The Experience: First Fridays ~ Oakland, CA

First Fridays ~ Oakland, CA

By Aaris A. Schroeder

Being from Sacramento, CA I have been to several Second Saturdays and enjoyed all that the Downtown area has to offer.  Recently I have moved to Oakland, CA and have had the pleasure of enjoying First Fridays full of street vendors, boutiques, live music, dancers, art galleries and an array of individuals running the gamut between college students to families, street folk, the elderly and more.

Upon stepping my adidas open to Telegraph Ave. in Downtown Oakland, vendors are setting up and ready to sell merchandise.  Diverse vendors selling locally printed apparel and knit garments, used CDs and records, recycled apparel and gifts, international and world soaps, lotions and incense smoking through the streets, elusively drawing locals to purchase something to remember their evening.

The scent of incense blows through the streets and compliments food trucks and carts that offer lumpia, traditional carne asada tacos, rice and curry, chicken sausages and nacho fries.  Music stages were set up everywhere playing anything from rock-in-roll to street rap; drum circles to reggae and dub.

While chomping down on traditional Jamaican faire, eyes jump to and from booths set up with art vendors and upwards to the films being projected on tall city building walls.

Oil paint, urban art, screen printed art and recycled art pops like kettle corn and suddenly, one is found walking down a quiet, lit street that started it all, “Art Murmur.”  Seemingly secret art galleries; exposed to those who know, posh apparel boutiques and hot-spot bars and eateries line the way. There was even a mechanics shop that opened up their garage and played old school gangsta rap.

Walking back to Telegraph, a Pop-Up Gallery was alluring with its “A Tribe Called Quest” turntablist sounds outside and urban art on the inside.  Rice and beans for sale along with vegetarian pot stickers and a safe place to pop open that beer hidden in your bag; a perfect place to network and chill.

The evening was pretty magical however the clock struck 10 pm and the crowd shifted from a healthy amount of mature adults and party college kids to high school central, packed like sardines. It was nearly impossible to get through people unless you shoved or squirmed around.  Suddenly five or more “Pop” sounds came from a black truck and everyone went running in the opposite direction.  The cause was firecracker pranks on an extra-large crowd, not too bright of an idea.  Several people were left crouched, hyperventilating, hands over their heads, hiding behind blue mailboxes and cars that were not their own.

If people didn’t know that the festivities were over at this point; cops blocking both ends of the street party, along comes a flash mob of high school-aged kids sprinting through the crowd.  They ran and uninvolved people who didn’t understand what was going on ran with them with fear like a Tsunami.  It was time to make like a thief and get away.  All the while, the cops were at either end of Telegraph repeating, “Get on the sidewalk” over and over again. The full Oakland experience; the people, the music, art, culture was definitely met.

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