Blues & Gospel Stars Shined at Blues Festival
Long Beach-En route to the Long Beach Blues Festival at the Rainbow Lagoon, I heard a song played on KKJZ FM 88.1, entitled “It’s Party Time.” This song was the perfect tune to help me get in the right frame of mind for what to expect for the 30th Annual Long Beach Blues Festival, September 5 & 6, 2009.
The Long Beach Blues Festival was produced by Bill Silva Presents and Rum & Humble, Executive producers were the California State University Long Beach Foundation and Global Jazz, Inc.
For three decades different hues of the blues were showcased for blues fans that united from all over California and surrounding states on Labor Day weekend in the City of Long Beach.
The festival got under way on the Main Stage with a set by Hill Country Revue. They channeled a lot of R.L. Burnside, Allman Brothers Band with a taste of Jimi Hendrix on the tunes “Changes,” “I’ve Been Gone Way Too Long, ““My Mind Is Ramblin,” “Let Me Love You, Baby,” “Sweet Jelly Roll,” and “You Can Make It Now.”
The spotlight lit up on the Second Stage as Kimberly KC Allison graced the stage. She opened her set with “Blues For Barnaby,” and was aided and abetted by Ron Battle on bass and Alex Mendoza on drums. Lovely vocalist Francesca joined the band and belted out some soulful blues on “Tex-Mex Mama,” “Wild Oats,” and “You Got The Nerves.” Ms. Allison slowed the tempo down with a nice ballad “Still Remember.”
There were several stand out performances in my opinion at the festival. The Homemade Jamz Blues Band featured a group of siblings, Ryan Perry-age 17(guitar), Kyle Perry-age 15(bass) and Taya Perry-age 10(drums) and dad Renaud Perry on harmonica. I could only think of two words amazing and awesome to describe their set and their skill level as musicians. They were tight as seasoned blues artists. They performed material from their current CD’s Pay Me No Mind and I Got Blues For You. The crowd and I were in awe as they performed “Who Your Real Friends Are,” “Jealous,” and “Voodoo Women” just to name a few.
Vocalist Sugaray- not the group was another crowd pleaser who received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his set. His set featured the following tunes “Don’t Mention My Name,” “The Hunter,” “Going Down,” and “I’ll Play The Blues For You.”
Vocalist Bettye LaVette is a classy singer who can sing with the best of them in an intimate jazz club or major venues as the Long Beach Blues Festival. The crowd was captivated by her delivery on “I’m The Stealer of Your Love,” “I’ve Been This Way Too Long,” and “Change Is Gonna Come” which she had the honor of performing for President Barack Obama.
Monkeypaw and Laurie Morvan Band rocked the Second Stage with some original materials. Laurie Morvan connected with the audience introducing and performing “Skinny Chick” and concluded with “Café Boogaloo.”
Luckily for festival organizers, fire extinguishers were handy for the back to back performances of Johnny Winter and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Mr. Winter sat down in a chair and played the blues the way it should be played for the people taking notes. The crowd was very attentive as he performed “Highway,” “Sugar Coated Lover,” “Black Cat,” “Red House,” and my favorite “She Likes to Boogie Down Low.”
Ace guitar slinger Kenny Wayne Shepherd treated the crowd to some outstanding guitar playing and singing. He gave a shout out to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan who both recorded versions of “Come On.”
The Funky Meters closed out the first evening with some Crescent City funk, R&B and soul.
Andy Walo Trio was making a return engagement to the festival. Last year the band performed on the Second Stage. This year they kicked off the festival on Sunday on the Main Stage. This is a testament to his prominence in the blues community.
Festival organizers acknowledged and honored the founder of the Long Beach Blues Festival. Bernie Pearl received a rousing standing ovation for coming up with the idea of the Long Beach Blues Festival. Bernie dedicated his set to one true “Keeping The Blues Alive” blues promoter and supporter Betty Miller who past away recently. Bernie Pearl-guitar and Mike Barry-bass performed an exuberant set of country blues. This was another highlight of the festival. Hoping that Bernie and Mike will be invited back next year or that festival organizers will include more of the acoustic country, delta blues at the festival in the future.
Diunna Greenleaf was another highlight of the festival. She treated the crowd to a delightful set of original tunes a few double entendres for good measure. Be on the lookout for this powerful blues vocalist the next time you visit Texas of if her tour makes a stop in your town.
Other fabulous performers playing a rollicking set of blues on the Second Stage were Pat O’Brien and The Priests of Love, B.B. Chun king & The Buddhaheads and Flattop Tom & His Jump Cats.
The Blind Boys of Alabama is a popular group featured at many different events and festivals. Lead singer Jimmy Carter and the group are guaranteed to deliver a rousing set of foot stomping, toe tapping, and hand clapping gospel music.
Sonny Landreth showcased some fiery guitar riffs on some hard driving blues from Louisiana.
Mavis Staples promised and delivered music to make the crowd happy, brought them some joy with her inspirational lyrics.
The 30th Annual Long Beach Blues Festival concluded with a performance by Bobby Womack who took the crowd on a musical journey of hits from his extensive catalog.
A sure cure for the blues is to usher out the summer time blahs with a live performance offered at a blues festival. Just what the good doctor ordered.