Blues Bash at the Rainbow Lagoon
There was some grumbling amongst the blues community before the first blistering guitar riffs could be heard for the 29th Annual Long Beach Blues Festival. Some didn’t like the new venue which was smaller and that the grounds were not flat like the field on the campus of Cal State Long Beach. In time people will get used to it even though this made for a more intimate gathering. Some was complaining about the parking. This is a valid point since there were two additional events that take place annually, going on at the Long Beach Convention Center as well as the adjoining Terrace Theater. This might be addressed by partnering with the Long Beach Transit to shuttle people from a designated parking lot on the campus of Cal State Long to the Rainbow Lagoon, and encourage people to take public transportation like myself and many others arriving for the festival. Everyone was in agreement about the new venue was cooler with many trees providing shade as well as the cool breeze coming off of the ocean.
Now to the music, KJAZZ 88.1/FM, Bill Silva Presents and Rum and Humble presented the 29th Annual Long Beach Blues Festival, August 30 and 31, at the Rainbow Lagoon in Downtown Long Beach. An estimated crowd of over 18,000 enjoyed two marvelous days of blues. This festival is the most highly anticipated event for the blues community in the Southern California.
Premier slide guitarist Roy Rogers got the show under way with a set of smoking guitar riffs from both his slide guitar as well as a 9 string guitar. The crowd forgot all of their worries as Roy Rogers laid out on “Walking on Lone Avenue,” “Down To New Orleans” (our thoughts and prayers were with the people of Louisiana). He continued with “Mellow Apples” by Big Joe Williams, “Razors Edge,” “Shake Your Money Maker,” and closed his set with “Terraplane Blues.”
Pinetop Perkins the elder statesman of the blues festival at 95 years young dazzled the crowd with his amazing skills on different styles of piano blues.Pnetop Perkins had his mojo working on the crowd. He was assisted by Steady Rollin Bob Margolin and his band.
Festival goers were in for an added treat as the festival organizers presented a second stage showcasing the talents of local blues groups. I liked this new arrangement since there was continuous music to be heard all day and into the evening (The night time is the right time to be with the one you love). There were some marvelous bands performing on the second stage-Joey Joel, Robert Francis and local crowd favorite The Mama’s Boys. A standout show came in the set featuring Lisa Cee. She had a very energetic stage presence. Her vocals were very powerful and she put her entire heart into each song. Be on the lookout for this dynamic performer who is making an impressive mark in the local blues community. I’m proud to say that I’m one of the new legions of fans that she won over during her set. She was featured with a tight band of Zach Schary-guitar, Mike Hightower-bass and Albert Trepagnier on drums.
Another pleasant surprise for me was Roy Young. He brought some blues that was fused with a mixture of reggae from Jamaica. I enjoyed his delivery of “Blues with a Felling,” “Don’t Call it Love.”
The magnificent energy of one of the premier brass bands from New Orleans-Dirty Dozen Brass Band graced the stage. They exploded upon the festival and generated flag waving second lines throughout the festival grounds.
Father of British Blues John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers played a brilliant set of original blues as the festival segued into the late evening. Legendary Hall of Fame member Chuck Berry closed out the festival on opening day.
One could witness how the blues have reached an international crowd as well as influenced musicians from all over the world. Case in point was the opening set of Ana Popovic(Pictured) a sensational singer/guitarist from Serbia. She is pumping new blood into the blues with the tunes from her latest CD Still Making History. She rocked the festival grounds with “The Hustle is On” by T-bone Walker, “Hungry,” “Hold On,” “U Complete Me,” “Love Fever” and “How did You Learn to Shake It Like That.”
The bad news is that it only took guitarist Dennis Jones 10 years before he could get a gig performing at the Long Beach Blues Festival. The good news is that he demonstrated why he should have been on the main stage throughout his brief but crowd pleasing scorcher of a set. He was aided and abetted by Mark Sims on bass and Mike Turner on drums. We can also delight in the fact that Dennis Jones performs around Southern California on a regular basis.
I can never get enough of the soulful guitar stylings of Joe Louis Walker. I have lost count of the many enjoyable times that he has performed at the blues festival when it was located on the campus of Cal State Long Beach and at many other blues festival located on the west coast. People couldn’t sit still while listening to the infectious blues of Joe Louis Walker & The Real Deal.
The final day of the bleus festival will go into the history books as having a lot soul. Legendary vocalist Eddie Floyd of Stax Records was a major reason for this. He performed some classic R&B and blues such as “Raise Your Hands,” “634-5789,” “Dock of The Bay,” “Soul Man,” and concluded his set with “Knock on Wood.”
The second smaller stage featured Arielle Vernius, Average Johnson and another rocking set of blues from Andy Walo.
The 29th Annual Long Beach Blues Festival ended on an extremely high note as several internationally recognized performers Charlie Musselwhite, Booker T Jones, and Taj Mahal Trio delighted the blues loving crowds with material from their extended music catalog.
Organizers are already making plans for the 30th Annual Long Beach Blues Festival. You can also visit www.jazzandblues.org to order your tickets for next year’s festival. I will keep you posted if the organizers reward me for my suggestion for helping to alleviate the parking problem for next year’s festival.