8th Annual Blues and Arts Fiesta, March 29, 2014
The Thunder,Wind and Rain gods were too busy in North Carolina and Washington state to pay any attention to San Felipe during this year's Blues and Arts Fiesta and as a result, the weather was almost as good as the entertainment.
A roster of ten musical entries and a score of art venues from local and out-of-town talent rendered a sumptuous feast for both the ears and eyes. Food and drink kiosks ensured the tongue was not ignored either.
This year the Lions Club assembled an extraordinary collection of musicians and showcased the sounds of first time guests such as Nathan James, Rod Piazza, Missy Andersen and the Mofo Party Band as well as returning favorites like Michele Lundeen, Backwaters Blues, Mercedes Moore and our own Agave Band.
Javier Batiz, familiar to many from his appearances at the Jolymon Bar, performed with a group of his musical and vocal protégées. As always, his raw-nerve interpretation of the numbers heightened the audience experience and drew them to the edge of the stage.
Michele Lundeen was again a powerhouse. Her voice, full of flint and barbed wire, delivers an electric edge to the lyrics that saws into the listener until it exposes the nerve that animates the essence of Blues and Soul music.
Missy Andersen's passionate and soulful sound was a welcome addition to this year's festivities. With great stage presence and a firm control of her talent, Missy's Blues was fortified by her Gospel-singing background, which gave her sound a vigor not normally found in more traditional Blues styles.
Nathan James and the Rhythm Scratchers were another great addition to the afternoon. Nathan's trademark home-made guitar and his eclectic style have drawn a great deal of attention from Blues and R&B aficionados. The belly of the guitar is a washboard (I noticed how clean the band members' shirts were) and Nathan will often scratch out a background rhythm on it with his fingernails. At intervals, the music wanders into the Appalachian foothills and courts a sound that might best be described as Blues-Billy.
The fiesta favorite, in my opinion, was the Mofo Party Band, who certainly puts the art in PartY. The theme of this year's offering seemed to be virtuoso guitar picking and Mofo lead guitarist Bill Clifton didn't shirk that responsibility. He worked the fret of his instrument more feverishly than eight crop pickers on a twelve hour shift. That guitar had more voices than a mockingbird and the response to Bill's solos pulled him off the stage and into the audience.
John, Bill and Grant are the Clifton brothers who are share the stage in a vertical position. Seated behind tem was Brian Bischel, their percussionist, who stoically endured the lot of all drum kit artists whose faces are eclipsed by cymbals and the blur of their sticks.
There were familiar faces at the art and craft venues as well as some new presentations. Of particular interest were the metal drums of Tommy Olmos and the whale and dolphin images by photographer Tony Bellesteros. Of course when the bands were plying their trade the traffic around the visual arts tables was magnetically pulled to the big stage and each artist had to wait patiently for a break between sets when a stream of attendees would file past the beer and wine vendors and embark on a meandering exploration of their wares.
The Lions Club did an exemplary job of pulling together this year's event as did the 150 volunteers who gave their time selflessly. All proceeds from the Blues and Arts Fiesta will be donated to local charities.
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