The voluptuous woman entered the centre of the circle and began gyrating to the complex beats of the music. Large glistening bubbles floated down from some unknown source close by. We wandered further along the street as a bedraggled band blasted the sounds of their “I love Ganga” rendition. A trumpet bellowing street band started to weave its way down the street. Within moments the two vastly different music groups picked up the beats of one another. The song became one brass band and electric guitar rhythm to the delight and wonderment of the crowd.
No, this was not some otherworldly hippie fest, I was in infamous Oakland, California. On the first Friday of every month Oakland opens its doors to tourists and locals alike and puts on one hell of a show.
Not known as the safest area in the US I had some reservations heading out to Oakland. Shootings and gang violence seem to never be too far from the news surrounding this area. When my friend asked a police officer for directions on which train to catch he looked at us sternly and said “Are you going to Oakland for the Fuck the Police rally?” The response “Ummm, no officer we heard there was a free art exhibition…” sounded as weak as I felt. Nevertheless we headed off and were not to be disappointed.
This festival just oozes with cool, there is no other way to explain it. From the hotted up vintage cars to the fashion runways, Oakland on the first Friday of the month is the place to be. The streets are crowded with people who seem to be mostly locals. The doors are open to every art gallery along the main street with the vastly talented and diverse artists working inside and explaining their work. Each art gallery puts on an impressive show beyond the art itself. My favourite was a DJ mixing classic blues and electro tunes while very young kids performed crazy, arm disjointed break dancing moves in the middle of a huge crowd.
A walk along the main street left me smiling from ear to ear and wishing that I had a camera about a million times better. Each music group seemed better than the last and the stalls along the street sold some of the coolest clothes, jewellery and artwork that I have ever seen.
The gourmet food truck craze that seems to be overtaking the states was not missing either. From vegan meats (that tasted exactly like the real deal) to Vienamese and Mexican fusion the food choices were cheap and varied.
With a full belly and purchases made I finished off the night with some cold beers listening to the loud, rocking live music being belted out at a local bar. My friends are I repeated over and over how happy we were to have made the trip to Oakland that cold Friday night.
My words don’t really do justice to the sights, sounds and electricity pulsing through this place.
You’ll have to just head on over yourselves.