SubZero Festival – San Jose, CA

I grew up in the Silicon Valley. I often take the area for granted. It’s not hard when we’re only a hop, skip and a jump away from San Francisco. Sometimes, however, I tend to take a step back and realize that, despite all of the hate that people of the Bay Area pour down on the South Bay, it can be a lot of fun.A couple of weeks ago, I went to a festival in Downtown San Jose. The SubZero Festival, which was in its 5th year, took place on June 1. It’s a celebration of subculture. Part of the event was part of what’s apparently a monthly art walk.  There was also live music, beer tasting, and a lot of food trucks.

I didn’t hear about it until almost the last minute. We were actually going to spend the night taking a crack at making pasta by hand (which we have since learned is a hectic experience), but the festival sounded more interesting. I also managed to drag Chris along with one word: Minibosses.

The Minibosses, for those of you not familiar with geeky gamer culture, is a band that performs tracks from Nintendo games. Chris hates concerts and hipsters, so I was almost surprised that he wanted to tag along. I know that he’d wanted to see the band for a while, though, so it worked out.

I got to the festival a lot earlier than everyone else. It gave me a chance to explore and experience the art. This included body paint art that was kind of impressive.


I stopped by a few booths on the way to the stage where the Minibosses were performing. On the way, I bought tickets to the beer garden for later that evening. This was probably a good move as they had run out of tickets by the time we made our way back there. I also confused normal non-comic  geeks by asking some person if a painting displayed in their booth was The Endless. It clearly was, but I’d spark some conversation. It wasn’t that person’s painting, so they were mostly confused about what I was talking about. I did have a smug satisfaction knowing that I knew what it was when the hipster who was also looking at me was trying to figure it out.

I continued this geekiness by stopping by an indie comic creator’s booth and buying all of the comics that they had written and drawn and were selling for cheap. There were three of them, so it’s not as intense as it sounds. I also made a headband for a kid with cancer.

Eventually, I did make it to the stage. I found Chris (and Mia, but she promptly abandoned us). The Minibosses were awesome. It’s actually been quite some time since I’ve been out to see a live show, so it was a nice change of pace. I’ll admit that I did not recognize all of the songs, but whatever. It was still a lot of fun. It reminded me of my old college days where we’d go see the band Ozma and mosh to Korebeiniki. Best performance was Mega Man II. The song was incredibly long, but it was so cool! As a testament to my incredible IP geekery, however, I spent a large part of their set wondering whether they license the music from Nintendo.



I think Chris enjoyed himself. Despite complaining that it was too loud, he actually went up and stood in front of the stage with me. Of course, as soon as it was over, he seemed to realize that he was in some hipster festival and was immediately miserable again. For instance, he did not go into the musical bus with us.

This bus was gutted to create a musical performance space for a band. They were a bit strange at first with their faces painted black and white, but they were surprisingly very good. They used a megaphone instead of a microphone, which lead to some hauntingly fun acoustics.

Chris left shortly after, leaving Mia and me to our own adventures. We looked at some of the other art booths before deciding to get dinner at an Asian soul food truck. I did not brave their chicken and waffle breakfast burrito, but I did enjoy the Mongolian BBQ po’boy I ordered. We stopped by the beer garden before heading out. By that time, most of the beer was gone, but we did manage to sample some local breweries.

All in all, the festival was a lot of fun.  Despite the fact that the event seemed like it would be full of hipsters, it was actually a surprisingly family friendly affair. Most importantly, I learned that the South Bay has a surprisingly interesting art scene that I had never really bothered to notice before. Guess I can’t always take San Jose for granted.


4 responses

  1. So how long did the body art people stay on there? Wasn’t it cold?

    1. I got there a little after 6 and didn’t leave until around 10. Saw them out there the entire time. It wasn’t ~too~ cold that night, but I guess maybe all of the paint kept them warm?

  2. Hi Alea –
    I painted the black/white M.C. Escher model – that was a couple years ago. Love the photo!
    Did you attend Subzero this year?

    1. Thank you! The art was so cool. I did not go this year, but would like to go again in the future.

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