Modesto's X-Fest at 10: Mad for music

Keeping an event going for 10 years is a milestone. Keeping an event hot for 10 years is nearly a miracle.

But hot the Xclamation Festival has remained, in the figurative and literal sense.

On its face, it almost seems crazy. An outdoor street festival in the middle of the roasting Central Valley summer where bands and fans bake together on the asphalt for seven hours straight?

Someone needs to step into the air conditioning because the sun clearly has fried your brain.

But never ever underestimate the basic human need to exercise that final of our three unalienable rights: the pursuit of happiness.

And happy X-Fest does make thousands and thousands of people each year as they stream into the streets of downtown Modesto looking for fun.

While the festival has been criticized by some over the years for encouraging rowdy and debauched behavior, it never has claimed or pretended to be something it's not.

This is a festival by adults for adults.

That doesn't excuse those who seek to make trouble, nor does it condemn those who want to drink beer and party.

Having covered X-Fest in one way or another through most of its 10-year run, I've seen the event grow and watched fans turn it into a sweat-soaked summer ritual of music and merriment.

A look back at 10 of the most memorable moments in X-Fest's 10 years of taking it to Modesto's streets:

 1  Watching Sir Mix-A-Lot, a Queen Elizabeth I impersonator and what only can be called scantily clad dancers together on one stage for "Baby Got Back." You seriously can't make this stuff up.

 2  Seeing hometown talent from Flying Blind to Solar Powered People, Megan Slankard to the Moonshine Bandits draw huge crowds. The bigger names may have the marquee appeal, but it's the local favorites who make the show unique.

 3  Chatting with Mr. "Funky Cold Medina" himself, Tone Loc, while in the back of my mind thinking, "Dude, I sang this song into my hairbrush when I was 14."

 4  Being turned away from a backstage interview with Vanilla "Go White Boy, Go White Boy, Go" Ice while in the back of my mind thinking, "Dude, I sang this song into my hairbrush when I was 14." Apparently, I was pretty stupid at 14.

 5  Feeling the love as Modesto-bred indie darling Grandaddy — not necessarily known for its cheerleading about the valley — returned to play for thousands underneath the I Street arch.

 6  Marveling at what only can be called the massive crowds gathered to see Sublime Remembered, which for all intents and purposes is a Sublime cover band — a very good Sublime cover band, but a cover band nonetheless. What can I say? We Central Valley fans love songs we can sing along to.

 7  Sizing up the steadfast, swaying dancers who set up camp each year in front of the DJ stages and keep the rhythm going after the live acts have closed their guitar cases and called it a night.

 8  Witnessing the speed and efficiency with which the 200-plus private and police security handle any problem that may arise through the night. Those guys lock it down, so don't try anything.

 9  Admiring the melting-pot crowd that brings together fans of rock, rap, country, blues and everything in between. No place is this more evident than the beer line, where biker dudes in leather and sideways-cap-wearing toughs wait patiently for their 14 ounces of liquid refreshment.

 10  Talking to fans who, year after year, say regardless of who is playing they come to hang out under the stars, listen to music and just have fun with their friends.

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at or 578-2284.

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