Last Year of Music in the Park?

The future of Music in the Park, San Jose’s long-running summer music festival, hangs in the balance as its popularity has outgrown the confines of Plaza de Cesar Chavez, the park between the Fairmont Hotel and The Tech museum.

The Thursday-evening series began more than 20 years ago as a way to draw people to an empty downtown that had little in the way of entertainment or public events. The free summer concerts lured nuclear families, hip-hop heads, tech geeks, San Jose State professors and students, baby mamas and business people to an all-inclusive scene particular to San Jose: West Coast with a South Bay twist.

Barring major changes, however, Thursday’s concert—the 13th and final event of the season—could be the last Music in the Park.

Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, admits that one of the nation’s biggest and oldest free concert series is at a crossroads. Complaints from downtown business owners and residents have increased this summer, and attendees at an Aug. 12 association meeting expressed the view that while everyone enjoys Music in the Park, the concerts now attract an “undesirable element.” That’s a euphemism for pot-smoking or gang-attired youth who cause trouble and don’t spend money at restaurants and entertainment venues.

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Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.


  1. It is rather sad that Music in the Park, which was really one of the treasures of San Jose, is likely to be closed over money and concerns about “gang activity.”  It is a legitimate concern from merchants as they want to make money, but they want a good audience who will spend money in their restaurants and shops.  So the merchants should be respected.  As for the gangs and pot smokers, well, I do think a good time at a camp outside of town picking up trash and cutting weeds would be a good outlet for them, as they ruined it for other people.

    My one concern is that there is a racist element in local politics.  They attack the San Jose concerts and events claiming that there are too many “gang related incidents.”  I said it earlier, I respect merchants and I do feel the people who make it bad for everyone else need to be punished.  But in fairness, I do think that there are people, such as an element in Santa Clara, Rosie and Bill are two of the ring leaders, who have left subtle posts all over town about the “gang violence” at football games.  Translation, “we hate minorities.”  One of them even said in an interview to a blogger yesterday that “I call about those Latinos on my street and nothing gets done.”  To be honest, Spartan Football has declined as a family experience due to pot smoking and gang attendance, which is minimal but troubling, as are the concert series incidents, but don’t you think there is an element of racism in some of this, and the incidents, which could be eliminated with the ban on outside alcohol sales and some more security.  Maybe not.

    • > My one concern is that there is a racist element in local politics.  They attack the San Jose concerts and events claiming that there are too many “gang related incidents.” 

      Oh.  So concern for one’s personal safety and quality of civic live conveys an “element of racism”.

      If it isn’t the knife-packing, loud, profane, tatooed menacing ethnic gangs destroying a rare moment of civic conviviality, it’s the moral scolds who follow us around and gratuitously detect the most minute trace of racism, sexism, homophobia, or other sociopathic attitude in our flawed existence.

      Don’t bother to look for me or my dollar bills at any future mob celebrations like “Music In the Park”.

  2. “Pot smoking and gang attired youth”…….pot smoking is not illegal in California or San Jose, everyone that is smoking does have proper medical proof for their serious medical issues….gang-attired youth???  There are no gangs in Shark City…what’s gang attired???  All I see is serious sports fans (49ers/Raiders/Sharks) that have pride in their teams and citys smile

    • You must be blind…….. really!
      How would you know if everyone is a card carrying pot smoker?  How?
      Do you keep up with current affairs or is your head stuck in a hole?
      Wake up;  open your eyes wide,  perception is not always reality.

  3. Downtown San Jose has gotten too popular where it started to attract the wrong crowd.  They all want to go where the action is, even gangbanger.  This is the victim of downtown’s success.

    • Too popular???? what HASN’T San jose done to keep people away? The San Jose bureaucrats are doing a great job at one thing..alienating a substantial portion of the residents! I moved here in 1978 and always loved it here. I thought I would never consider moving. The past decade has changed that opinion. The trend started years ago and it gets worse every year. Public entertainment cannot survive here. Promoters of music events, concerts, festivals, sporting events, fairs, civic celebrations, holiday celebrations, nightclub shows, etc. are forced to jump through hoops, adhear to extreme requirements, and pay ridiculous fees. (The Promoters liscense-a great example of making it all but impossible for many smaller events to succeed) I am surprised Music in the Park was able to survive as long as it did! They talk of wanting to draw people downtown, in the same breath they complain about large crowds, and then they put an end to every event that does just that. They feel the events draw the “Wrong Crowd?” But it seems the SAME crowd attends many of the events. Perhaps because that is a good representation of the residents of San Jose, rather than a handfull of “bad people”. I think the people that complain about the crowds are “the handful”.  Where other cities pay to put on events for the residents,(or at least make it affordable for the promoters) San Jose complains because they are not making enough money on them. Where are they now…The SOFA festival, Fat Tuesday, America Fest, Tapestry & Talent, Music in the Other Park, Santa Clara County Fair, San Jose Holiday Parade, San Jose Grand Prix, Hoop it Up, San Jose BeerFest, Cinco de Mayo,  to name a few. And of course any incident such as the stabbing at McDonald’s is attributed to the event.
      How many stabbings happen without an event to connect them to that we never hear of? I have worked in the entertainment industry since 1978 and have been present at 1000s of public events of all kinds. I am there from long before they start until long after they end, I have rarely seen any major violence. Most incidents could be alleviated by limiting or prohibiting (if need be)alcohol sales. Ironically, of the most violent incidents I have witnessed it is my opinion that excessive, heavy handed police involvement was as much to blame as any other factor.
      It is a good thing neighboring communities continue to allow events that I may make a living and continue to pay my ridiculously high San Jose rent! (as well as provide me some entertainment).

