Aug. 31 2011 11:33 AM

Our top three picks of San Diego events this week

The Soft Pack
Photo by Shay Peretz
1 Don't call it a festival

There hasn’t been a large-scale music festival in San Diego since Street Scene went kaput in 2009, but it’s not like concertgoers are lacking in big musical events. One of the best is The Great American Showcase, which goes down at El Dorado Cocktail Lounge from 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4. (Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.)

A Labor Day weekend jamboree with a populist bent, the showcase will have two stages featuring 20 bands and DJs, including local indie-rock darlings The Soft Pack, Jurassic 5 vet DJ Nu-Mark and Euphoria Brass Band, which plays New Orleans-style brass music. There will be a craft-beer garden by Mission Brewery and grub from Pokez, Quality Social and MIHO Gastrotruck. Plus, $1 from every ticket sold will go to the Keep A Breast Foundation, a Carlsbad-based nonprofit aimed at fighting breast cancer.

With its vaudeville theme, the showcase will hark back to the convivial days of early-1900s entertainment and tip its hat to the hard-working people of San Diego.

“We are celebrating an era in entertainment that truly meant something to the people of that time,” Justin Fortier, El Dorado’s director of marketing and entertainment, says in an email, noting that the word “vaudeville” is derived from a French expression that means “voice of the city.”

It’s not easy putting on a big-time music festival -- you need permits, security, plenty of space and tons of moolah. The plan is to make Great American Showcase one of San Diego’s great annual jamborees, but Fortier stresses that it isn’t a festival.

“The term ‘festival’ gets so overused that every time a lame bar books more than three acts, they call it a festival,” he says.

So, then, what is it? “It is a showcase of all our favorite things -- beer, cocktails, music, art and saving boobies!”

2 Remembering Jen 

San Diego artist Jen Trute’s last body of work was a masterful series of environment-themed, pop-surrealism paintings that subtly pushed viewers to think about how we treat nature. Considered by many to be one of the most technically advanced painters in San Diego, Trute died on July 23 from a longtime illness, and the local art scene took the news pretty hard. On a positive note, though, Trute left her painting supplies to Shay Davis and other young, local artists, who’ll hope- fully carry on her level of commitment and dedication. From 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, Noel-Baza Fine Art (2165 India St. in Little Italy) will host a reception for Jen Trute: Remembered, a small exhibition of the artist’s work.

3 Toying around 

Toy pianos aren’t just for kids. They can pack a serious musical punch, creating sounds ranging from soothing lullabies to upbeat ragtime. At the 11th Annual Toy Piano Festival, hosted by the UCSD Arts Library, audiences can hear six performers tickle the tiny ivories in an intimate setting in UCSD’s Geisel Library. Organizer and performer Scott Paulson says the event will emphasize entertainment while being “secretly educational.” It will also mark the premier of a new piece by Christian Hertzog, during which the audience decides the order and tempo of each movement. The free fest starts at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, with an encore performance at noon on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Does your event deserve to be in our top three? Email our events editor, Alex Zaragoza. You can also bug her on Twitter.