doheny blues festival

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Doheny blues fest pays tribute to B. B. King

on May 18, 2015 No comments
By Orange County Register

The death of blues music great B.B. King just days before the arrival of the 18th edition of the Doheny Blues Festival meant that the annual celebration in Dana Point would likely find a number of performers offering fitting tributes to the King of the Blues.

That proved to be the case throughout the final day at the fest, with Sunday seeing just about every performer either acknowledging King or even covering a song in his honor.

Guitarist George Marinelli and Bonnie Raitt perform onstage at Doheny State Beach on May 17, 2015 in Dana Point, California. © Scott Dudelson /Getty Images

Headliner Bonnie Raitt and her long-time band offered one of the day’s most heartfelt tributes during their outstanding headlining set on the Doheny Stage. Playing a two-song tribute, keyboardist Mike Finnigan recalled his participation in a King recording session two decades ago and how special that was before leading the ensemble through a high-powered “I’ve Got News For You.”

Then Raitt took over lead vocals on a song that both she and King have each featured in their live shows, the spirited Chicago blues rocker “Never Make Your Move Too Soon.” Raitt’s spicy lead vocals and slide work anchored the performance, but there was a swelling point where Finnigan and guitarist George Marinelli did a tandem solo section capturing the unspoken sentiment of the sadness of King’s departure mixed with the joy that he gave so much in his amazing career.

Raitt’s full 90-minute performance was a triumph, in part because of her enduring talents as a singer and slide guitarist, but also for her unique gifts as an artist to interpret great songs. I caught all or part of 19 sets over the two-day fest and few moments were as powerful as her tender renditions of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (penned by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin) and “Dimming of the Day” (a Richard Thompson song she dedicated to her late brother Steve).

Bonnie Raitt performs onstage at Doheny State Beach on May 17, 2015 in Dana Point, California.
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Guitarist George Marinelli and Bonnie Raitt perform onstage at Doheny State Beach on May 17, 2015 in Dana Point, California.
Bonnie Raitt performs onstage at Doheny State Beach on May 17, 2015 in Dana Point, California.

There were two other Sunday sets that were as powerful, both playing out on the Sailor Jerry Stage. An early afternoon set by Otis Taylor was powerful from start to finish, highlighted by the explosive power of Taylor’s four-member band (featuring outstanding fiddler Anne Harris) and 12-year-old guest Brandon “Taz” Niederauer (who simply amazed everyone in the crowd). The young New York guitarist delivered artful, speedy and powerful rhythm and lead guitar work throughout the 65-minute set. Hypnotic versions of “Hey Joe,” “Red Meat” and the explosive “Rain So Hard” were among the songs where Taylor, “Taz” and the musicians thrilled a crowd packed in front of the stage.

Equally powerful was the return of brothers Dave and Phil Alvin (who last performed here with the Blasters’ original lineup in 2011), this time able to feature a batch of new songs thanks to the release of their 2014 collection “Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy.” Sure enough, the brothers performed a number of gems from that collection as well as the playful “What’s Up With Your Brother” (off Dave’s 2011 solo album “Eleven Eleven”) and the Blasters’ staple “Marie, Marie.”

Rich Sherman with Bonnie Raitt at Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point, CA May 17, 2015
© Jay Blakesberg
A small wooden carved monkey wearing a fez sits out on stage along with guitars before Bonnie Raitt and her band took the stage on Sunday afternoon for the Doheny Blues Festival – May 17, 2015
© David Bro

Delivering solid sets that nevertheless didn’t rise to the level of the day’s best were blue-eyed soul soft-rocker Boz Scaggs (making his best showing with an energetic “Lido Shuffle”) and blues-rocker Beth Hart (displaying her strong soprano on “Might As Well Smile”).

Doheny Blues Festival is always a place where fans can catch a wide-ranging field of artists who cover the genre’s far corners. On Sunday, Chicago blues lovers got excellent turns from Big Jon Atkinson and the Nationals, and Lurrie Bell. Austin singer-guitarist Carolyn Wonderland performed her affecting Texas blues-rock brew on the Backporch Stage, while a little later the Rebirth Brass Band brought a New Orleans-styled party to the main Doheny Stage.

Source: © Copyright The Orange County Register
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Doheny Blues Festival closes with a series of superb performances

on May 19, 2008 No comments
By Orange County Register
HEADLINER: Bonnie Raitt closes out the second day of the Doheny Blues Festival with a set that was more relaxed and informal than her typical performance at an indoor venue 5-18-2008
© Robert Kinsler /The Orange County Register

With a bright full moon positioned over the waters of the Pacific, Bonnie Raitt brought a magical close to the 11th annual Doheny Blues Festival on Sunday night.

Her 90-minute set capped more than two dozen performances that played out at the two-day festival staged at Doheny State Beach over the weekend. For those – and I count myself in that camp – who had only seen the 58-year-old singer-guitarist play in an indoor venue, watching Raitt perform at an outdoor event was a decidedly different affair.

Bonnie Raitt performs Sunday at the Doheny Blues Festival 5-18-2008

Her trademark skills as a slide guitarist and nuanced vocalist were on display, but there was a casual attitude that goes with being at a blues fest that found Raitt inviting a fan on stage at one point and bantering back and forth with members of the crowd. Indeed, at one point when one fan yelled out a request for a favorite song, Raitt good-naturedly replied, “I can’t play them all. I’ve been around too long.”

However, few in the capacity crowd seemed anything but thrilled with the song choices and their presentation in Dana Point. Whether performing radio favorites such as the upbeat blues-rock of “Thing Called Love” and “Something to Talk About” or bringing many in the audience to tears with the beautiful “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” her set was truly outstanding.

Bonnie Raitt performs Sunday at the Doheny Blues Festival 5-18-2008

Earlier in the day, the full scope of roots and blues music was showcased via a wide range of artists. Those arriving by 11:15 got to see singer-guitarist Shawn Jones kick things off on the Main Stage with an accessible and infectious blend of original blues-rock. His guitar playing, voice and songwriting won over many who didn’t know this newcomer from the Inland Empire. Songs such as the confessional “Glorybound” and high-octane rocker “Savin’ the Best for Last” were among the highlights of his 45-minute set.

And from the excitement and overheard comments from everyone positioned around the Main Stage, few will forget their introduction to Joe Bonamassa. The 31-year-old Bonamassa is this generation’s real life guitar hero, a fret master who has a vast number of musical ideas and an arsenal of electric and acoustic guitar chops to express those dreams in full.

On Sunday afternoon, his style of heavy blues recalled strong guitar players such as Walter Trout and Gary Moore, but Bonamassa showcased his own voice with original material such as the beautiful rocker “Sloe Gin” and Delta blues-tinged “High Water Everywhere.”

Although it’s anyone’s guess when Watermelon Slim & the Workers will find their way back to Orange County, the talented and original blues quartet performed an enjoyable 45-minute set of blues on the Backporch stage. Watermelon Slim proved to be both charismatic and engaging in the intimate setting, singing, playing harmonica and slide guitar with fervor.

There was an authentic, retro quality across the troupe’s fiery set, with “Devil’s Cadillac” and “Ash Tray” illustrating the loose and freewheeling style the commanding ensemble has made their own.

Source: © Copyright The Orange County Register

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