  4. Do not book music or bands that in the past have attracted problem people who can not behave during or after music and commit criminal behavior

    Racist is an easy accusation or excuse by some but make a factual decision about not booking bands or type of music by looking at crime numbers which should be easy to get from Police Department for each Music in Park date vs normal Thursday nights

    Publish Music in Park dates, crrime numbers and other Thursday crime numbers so weveryone can see the problem and why certain bands or music will not be booked in the future rather than cancel Music in Park for everyone

    Don’t punish many good people who go to Music in Park for bad behavior of few

  5. There are too many gang and alcohol related incidents.  Many which happen after the good folks have gone home.  But most do not feel safe even during the concerts with too much alcohol consumption and intimidation.  It is the concerts that brings these idiots downtown, hang out, drink then start fights.

    Good families with their kids don’t need this, they just want to enjoy the music.  This is not a racial profiling subject!  Eliminate all alcohol and other smoking issues.  Then re-evaluate. 

    I worked security at these concerts for years.  Do not let ice chests in, eliminate dope smoking, move the obvious gang members out of the area.  But it comes down to security, which the city will no longer supply and charges the concert organizations to much to police. 

    Thanks again to our fine city council!  If this was such a great event for the city, let them pay for police security.  And you wonder why people will not come downtown after the sun goes down and the @#$%# come out!

  6. The problems began when City Councilman Liccardo decided to put the blinders on and refuse to recognize the criminal element downtown. He chided the police for being heavy-handed. So Chief Davis and later Chief Moore wilt and crawl back into their offices, close the door and hide under their desks rather than take on Liccardo and his friends at Debug. So now we have the criminal element taking over downtown, the police department gets its staffing gutted (yet the mayor and City Manager just happen to apply for grants for the fire dept but say the same grants won’t work for the police!) and we have riots at McDonalds, dope dealers from the East Bay and gangsters for all over San Jose congregating and causing problems downtown. Put the blame where it squarely lies: Sam Liccardo.

    • Josh it was nice of you to include a nice photo of some nice well behaved yutes, enjoying a nice time at a Music in the Park.

      Now here is the other side, the sad and pathetic side. the side that the SJ Merc and Scott Knies and Mayor Reed and Councilman Liccardo and the RDA and Swenson and McEnery and the LaRaza Roundtable and the NAACP and the Independent Police Auditor and laMeCha and the Asian Law Alliance and Victor Garza and Pastor Sonny and on and on and on don’t want you to see….

      This video is representative of a small but ruinous part of the problem with DTSJ: 

      Watch it and weep:   

  7. Only reason for it getting more raucous is the lack of security and enforcement. If you got kids or can’t hang with drinking then go to the music in the park in los gatos or in campbell. Period. The majority of us who drink smoke toke and dance are the ones that have made it the event it is today. Go home and sew if you have a problem with it.

  8. If the DTBA wants a positive element, then support events that attract them.  Bring back a downtown fireworks show, make sure Christmas in the park doesn’t close down either.

    We keep trying hard to make San Jose a destination city, something it was never designed to be.  Maybe folks might come here to visit a relative, or pass through on the way to Santa Cruz, but creating events to try and steal SF/Oakland/SC’s thunder will never work.

    And Beach boardwalk concerts have a much longer history than SJ MITP.

  9. I hope last night was the finale for the Music in The Park series. As a public safety officer it is troubling the amount of hostility and problems its brings to our community. Last night alone we responded to about 12 physical fights some on public transportation, where trapped in the same transit are normal business people families and innocent by standards. Yes it is a handful of the knuckleheads but that handful has a significant effect on the community and safety.It is time for it to end, we shouldn’t give a reason for such large gatherings with a 100% possibility for fights or safety incidents.

  10. My husband and I, downtown residents, stopped by Music in the Park after dinner a couple of Thursdays ago. It wasn’t the pot, it wasn’t the grunge look, it wasn’t the crappy music that made us decide Never Again. It was just a bunch of tweens milling around looking for action. Hey I get it, I was young once. I understand why some of the better clubs don’t want this scene around. But one of them told me that their business is pretty good on Thursdays, because “older people” who go to Music in the Park flee and search for nicer, more mellow venues. Maybe downtown club owners could promote themselves as the anti-Music-in-the-Park.

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