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Blues fans have their pick of small summer festivals

Blues and Bones
Blues and Bones

I think we can agree that all festivals are not created equal.
Certainly, frequent visitors to this space are familiar with my rants against jazz and blues festivals whose lineups reveal a decided reluctance to book actual jazz and blues artists. Irks me no end to see some ‘80s R&B crooner headlining what is ostensibly a jazz festival or some classic rock act topping a blues festival bill.
Another important distinction regarding festivals is size. The Healdsburg Jazz Festival, which concludes its 2014 run this weekend, is nowhere near as large as Monterey. That is not to say that smaller festivals can’t be just as much fun.
More to the point for blues fans, all Northern California has to offer these days are smaller, local celebrations of their favorite music. That tends to mean more regional and fewer national artists but it also imbues the events with a welcoming, no-hassles feel. Here’s a rundown of what this summer has to offer.

Folsom Rhythm and Brews (June14): This sounds like a great way to celebrate day Father’s Day weekend. We’re talking free admission, children’s activities and a musical lineup featuring Val Star and the Blues Rockets, Tommy Castro Band and the Painkillers, and Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings. Plenty of craft beers, too, with an emphasis on brewers from Sacramento and the Sierra foothills.

Redwood City PAL Blues, Arts and BBQ Festival (June 25-26): The Courthouse Square festivities get under way with a Friday night performance by Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers before unleashing its full fury with a Saturday lineup featuring Rick Estrin and the Nitecats; the Golden State-Lone Star Revue with Anson Funderberg, Little Charlie Baty and Mark Hummel; Aki Kumar Blues Band; and Ms. Taylor P. Collins. Proceeds benefit the city’s Police Activities League.

Vacaville Blues Festival (July 3-6): Nothing more American than grooving to blues over the long Independence Day weekend. Charlie Musselwhite gets things started on Thursday the third but Saturday and Sunday is the time to head out and hear the Charlie Wade Blues Band, Chris Cain, Loose Blues, Delta Rockets and Big Cat Tolefree.

Pleasant Hill Blues and Brews (July 18-19): I’m sure this Pleasant Hill Park event will be loads of fun, even if it is short on name performers. (Who among is going to get too worked up over JB and DEM Revue, Frankie G. and the Conviction, Jinx Jones and the Kingtones?) That said, plenty of fine East Bay craft brewers will be on hand Saturday afternoon including E.J. Phair, Altamont Beer Works, Heretic and Black Diamond.

San Rafael Great American Blues and Barbecue Festival (July 20): Details on this event are hard to find, other than it is the fourth annual and set for downtown San Rafael. Let’s keep a good thought.

Angels Camps Blues and Bones Festival (July 26): Back in the day, the Calaveras County Fairgrounds hosted the Mountain Aire summer concerts series as well as a fine Celtic celebration each March. (It remains home to the annual Jumping Frog Jubilee.) The bones in question come courtesy of some of Northern California’s best grillers, who will be on hand competing for top prize in a variety of categories. The music lineup includes a number of regional favorites including Shane Dwight, Max Cabello Jr. and the Breakdown, Jeramy Norris and the Dangerous Mood, and Wingut Adams.

Napa Blues, Brews and BBQ (August 23): No details yet on who will be providing the music but the mere fact I can indulge in beer and barbecue on a summer afternoon in downtown Napa is enough for me.

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