Yil of Touche
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Polk Street between Bush and Jackson is so colorful it hardly needs a festival. With its quirky shops, ethnic restaurants, and parade of local characters, it seems a festival any day of the week. But on Saturday it had one anyway.
The music of "Touche," played from one of four bandstands set up along the six-block stretch of Polk, contrasted with much of the high-volume blues played elsewhere. Lyrical saxophone lines dominated, rather than the quick, short, punchy sound of guitar and drums.
Yil, the Turkish saxophonist of Touche, has played the event for the last eight years. It is "absolutely" one of the great events, he said.
He was involved in an automobile accident on the way to San Francisco and looked shaken: "I hit two cars from the rear." But he said he was determined to play anyway.
Summer is the time of festivals in San Francisco and Northern California. Juanita Tennyson of San Francisco said she goes to them all. "This one, and the one on Union Street, are really good," she said. But the one on Filmore is the best, she said, "because I like jazz."
The jazz crowd is more mellow, the blues crowd more funky, said Tennyson.
She and her boyfriend, who is from Mississippi, stood off to the side listening from a distance. He prefers the blues and this event.
It was a warm, clear day on Polk, where the entire street had been blocked off and crafts and food booths occupied the middle of the street.
While there were many crafts booths, one of the most popular seemed to be Hanging Sky Chairs of Bolder, Colorado.
Deebie Hood and her husband, who live in the area, both occupied hammocks. He held a drink with a straw.
"We like the low-key mix of people," said Deebie. "It's not too crowded but it's got enough going on. And it always has this wonderful afternoon breeze."
Deebie loves the blues and said the festival features some of the best blues bands there are. One of the most popular bands was the Lou Price band from Chicago. More local was Eric Lindell and the Reds from Sonoma County. Preacher Boy and the National Blues Band was "intense" and had many festival-goers dancing in the street.
And for those who didn't feel like dancing, there was food--all kinds. Calamari, Italian sausage, knish, spicy Thai and lots of wine and beer to wash it down with. Henry of "Henry's" was having trouble with the temperature of his deep fryers out in the sun--and looking short-tempered--but customers were not complaining about the four-dollar price of his fish & chips.
For any human trouble, the SFPD was on hand, but according to an officer leaning on a traffic barricade and looking bored, there hadn't been any.
For some businesses on Polk the festival was good, for other not so good. The owner of a dry cleaning shop--an Asian male--said it had been bad for business; customers were staying away from his shop. But he wasn't bitter about it. "It is only once a year," he said, watching the events from the doorway of his empty shop.
Jay, the tall, blond bartender at Amori, said the festival had increased business for the bar and restaurant. While the restaurant serves 30 lunches on an average Saturday, it served 69 during the festival--despite all the food on the street.
But his bar customers were a little different from the usual. While Jay was saying, with am impish grin, that he prefers rock & roll to blues, a young man came in off the street and asked for a Bud, holding out an empty plastic cup. Preacher Boy, dressed in black, was playing on the bandstand outside.
After Jay filled the cup and set it on the counter, the young man stuck his thumb into the frothy head to sink the twist of lemon he had asked for. Beer went sloshing over the counter.
Jay smiled with the patient look of a Asian elder--a look that seemed to say, "Well, it's only once a year."
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