On Sunday, September 22, 2013 The Blues & BBQ Festival was in Mission Park in Ventura, California. The event ran from approximately 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Festival founder Vincenzo Giammaco said: "I had a vision, to create and produce an original Festival that, in turn, (would) create a huge economic boom in the local economy, raise money for great non-profits” adding “We’re happy to be back in downtown Ventura for our fifth year.”
Giammaco stated that the day’s event was designed to be “an original experience where guests get to bring their blues chairs and blankets, sip on some suds, sample great barbeque and listen to an all-star blues lineup.” The festival’s fifth year playbill included: Ana Popovic (in a rare California appearance), award-winning guitarist Robben Ford, blues singer-songwriter Carolyn Wonderland, Michael John and the Bottom Line, The Alastair Greene Band and The (explosive) Bomb.
After procuring parking your all too often penned-in penman and his able bodied attaché Mary Sparks made their way to the park. By the time they were on location and cleared by the friendly security squad the air was already alive and electric with the sounds of The Alastair Greene Band. Greene played a variety of songs including “new songs fresh out of the oven” such as “The Sweetest Honey” as well as other audio offerings such as “Trouble At Your Door” and a cover of Michael Burke’s “Strange Feeling”.
Next up was Michael John and The Bottom Line. The band blew out the blues before this significantly-sized audience. One of their best tunes had to be "Feels Like Rain”. Here they slowed things down a bit with a nice slow song and the audience continued to grow.
The funky cover band The Bomb followed. They performed a lively adaptation o f the Average White Band’s “Pick Up The Pieces” among other songs to a crowd that appeared larger than last year. The audience was a mélange of mankind including people of all ages: There were girls with bare feet and guys off the street, dudes in Hawaiian shirts and gorgeous gals in short skirts, crazy tots on leads and peeps of all creeds. Even a few performers were spotted sampling the brews available after their sets.
Carolyn Wonderland took the stage sans a bass guitar player. Her set was highlighted by what she called a “creepy”, slower song titled “Jack Of Diamonds”. Wonderland is a versatile, multi-instrumentalist who impressed the audience with her talents and her varied playlist as well.
Robben Ford was next on the playbill entertaining the audience with his own brand o’ blues and such selections as “Earthquake”. The day also featured the Blue Moon BBQ Cook Off. Here numerous barbeque teams—amateur and professional—competed for $3,000 in cash prizes as guests sample their wares and cast their vote for “The People’s Choice.” In fact, while waiting in line to sample said BBQ your beer imbibing author discovered that some had come to the day’s event solely to see the closing act Ana Popovic.
Clad in a rockin’ red dress, Popovic caught your randy writer’s eye before one note was noticed (or even played). Her set featured such noteworthy numbers as a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Rain Fell Down”, a shuffle named “Hot Southern Night” and her rather refreshing “(Gotta Let Your Man Have A) Boys' Night Out”.
This year a close circuit camera a large monitor were added to the twin-stage set-up making the event even more fun. Between enjoying the music, the free Frank’s jerky and blueberry Swisher Sweets (not to mention sampling the assorted suds), your reclusive writer actually enjoyed the event too much to include complete playlists for each artist. But if that’s a problem, have no fear. You can always attend the event yourself next year.
All in all, Ventura Blues & BBQ Festival was a fun, family-friendly event with something for everyone from smoked meat to smoking; music. It was a fitting finish to the week-long Ventura County Beer Week which ran from September 15 through 22 and included activities across the city.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that's the bottom line.