Happy Wanderer: Music festival season begins this weekend


Contracostatimes.com: May 21, 2015:

Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova; You’ll be dancing with ’em, too, before the night is over — “Downtown” by Petula Clark

Memorial Day Weekend marks what I like to call the fifth season — the season of downtown music festivals. The festival grande dame kicks off Friday in California’s capital city.

From zydeco to swing, rockabilly to blues — the Sacramento Music Festival has come a long way in the 41 years since its first Dixieland Jazz Jubilee. Every Memorial Day Weekend since 1974, Old Sacramento and its walkable downtown merge into one of Northern California’s biggest parties. There are dozens of daily offerings — a mix and match of musical venues and bands from morning till the last heel hits the dance floor.

Last year, I saw a Dixieland quartet in a train museum and a country rock band in the shade of a freeway overpass. I saw soulful blues in a ballroom, mellow jazz on a riverboat and zydeco under one of the many festival tents.

I even got asked to dance. Truth be told, we all got asked to dance. During the gospel church service, a New Orleans-style parade broke out with bead-bedecked patrons strutting around the auditorium. We latched onto the conga line singing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” What a joyful way to celebrate a Sunday. The four-day festival brings big business to this river city, which has long been known for its jazz.

“In a city like Sacramento, we don’t have a Golden Gate Bridge, so we create events,” says Mike Testa, chief operating officer of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau. He says the music festival draws 50,000-plus people each Memorial Day Weekend, with an economic impact in the millions of dollars.

At its heart, the festival is rooted in jazz. In fact, the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, as it was once called, was the biggest jazz festival in the country. But the past several years have focused on younger generations with country, blues, soul, rock and a Friday night headliner. This year it’s Tower of Power.

“We’re going after younger bands these days, but the festival is still about traditional jazz,” Testa says. “You get exposed to it once you’re here.”

What are your favorite local adventures? Drop me a line, and I’ll share them with readers. You can reach me at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or online at www.ginnyprior.com.

Upcoming events What: Sacramento Music Festival
When: Friday through Monday
Tickets and details: http://sacmusicfest.com/

What: Oakland Art + Soul
When: Aug. 1-2
Tickets and details: http://www.artandsouloakland.com/

What: San Jose Summer Fest
When: Aug. 7-9
Tickets and details: sanjosejazz.org/summer-fest-tickets/

What: Downtown Berkeley Music Fest
When: Sept. 11-14
Tickets and details: www.


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