Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Doheny Blues Fest 2013 blends old and new

This article was originally published on The Orange County Register site on Tuesday, May 14, 2013.

Cutting-edge guitarist Joe Bonamassa and a tribute to harmonica legend Little Walter are among the offerings.

Who: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, James Hunter Six, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Mark Hummel's Blues Harp Blowout Tribute to Little Walter, Jimmie Vaughan and others perform on Saturday; George Thorogood & the Destroyers, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Janiva Magness with special guest Kid Ramos, Shemekia Copeland, Marcia Ball, Sonny Landreth and others perform Sunday

Where: Doheny State Beach, 25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point

When: Saturday and Sunday (May 18-19, 2013). Gates open at 11 a.m. (for general admission ticket holders) on Saturday and Sunday. The music ends at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday and 9 p.m. on Sunday

How much: At press time, available tickets included $60 for single-day general admission and $110 general admission weekend passes. All VIP and Gold tickets are sold out. Visit Omega Events' Web site at for the full details on which tickets are available.

Joe Bonamassa at Doheny in 2008. Photo: Bob Steshetz
There is a good chance – say 100 percent – that Joe Bonamassa will be singing and playing the blues this weekend in Dana Point. So will Ben Harper, Charlie Musselwhite, Susan Tedeschi, James Hunter, George Thorogood, Marcia Ball and more than a dozen other notables in the genre when they perform at the 2013 Doheny Blues Festival.

Looking at the 16-year history of the event, this weekend's upcoming festival brings one of the most diverse line-ups in memory. British soul singer Hunter and guitar virtuoso Bonamassa are "must see" sets, as is the tribute to the late Little Walter, who brought the kind of revolutionary playing to the blues harmonica that Jimi Hendrix unleashed with his electric guitar. And on the heels of the release of the concept album "Get Up!" in January, singer-guitarist Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite will bring their winning collaboration to the concert stage.

"Creativity is in our blood, and we hope that the festival reflects that in every area, including the band bookings," explained Rich Sherman, president of Omega Events, the Lake Forest-based company that has staged the annual event since the late 1990s.

"We always seek to introduce new artists like J.D. McPherson, or bring in foreign-based artists like Joanne Shaw Taylor and James Hunter, but the Ben (Harper) and Charlie (Musselwhite) booking was crucial this year; their new record (Get Up!) has received top reviews and garnered tons of press coverage, and Ben is a major act worldwide as well as in Southern California. We are pretty stoked on the lineup."

Bonamassa is performing three sold-out nights (Thursday-Saturday) at the Beacon Theatre in New York, and then flying back to Southern California on a chartered jet to perform at the Doheny Blues Fest on Sunday.

"We are proud to have grown up with Joe Bonamassa, because just as Doheny Blues has matured and gained in popularity, so has Joe B," Sherman said.

"He has an interesting business plan, in that he books all his shows by himself, rents the theater, buys the advertising ... essentially he has eliminated the need for the promoter, and therefore never plays festivals; this will be Joe's only festival in North America this year. But as the top selling artist in the blues genre, and the most requested act by the Doheny Blues fans, it was our goal to bring Joe back to Doheny this May."

In a recent telephone interview, Bonamassa praised the Doheny Blues Festival. He is also thrilled to be opening for Thorogood and the Destroyers on Sunday.

"I'll tell you what. George is a good friend of mine from a long time ago; a lot of people know my name because of George Thorogood's generosity," Bonamassa said.

"In the early days of my career he was giving me a stage, aka an opening act slot for his band, over and over, tour after tour. I haven't seen him probably in four years; I am very much looking forward to saying 'Hey' and reacquainting with an old friend because without George Thorogood I doubt that you and I would be having this conversation."

Bonamassa, 36, is one of modern music's busiest and most exciting performers. In addition to his recent solo efforts (notably 2012's Driving Towards the Daylight and 2011's Dust Bowl), he has been a part of both the British hard rock project Black Country Communion and funk troupe Rock Candy Funk Party. In his spare time Bonamassa has recorded an album with singer Beth Hart (2011's Don't Explain) and issued several live recordings (2013's An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House and 2012's Beacon Theatre: Live From New York). He will play close to 100 live dates in 2013.

"The challenge is more so than anything; you never want to be a jukebox," Bonamassa said. "I could easily just do my spring tour (or) my fall tour with the solo band and be done for the year. That's a great place to be in life. But musically you want to challenge yourself and get outside of your comfort zone. So in terms of Black Country Communion or Rock Candy Funk Party it's just something that I don't get to do every day and that's something that's very valuable to me."

Mark Hummel will lead tribute to Little Walter on Saturday.
Bonamassa is among blues' most groundbreaking new names and represents one part of the blues scene; Mark Hummel brings that same kind of passion and energy to celebrating the genre's early heroes. He will join fellow harmonica greats Billy Boy Arnold, Little Charlie Baty and Sugar Ray Norcia in celebrating the legacy of the late Little Walter in a special 90-minute performance on the intimate Backporch Stage on Saturday (May 18) afternoon.

"Well, I got into Little Walter fairly early on when I first started playing the harmonica. He was my number one inspiration on the harmonica," recalled Hummel, who began playing the blues harp while he was in his early teens. He and several of the others harmonica stars playing at Doheny Beach are featured on the newly-issued Remembering Little Walter collection issued by Blind Pig Records on May 7.

"When I heard that (Little Walter) I kinda realized right out the gate that was the sound I was looking for, and I just got a hold of every Little Walter record I could and copied as closely as I could. I pretty much put the needle on the record and wore out the record (getting the sound and notes right)."

Sherman noted that whether fans come to check out the classic sounds of '50s Chicago blues, powerful soul singers or dazzling guitar work of Bonamassa, Robert Randolph or Derek Trucks, there is a unified spirit at the festival.

"We are truly thankful that the die-hard blues fans in SoCal continue to support the Doheny Blues Festival, and that for many of them Doheny has become the meeting place for their annual family reunion. The long-time fans are the first to offer their ideas on new acts or ways to improve the festival, so we always value the feedback," Sherman said. "And we also realize that if we don't strive to improve the festival each and every year, that this support could wane – we wouldn't have a business without their love of music, so that's something we never take for granted."

No comments: