This past Memorial Day, I had the pleasure of attending the Simi Valley Cajun Creole Music Festival in Southern California. This event has raised over $1.2M in support of charitable, humanitarian and educational causes. What a show it is!! With multiple stages featuring Cajun, Zydeco and Blues entertainment, it has grown to be one of the largest festivals of its kind west of the Mississippi River attracting 15,000 people.
I landed at LAX, picked up my rental car and jumped on the freeway up to Simi Valley. I arrived early enough in the morning to leave plenty of time to check-in to my hotel and freshen up before going over to the festival grounds at Rancho Santa Susana Park. The weather was a welcome relief from the cold of Washington; the sun was shining, the humidity was low, the temperature was a comfortable 80 degrees.
As soon as I got to the Blues Stage, I ran into Tim and Michelle Burge and Cholo Willsin! It's always nice to meet up with friends from the Washington Blues Society when I'm traveling on the blues highway. This year's festival featured the 5th Annual Delta Groove All-Star Blues Revue, featuring 12 outstanding acts from the Delta Groove family of artists.
The Insomniacs were first up, and they set the bar very high for everyone following on the Blues Stage. This Portland-based band is fast becoming a national touring act, and has shown many folks across the country what we have going on here in the Pacific Northwest. Well, listening to this show, I reconnected with Sharonmarie Fisher; who for those of you who don't remember her, she was part of the Seattle Women in Rhythm and Blues group. She is now living near Simi Valley, and it was good to catch up with her and talk about music and friends from up in Seattle. She's still singing and is quite involved in her community. Most weekends, the Sharonmarie Fisher and Richard Belmond Blues Duo play in the greater Los Angeles-Simi Valley area.
The rest of the day was just a blur with great music and lots of good conversation. Los Fabulocos, with Kid Ramos, was next, and he tore it up as usual with his searing guitar licks. Arthur Adams and his band followed Los Fabulocos, and showed why h e is still a fan favorite today with lots of crowd interaction. The Hollywood Blue Flames added their take on the blues and were followed by the Jackie Payne/Steve Edmonson Band. It had been a full day and we had another band to go. The Soul of John Black closed out the day, and it was a great way to finish the day.
Still buzzing from all the great music and the tasty ribs from Sweet Lou's BBQ many of us weren't ready to call it a night, so we headed down to The Langham in Pasadena and caught the James Harman Band. Our group consisted of Tim and Michelle Burge, Cholo Willsin, new friends Cindi Bernhardt and Mike Lovato, and me. We were all tired, and there were a few nods of the head for many of us, but the show was great. As James played, I thought about his next trip to our region to play Winthrop. Somehow, we all made it home to our hotels and had a great night’s sleep.
Kirk FIetcher and his band were up first on the festival’s second day. I really like his funky sound and recommend his new CD, My Turn, on Delta Groove. A combination of Lynwood Slim and lgor Prado from Brazil played straight ahead blues with a little taste of Latin flavor thrown in. Mike Zito was next, and I can't begin to tell you how talented this guy is. When you see Mike's name on a playbill, go see him; you won't be disappointed.
Candye Kane and her band, with special guest Bob Corritore, put on a classic Candy Kane show with a harmonica twist. I met Bob after their set; he's a really nice guy, and really knows the music. I look forward to many more conversations with him. One of my personal favorites, Elvin Bishop, was up next, and he had the crowd eating out of his hand. I've seen Elvin perform more than a hundred times over the years, and I never get tired of his high energy and the fun he puts into his music. Always a treat for me!
The closing band was The Mannish Boys, and they filled the stage with many guests and left the audience on their feet satisfied, but calling for more. I really appreciate what the Mannish Boys do, always featuring older players and keeping the blues alive with their own special flavor. This was quite a memorable Memorial Day Weekend, thanks to the 5th Annual Delta Groove All-Stars Blues Revue. Delta Groove received the prestigious Keeping the Blues Alive Award in 2008, and thanks to the leadership and insight of Randy Chortkoff and Frank Roszak, this acclaimed blues record label is keeping the blues very much alive at events like the 21st Annual Semi Valley Cajun Creole Festival (with A Blues Infusion). Look at Tim and Michelle Burge's excellent photo gallery of this event on their Facebook page to share in this wonderful event.