7th Annual Blues and Arts Festival, 2013
Yesterday, Saturday, March 23rd, 2013, contributed the lion's share of the annual Blues and Arts Festival's entertainment. The venerated event, now in its 7th year, has been searching for a sanguine and comfortable home for the past few seasons. This year the moveable feast was deployed on the grounds surrounding El Dorado's Pavilion.
The late March weather, always a threat to wide brim hats and shade umbrellas, kicked up enough breeze to concern the displaying artists. But the wind managed to control its baser instincts and there were no Mary Poppins incidents among the enclave of canopies and tent roofs.
Saturdays' attendance seemed to be modest, compared to past years, and several artists complained about the lack of commerce. Despite the Sousa-march boosterism of vested interest groups, it would appear the local economy has only managed to struggle to its knees, head still shaking, after the collapsing blow delivered to it by the Banksters and Wall Street almost five years ago.
The bands marqueed by the festival were unanimously first rate. Michele Lundeen, the renown 'Queen of Steam', galvanized the crowd with her performance. Her voice, almost as adept at histrionics as her body, was full of brass, smoke and pheromones. At times it sounded like a reed engineered from a Janis Joplin nerve.
Chet Cannon and The Committee, a perennial favorite, deported themselves with their usual energized showmanship. Chet is a savant on the Blues Harp and when the instrument makes its journey to the performer's mouth, even a sun-drenched San Felipe afternoon suddenly becomes cloaked in Cotton Club shadows and soulful biographies.
The Bayou Brothers wielded their sax player like a chess master slamming an obscure piece down for a checkmating combination. The fierce brass soliloquies were sudden, startling secrets exploding from the composition from the sheer pressure of their confinement, recklessly freed by a lust for self-confession. They were like a scene from an old Perry Mason episode where the villain, quietly and safely observing the litigations from the spectators' gallery, suddenly leaps to his feet and shouts out his guilt.
When Alan Iglesias stepped on stage the audience didn't know what to expect. Alan, the front man for Crossfire, a Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute band and newcomer to the San Felipe Blues Festival, shouldered a Fender Stratocaster that looked like it had been carved from a Depression Era headboard. Friction-worn and varnish-challenged, the instrument was an homage to every tool distressed by a master craftsman's virtuoso handling.
Alan stood on stage wearing black pants, a black, flat-brim gambler's hat girdled with silver discs, stirrup boots and a white shirt with black piping around yoke, collar and sleeves. His neck was festooned with turquoise stones. It was the quintessential singing cowboy's wardrobe, but what came out of Alan's guitar was nothing Roy Rogers would have recognized. The sound might have been produced by a Formula 1 racer, if he had been trained on an electric guitar instead of a Lotus T127.
Crossfire pays excellent tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Alan Iglesias serves the memory of the great legend very well indeed. And that was our good fortune.
There was a good turnout of artists and crafts people at the event. Some new artists made their appearance this year and there were also many familiar faces and compositions. It would have been nice for them to receive the attention and encouragement they deserved, but an event that claps together such misallied senses as the eyes and the ears has to expect one of them to be the preferred flavor of the day and the other to suffer from neglect. The only billet where these two senses can share near equal measures of glory is within a Broadway or Hollywood musical, and even then very rarely.
Baja Good Life and the Lions Club did a great job of producing and organizing the festival. Everything went smoothly. The volunteers who tirelessly donated their time and skills deserve a flare or two thrown into the night sky to acknowledge their accomplishments. Without them, this annual celebration would have never found its stride.
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