contact them direct) If you are an interested artist or crafter considering displaying at the event, please contact Bethany at the address listed above or call the AABA office at 619 282 7329.

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