Surfin' USA, a Beach Boys cover band, will perform at Main Street's Summer Soulstice this Sunday. (photo by Photo Courtesy Surfin' Usa)

DOWNTOWN — This weekend, historic Main Street will be transformed as it hosts Santa Monica’s 11th annual Summer Soulstice and sidewalk sale, a two-day event where vendors will line the street and over 20 bands will perform.

The Soulstice is said to be the largest free single-day outdoor music event in SoCal, according to Gary Gordon, Main Street Business Association executive director and Soulstice coordinating producer.

Hosted by the association, the event will begin on Saturday with a sidewalk sale from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The sale will continue on Sunday as live music plays on seven stages along the street from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“The idea is to bring people to the street, have them experience the street,” Gordon said.

The event spans a mile of Main Street, from Pico Boulevard to the southern border of the city. As attendees ambulate from one stage to another, they may stumble across new retail stores, restaurants, and businesses, Gordon said. He added that in previous years business improved for Main Street merchants in the weeks following the festival.

The economic downturn plagues the business-owners on Main Street, as rents have increased in recent years, Gordon said. It was difficult for the Soulstice planning committee to ensure city funding for the event. Many activities, like a petting zoo for kids, had to be cut from the program.

Yet, planners remain optimistic. Gordon said the quality of music slated for this year is as good or better than the lineup in previous years. Christina Norton, chair of the event committee and manager of Agabhumi the Best of Bali, said the day would be an opportunity for people to find out “what’s new and happening” in Santa Monica.

Musical performances will include local, amateur groups and professional cover bands.

“We have everything from a 30 minute set by a sixth grade punk rock band to a two-hour set from some of our larger acts,” Norton said.

Grateful Dead cover band Cubensis will be performing for the fourth consecutive time at Soulstice this year. Cubensis founder and lead guitarist Craig Marshall said the band was contacted by Soulstice event planners out of the blue four years ago, and decided to take the gig because of the pull of Santa Monica.

“I like this area. (Main Street) always looked good, it’s familiar, and it’s always been a destination,” he said.

And while the atmosphere and joy of being able to play outdoors is a plus, Marshall said it’s the audience that keeps Cubensis coming back every year.

“People roam the streets and follow their ears and end up in front of our stage,” he said.

Marshall said audience interaction was a major component of their performance. He added that the band members thrive off of the audience singing along and contributing to the music.

According to Norton, the planning committee expects as many as 10,000 people at the festival. Gordon attributes the event’s popularity to Main Street’s multi-faceted appeal.

“Main street is embraced by all kinds of communities across the country. It’s part of the Ocean Park community and Santa Monica — it’s a really unique place,” he said.

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