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Festivals, Wineries, Summer Seasons and More

Posted by: on May 19, 2009 | Comments (1)

Music bookings just keep pouring in these days, and the Napa Valley Opera House’s just-announced season is full of legends that rarely play such small venues. The intimate theater hosts the Wallflowers (June 18), Joan Baez (July 6), Sarah Chang (July 18), Bruce Hornsby (Aug. 15), and a double dose of New Orleans with the Neville Brothers and Dr. John together (pictured, Sept. 7). The Opera House’s annual fundraising gala, a full-blown wine-and-martini affair with tickets starting at $350, features the biggest booking score of them all: Pink Martini, direct from Carnegie Hall (Oct. 3).

The Opera House also sponsors Motown legend Smokey Robinson at Robert Mondavi Winery, in a series across the valley that marks the 40th Anniversary Season of the Summer Festival Concert Series at Mondavi Winery. Debuting in 1969 with a ticket price of $3, the festival has since included such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Buena Vista Social Club, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughn, Lena Horne, Stan Getz and many, many more. This year, it’s Robinson (Aug.1), the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (July 4), Natalie Cole (July 18), Ozomatli (July 11), the B-52’s (June 27), and KC & the Sunshine Band (July 25).

The Wells Fargo Center continues its hot streak with a stellar season including Tears for Fears (July 14), Madeleine Peyroux (Aug. 5), Huey Lewis and the News (Aug. 13), Elvis Costello (Aug. 21), Diana Krall (Aug. 25), Sheryl Crow (Sept. 1) and, in a rare on-stage conversation sponsored by Copperfield’s Books, Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim (Oct. 24). Coming in 2010: Anthony Bourdain (Jan. 13) and Dave Brubeck (March 24).

Up in Healdsburg, the Rodney Strong Vineyards Concert Series tips the smooth jazz scales with Peter White and Mindi Abair (June 27), the Rippingtons and Craig Chaquico (July 11), and Euge Groove, Jeff Golub, Jeff Lorber and Jessy J (Aug. 8). Blues torcher Susan Tedeschi stops in with JJ Grey & Mofro (Aug. 22), and the whole series wallops to a rock ‘n’ soul finale with AM hitmakers Hall and Oates (Sept. 7).

The Sausalito Art Festival, an annual event of art and music since 1952, celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock with “The Heroes of Woodstock 40th Anniversary Tribute” (Sept. 6). Among the love-in rockers resurrecting the old spirit are Jefferson Starship, Canned Heat, Big Brother and the Holding Co., Quicksilver Messenger Service and Tom Constanten. The whole thing’s hosted by Country Joe McDonald, who’ll no doubt reprise his famous “fish” cheer. Other highlights at the festival include Night Ranger (Sept. 5) and Johnny Winter (Sept. 6).

The Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival, combined into one weekend, features Al Jarreau and Jazz Attack featuring Rick Braun, Johnathon Butler and Richard Elliot (Sept. 12), followed up with the blues lineup of the Neville Brothers with Dr. John and the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue with Tommy Castro, Janiva Magness, Bernard Allison and Rick Estrin (Sept. 13).

Up in Boonville, the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival this year hosts Femi Kuti, King Sunny Adé, Michael Rose, Anthony B, Zap Mama, Sly & Robbie, the Easy Star All-Stars, Gregory Isaacs, the Heptones, the Abyssinians, the B-Side Players, the Itals and many, many more (June 19-21).

Finally, among the upcoming schedule at Petaluma’s Mystic Theatre is East Bay all-girl punk darlings the Donnas (July 23), reverb-drenched surf icons the Mermen (July 31) and the almighty return of Joan Osborne (Oct. 19). Whew!

First Fridays On Fourth

Posted by: on Apr 22, 2009 | Comments (0)

Some of you may have heard of First Fridays in Santa Rosa, where the streets are overtaken on the first Friday of each month with local art, theater, and live music. This year, the organizers are looking to ramp up the whole shebang, and they’re presenting a great opportunity for local bands and musicians to play in public – and actually get paid for it.

Attention, everyone! First Fridays is looking for bands!

