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California Worldfest runs hot in Grass Valley

On July 10-13, 2014 the California Worldfest held its 18th annual festival in Grass Valley at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. It was a hot weekend even in this Ponderosa Pine and Black Oak dotted 100 acres that are recognized as "California's Most Beautiful Fairgrounds." The warm days didn't stop people from dancing, tapping feat, trying as many food vendors as possible, or strolling from stage to stage to take it all in. And, taking it all in means experiencing a diversity of music from Blues to Afro Pop, Salsa, Bhangra, Americana, Tex Mex, Roots Swing, Rock 'n' Roll, Reggae, Latin, Hawaiian, Balkan, Bluegrass, Techno, Jazz, Celtic Gypsy and Alt Rock. Indeed, the theme is "World" music and the organizers do aim to bring in bits and pieces from all over the world.

Susan Raines
Matt Andersen at the CA Worldfest
Susan Raines

On the final day of the festival, Sun., July 13, the day started out with moderate attendance with many people escaping the heat by waiting for later hours to return or attend. Many found refuge in the indoor, air-conditioned Welcome Stage near the entrance. The cool interior was refreshing and offered fold out chair seating and a few people could even be seen taking full advantage of the atmosphere by taking a nap. The performers on the Welcome Stage didn't seem to mind and brought on their enthusiasm and energizing music for their livelier fans.

Upon entering the festival grounds, one would find the headliner Meadow Stage inactive for the major part of the day until around 5:00 p.m. Although inactive, the meadow was lined with low back chairs for those quick to secure their spots for the upcoming evening shows including Sambada, Antsy McClain and Delhi to Dublin on Sunday. These unoccupied chairs were technically open for use by anyone wanting to sit in the meadow but an unlikely choice with the open field offering nearly no shade. Other active stages offered cooler options with erected shade structures and trees.

Low back chairs were not only allowed but highly recommended for anyone attending this event. Very little seating was available other than inside the Welcome Stage building and a few bleachers at some of the other stages. Its a bring-your-own seat kind of celebration of music, dance and culture. However, picnic benches were quite handy near the food court and in various spots throughout the grounds. Chairs of many styles and colors were seen in use or being hauled around like backpacks or simply gripped in one hand. Attendees were clearly chair smart and familiar with the guidelines of "under 32" from top of chair to ground and under 10” from seat to ground for seating close to the stage."

Most performers, other than the final evening headliners, were on the schedule for multiple sets. This fact did not make the festival repetitive but rather gave attendees an opportunity to catch every performance of interest. If you missed a set at 11:00, you might be able to catch it at 4:00. However, only some performers were scheduled to appear more than one day so attendees not coming out for the entire weekend might miss some great talents. When it comes to big music festivals, you can't do it all but you can surely try.

BROTHER was among the performers scheduled to perform before noon and then again at 2:30 p.m. The band was dressed in a mix of Scottish and Aussie fashion with black kilts, outback hats, t-shirts and boots. Their music brought a mix of the same with "signature vocals," guitar, bagpipes, didgerido, keyboard and tribal percussion. Soul brothers Angus, Dalbo and Drew came from Australia to Los Angeles, CA over a decade ago and have since moved from struggling to survive to appearing on stage with Joe Walsh, John Entwhistle, Linkin Park, and Alicia Keys and they are the "only independent band to have played the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.""

The Celtic Tribal celebration of BROTHER's music at the Worldfest filled the two stages where they performed. Energetic, pulsing, soaring and tribal are all words that have been aptly used to describe their sound and live performances. They are fun to watch, great to hear, and clearly draw many to get on their feet and move. The open area in front of the stage became repeatedly filled with happy people expressing their physical response to the beat.

The Latin guitar world fusion group Incendio was another band that appeared on Sunday with performances at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Outrageously good guitar playing dominated their sets along with high energy, intense skill and plentiful smiles on stage. The group started in 1999 and struggled through the pop dominated market by taking their fate into their own hands and bringing "instrumental Spanish guitar music ... to new and uncharted artistic levels." While their music may revolve around guitar instrumentals their works also include the mandolin, bouzouki, violin, Celtic harp, piano, bass, synthesizer and various ethnic percussion instruments. Incendio was a pure pleasure to experience at the California Worldfest and clearly a popular attendance choice for hundreds of festival fans.

The music ran nonstop at the fest from 10:00 a.m. to the end of the evening headliner which started at 8:45 p.m. So many incredible talents were on the billing that attendees would be hard pressed to describe the experience in a single sentence or even a few short paragraphs. With quality talent like that found at the Worldfest, pages could be written about the sounds, the styles, the look, and the joy of the performances taking place through the day. Matt Andersen brought his powerful and moving blues, others brought world fusion, jazz, or alternative rock. Whatever your choice, it was likely to be found somewhere at some point during the festival course.

The only thing missing was perhaps a diversity of cultural attendance. The cultural diversity was broad and inspiring on the stage but attendees appeared to be lacking in the same diversity. This shortcoming has little to do with the music or the California Worldfest promotion and perhaps more to do with who responds, the population in the Grass Valley region and other unknown factors. After 18 years of successful attendance, it would become even more glorious if California music lovers woke up to the World Fusion experience and gave it a try. With music fusing instruments, sound and people from around the world, it would be grand to see people with broad ethnic backgrounds enjoying the show. It is a good thing, indeed, that the festival will return next year and for many years to come. If you love a variety of music, you might put it on your 2015 calendar and check it out, open your mind and embrace the sound.

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