Friday, September 09, 2011

Doheny Days set to return to Dana Point this weekend

Photo courtesy of Kelly A. Swift

This post actually features a highlight of material that was used in two previews I wrote of the event for The Orange County Register that were originally published on Sept. 7, 2011.

Doheny Days ready for revival after years away

While many people said goodbye to summer over Labor Day weekend, local music fans know they get to celebrate at least one more weekend of summer thanks to the return of Doheny Days on Sept. 10-11.

After a hiatus of seven years, fans of eclectic music can once again hit Doheny State Beach in Dana Point to soak in the sounds of modern rockers (Weezer, Cake and Neon Trees, above, all of whom appear during Day 2), reggae greats (Ziggy Marley, Black Uhuru), O.C.-spawned heroes (Donavon Frankenreiter, Ken Garcia, Common Sense) and genre-defying champions (Day 1 headliner Ben Harper). Other featured performers include G. Love & Special Sauce, JJ Grey & Mofro, Hyper Crush and Blitz the Ambassador, the moniker of Ghanaian-American hip-hop artist Samuel Bazawule.

“Festival-goers are much more experimental in 2011 than in 2004, the last year that we held Doheny Days,” explained Rich Sherman, president of Lake Forest-based Omega Events, which stages both this event and the annual Doheny Blues Festival.

“So it was very important to present an exciting mix of acts, ones that would fit the vibe of the festival. Very few festivals are as fortunate as we are — our backdrop is the Pacific Ocean, so acts like Ben Harper and Donavon Frankenreiter were a natural fit.”

The mix of acts from a variety of genres will perform amid a setting that includes a Ferris wheel, midway games, four stages and an overall experience that Sherman insists will be different from what Omega puts together for Doheny Blues every May. That makes sense considering the appeal of this lineup skews younger.

Neon Trees, for instance, is one of modern rock fastest-rising new bands, bolstered by the smash success of its single “Animal.” Since issuing its debut, Habits, in early 2010, the quartet from Provo, Utah, has toured with the Killers, impressed a large crowd at Coachella in April and did so again in Costa Mesa with a headlining performance at Pacific Amphitheatre in July.

“That Pacific show was absolutely one of my favorites of this last year,” Neon Trees frontman Tyler Glenn (pictured above) said during a phone chat shortly before a gig in Seattle recently. “There was a magical quality in the air and it never felt dull; it never felt like there was a lull in the set.”

Neon Trees — also including guitarist Chris Allen, bassist Branden Campbell and drummer Elaine Bradley — will play a 75-minute set on Sunday at Doheny Days, ahead of equally long or longer turns from Marley, Cake and Weezer. The group also has a number of dates with Duran Duran in September and October.

Glenn finds it highly flattering to be opening for so many of his heroes: “I have a lot of moments where I catch myself because bands I listened to four years ago as a normal Joe, I’ve (now) wound up playing shows with them. It’s insane.

“I grew up loving a lot of punk music — Social Distortion was a big band that I loved seeing down in Orange County, and Mike Ness came to watch our whole set and then wanted to meet us, which was completely mind-blowing. It used to be the other way around, but he wanted to meet us. Those kinds of things are crazy.”

Glenn said Neon Trees approaches each show uniquely, so local fans who caught the group at Pacific will get something new at Doheny Days.

“I think we treat festival shows and our headlining shows and our club shows all a little differently. The aesthetics are different. The kind of fans that are there are different. Festivals especially are a huge opportunity to get new fans or (encounter) ‘Oh, I’ve heard of this band’ or ‘I really love Weezer but I get to see Neon Trees, too.’ That’s our opportunity to wow them for 40 minutes or whatever. We usually choose more of the high-energy songs and try to create those dynamics — and hope for the best.”

Though most attendees will likely come to Doheny Days for the music, Sherman contends there are plenty other reasons to spend the weekend on the beach.

“We have produced 23 music festivals at Doheny State Beach, and it would have been foolish to reinvent the wheel, so there are certainly some similarities with the blues festival,” he says. “But our foremost goal was to create a new environment for Doheny Days. That will be evident from the first steps onto the boardwalk. The overall vibe will be fresh.

“For the last several years, we have been talking with the State Parks Department about bringing back (this festival), specifically what type of event would take shape – music, attractions, (the number of) attendees. They seemed comfortable with our original sketch, so it then became our job to deliver an event that exceeded all expectations — an event that would improve upon the eight-year history of Doheny Days.”

Doheny Days takes place at Doheny State Beach, 25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. each day, with music ending at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday and 9 on Sunday. Day 1 features Ben Harper, Donavon Frankenreiter, G. Love & Special Sauce and more. Day 2 includes Weezer, Ziggy Marley, Cake, Neon Trees, Black Uhuru and others. Tickets are $50 for single-day general admission ($60 day of show) or $80 for a weekend pass. Click here or call 949-360-7800 for full details, including VIP availability. Click here for a complete schedule of performances.

Here are my top three picks from each day at Doheny Days!

Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011

Ben Harper – On Ben Harper’s latest album, “Give Till It’s Gone,” the GRAMMY Award winner is joined by the celebrated likes of Jackson Browne and legendary Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. But when Harper performs in Dana Point, it will be songs such as the confessional “Don’t Give Up On Me Now,” psychedelic-reeling “Spilling Faith” and poignant “Feel Love” that will carry the weight.

JJ Grey & Mofro – Serving up a well-balanced menu of soul, funk, R&B, Southern rock and blues, Florida-based JJ Grey & MOFRO is may go into Doheny Days as one of Saturday's best-kept secrets. Don't expect JJ Grey (vocals, guitar, harmonica) and six-man troupe to be a secret when they have finished their performance.

Ken Garcia – Whether it’s dubbed surf rock, soft rock or folk rock, Orange County’s own singer-songwriter-guitarist Ken Garcia’s material is both infectious and intelligent. His set in Dana Point will feature songs from his forthcoming album set for release later this year.

Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011

Weezer – Whether they are cranking out crunchy power pop (“Buddy Holly,” “Undone”), infectious sing-along gems (“Island in the Sun,” “Beverly Hills”) or alt rock (“Hash Pipe”), few bands to emerge in the early ‘90s remain as relevant or remarkable as the Rivers Cuomo-led Weezer.

Ziggy Marley – A five-time GRAMMY winner, Ziggy Marley has released more than a dozen albums throughout his long career. He will likely be unleashing good vibes and great songs (“Tomorrow People,” “Tumbling Down,” “Look Who’s Dancing”) when he performs at Doheny Days.

Neon Trees – With songs that recall the best of ‘80s New Wave without being mired in the past, indie rock heroes Neon Trees consistently deliver concerts that get fans on their feet and dancing like there is no tomorrow. Singer Tyler Glenn & company are a force of nature, so the quartet should be right at home on the scenic shores of the Pacific.

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