The music schedule is still wide open at this point, and there’s two time slots in both Courthouse Square and Railroad Square each Friday. That’s four bands each month. This is your chance to bang on a guitar, howl in public—and instead of getting a citation from downtown cops, you’ll get a check from the City of Santa Rosa. How can you lose?

It’s easy to sit back and complain that there are no places to play in Santa Rosa, but it disheartens me when the city actually funds a budget to create opportunities like this and they go unseized. So far, it’s mostly classical and acoustic music, but all types of music are welcome. Let’s fill the schedule up quick with kickass bands and prove that Santa Rosa can support its local scene.

“We are looking for all genres of music,” writes Arts District Coordinator Vicky Kumpfer, and notes a sizable stipend will be paid (it’s not pocket change). Those interested in joining the lineup—and I’d act fast if I were you—should get in touch with her at (707) 543-3732, or email at vkumpfer [at] srcity.org.

Live Review: James Hunter at the Russian River Brewing Company

Posted by: on Feb 18, 2009 | Comments (0)

The recipe for a fantastic lunchtime concert is pretty basic. When it comes down to it, all you need is a Fender twin reverb, a vintage Gibson, a Gretsch drum kit, a standup bass and some damn fine songs. That’s all James Hunter brought to the Russian River Brewing Company today, and it was enough to bring the house down.

Parked behind the place on Fifth Street was Hunter’s large tour bus, which leads me to believe he’s normally got a pretty impressive stage production, horns and all. Today, however, on the tiny stage in the corner, Hunter pared down to a three-piece and worked overtime on the guitar to fill in the missing sound. It wasn’t what he was used to, but man, it was great.

In blue jeans, a black t-shirt and a denim jacket, Hunter announced songs in his thick British accent and then sang them like Sam Cooke or Otis Redding; just pure, beautiful soul. Near the end, he even unpacked “The Very Thought of You,” and, instructing his band in an aside to take it at “the usual stupid speed,” a ripping three-piece version of “Talkin’ Bout My Love.”

Filling in extra chords and licks on his guitar, Hunter took a crazed, half-picking half-fretboard-tapping solo with his bare palms. He played a little hand-jive, and then, when the tank-topped hippie dude in beads who’d been dancing the whole time was joined by a long-haired female, Hunter clasped his hands together in thankful prayer toward the sky. “Oh!” he cried. “A girl!”

The crowd went nuts at the end, a testament to Hunter’s engaging charisma and talent. He plowed through the shoulder-to-shoulder house to get to the bathroom, and by the time he finally came out everybody was still clapping and screaming. Hunter played the Fillmore last night, and you gotta think he loves doing these little shows—he certainly seemed like he was having a blast. So it was one more song, and one more great noontime concert by the KRSH. Thanks, guys, for brightening everyone’s Wednesday.

Whither Thou City Sound Inertia?

Posted by: on Jan 24, 2008 | Comments (7)

Why is this blog called City Sound Inertia?

I’m destined to be asked this question sooner or later, so I may as well answer it in my first-ever blog posting.

In 2003, I put together a compilation CD of local Santa Rosa bands who, due to a variety of reasons (lack of press coverage, the nonexistence of MySpace), no one had heard outside of occasional house parties and dingy fly-by-night clubs. I wanted to remedy that. So I collected together 11 songs that I felt were best representative of Santa Rosa’s local music scene at the time, put them on a CD, and sold it for $2.99.

Lots of people, including those at the Bohemian (funny how life works out), took note; but unfortunately, more than a few people, while I was getting songs together, told me something along the lines of “that’s so great, man, ’cause this town sucks for music!”

It hurt. Those of you who know me also know that I’m awfully defensive about Santa Rosa, and by putting together the compilation I wanted to outline precisely that this town does not suck for music; in fact, there’s fantastic music in this town around every corner. It’s hard to get people to take notice of it, true, and being in a band can be a very uphill and very expensive battle, but year in and year out, good music seems to constantly prevail.

With that in mind, I gave the CD a title: City Sound Inertia.

Half the bands on the CD have broken up by now, but the compilation’s liner notes conveying my optimism still hold true. I wrote them quickly but passionately, and in essence, they apply to the future of this blog as well. Read on: