The 26th annual Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival will rock once again at Memorial Day weekend, hospital Saturday and Sunday, see May 23 and 24, at Rancho Santa Susanna Community Park, 5005 Los Angeles Ave., in Simi Valley. The event features two full stages for each of its musical genres. Music will proceed non-stop each day from 12 noon until 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults (13 and over) and children 12 and younger are free. Discount single day tickets of $20 and two-day passes for $35 are available only online at http://www.simicajun.org. Parking is ample and free. Fast-moving California Hwy. 118 (Ronald Reagan Freeway) can be taken to the Stearns Street exit; the festival is four blocks south.
The blues stage features classic blues-rock (Spencer Davis Group, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Canned Heat) with a side trip into swing (Big Bad Voodoo Daddy), plus the first-ever West Coast appearance of 82-year-old Mississippi bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch. West Coast legends Candye Kane and Guitar Shorty return to the blues stage, while “super group” Royal Southern Brotherhood (featuring Cyril Neville, Devon Allman and Mike Zito) make their Southern California festival debut.
Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers become the first band to cross over from the Cajun/Zydeco stage to the blues stage. Two-time Grammy winners Terrance Simien & His Zydeco Experience make their Simi Valley debut, as do Grammy-nominated Arhoolie recording artists The Magnolia Sisters. Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic, Ruben Moreno, Curley Taylor and Jeffery Broussard round out the lineup, making the Cajun/Zydeco Stage the pre-eminent Southern California showcase for Louisiana-inflected music.
The annual Mardi Gras Parade will take place both days at 4 p.m.
About the performers:
- Candye Kane, according to B.B. King, “has that big, brassy voice that has authority and sass; the kind of thing men like because it’s seductive and women like because it’s powerful.” Candye cut her musical teeth in the early ‘80s onstage with Hollywood musicians and friends like Social Distortion, Dwight Yoakam, Dave Alvin, The Blasters, X, Fear and Los Lobos to name just a few. Her fans are a mixture of true outsiders: bikers, blues fans, punk rockers, drag queens, big girls, burlesque dancers, rockabilly and swing dancers, gray-haired hippies, and everyday folk of all ages. Her live shows are the stuff of legend — she belts, growls, shouts, croons and moans from a lifetime of suffering and overcoming obstacles.
- Canned Heat was founded by blues historians and record collectors Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite. The band gained international attention and secured its legacy with performances at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival (along with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Who) and the headlining slot at the original Woodstock Festival. Canned Heat’s unique blend of modern electric blues, rock and boogie has earned them a loyal following and influenced many aspiring guitarists and bands during the past 40 years. Their hits “On the Road Again,” “Let’s Work Together” and “Going up the Country” became rock anthems throughout the world with the last being adopted as the unofficial theme song for the film Woodstock and the “Woodstock Generation.” More than 40 years later and with 36 albums to its credit, Canned Heat is still going strong. Anchored throughout by the steady hand of drummer/band leader Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra (a member since 1967) and with one of their strongest lineups ever, Canned Heat is on track to carry the boogie-blues it made famous well into the 21st century. Since 2009, the lineup has Fito on drums, Greg Kage on bass and vocals, Barry Levenson on lead guitar, and Dale Spalding on guitar, harmonica and lead vocals. The band’s most recent CD is entitled Friends in the Can. This record brings together a number of Canned Heat’s musical friends from the past and present to join them in this musical collaboration and celebration of Canned Heat’s career. Fito’s book, Living the Blues, is available through the band’s web site.
- Royal Southern Brotherhood: Before they even hit a chord, this band has your attention. In the South, where music is religion, two rock ‘n’ roll bloodlines tower above all others. In saloon bars from Mississippi to Maryland, mere mention of the Allman and Neville Brothers casts a magic spell. With a lineup that includes both Cyril Neville and Devon Allman, Royal Southern Brotherhood come pre-loaded with expectations. The family tree might be auspicious, but the new band trades on talent, not genealogy. Let’s rewind to the summer of 2010 and the stifling heat of New Orleans and a pivotal meeting between Cyril, Devon and Mike Zito. Talk turned to forming a new breed of blues-rock band, and when jams began at a secluded studio in the city’s Garden District, the fizzing chemistry was too strong to deny. Their debut album was produced by the legendary Jim Gaines in Louisiana. The rest is history as the band is set to release their third studio album, Don’t Look Back: The Muscle Shoals Sessions, on May 26.
- Spencer Davis Group: Davis, born in Wales, created the famed Spencer Davis Group in 1963, helping to bring British rock ‘n’ roll to the rest of the world. Among nearly 20 Top 10 hit songs are “Gimme Some Lovin,” “Somebody Help Me,” “I’m a Man” and “Keep on Running.” The popularity of these tunes lives on as Davis continues to tour internationally. His latest album is titled So Faron Fuel Records.
- Big Brother & the Holding Company first performed in the Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, in 1965. After their appearance at The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, lead singer Janis Joplin quickly became a phenomenon, and Big Brother made a real contribution to Janis’ rise to international fame. Big Brother’s classic 1968 album Cheap Thrills charted at #1 for eight weeks. After Joplin left the band in 1968, Big Brother continued to perform with a new female vocalist before disbanding in 1972. Having reformed with the original four members in 1987, they have performed worldwide and throughout the United States. In 2007 Big Brother joined the Summer of Love 40th Anniversary Tour with Jefferson Starship, Quicksilver Messenger Service, David & Linda LaFlamme (It’s a Beautiful Day) and the Grateful Dead’s Tom Constante. Big Brother carries on today with original members Peter Albin and Dave Getz, with Tom Finch and Tommy Odetto playing outstanding guitar. Darby Gould (Jefferson Starship) fronts the band, singing all of the classic material made famous by Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company.
- Leo “Bud” Welch was born in Sabougla, Miss. in 1932. Bud picked up a guitar for the first time in 1945. By 1947 at age 15, he played well enough to perform publically and garnered the blessing of many elder guitar players. Welch was offered an audition by B.B. King but could not afford the trip to Memphis. He remained under the radar for 65 years, undetected by the vast majority of blues aficionados. Welch’s debut album, Sabougla Voices, was released in 2014 on Fat Possum’s Big Legal Mess label, just two months before his 82nd birthday. The follow up, I Don’t Prefer No Blues, was released on March 24 of this year, receiving notices in The Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone.
- Big Bad Voodoo Daddy celebrate their 22nd anniversary with a first-ever Simi appearance. The band co-founded by Scotty Morris and drummer Kurt Sodergren made their debut in their hometown of Ventura, Calif. in April of 1993, helping to usher in the swing revival founded on a colorful fusion of classic American sounds including jazz, swing, and Dixieland mixed with the energy and spirit of contemporary culture. Having secured their legendary residency at the Derby nightclub in Los Angeles, they reminded the world — in the middle of the grunge era, no less — that it was still cool to swing, big-band style. Today the high-energy nine-piece ensemble continues the party and takes things to the next level with the release of Rattle Them Bones, which still urges their millions of fans worldwide to shake and move to their inimitable grooves.
- Guitar Shorty, a.k.a. David Kearney, was born in Houston in 1939, raised in Kissimee, Fla., and now makes his home in Los Angeles. Over the years he’s played behind T-Bone Walker, Willie Dixon, Guitar Slim, Big Joe Turner, Little Richard, Sam Cooke and fellow Simi Valley Festival performer Swamp Dogg. His recent albums on Evidence and Alligator albums attest to the high energy level of this survivor of blues’ classic era. Texas Music Magazinewriter John Morthland summed things up perfectly: “Axebuster extraordinaire Guitar Shorty is an old-school guitar showman. He plays with technique and flash, without ever sacrificing the passion. He’s a blues-rock hero.”
- Reverend Tall Tree plays original blues and American roots music in the tradition of Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, and others. His debut album was recently released on Nine Yards Records. In addition to his own headlining tours, Reverend Tall Tree has opened worldwide shows and tours for such artists as B.B. King, Al Green, Toots and the Maytals, Seal, Aaron Neville, Beth Hart, Robert Cray, Blues Traveler and Jamie Cullum. His music has been heard in numerous films including Soul Menand the Academy Award-winning motion picture Crash and has been licensed by such TV shows as True Blood, Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters, Single Ladies, Eli Stone, In Plain Sight, Dawson’s Creek and Army Wives.
- Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers have been rated one of the “Top 100 Reasons to Visit Louisiana.” Dwayne (Dopsie) Rubin hails from one of the most influential Zydeco families in the world. Although inspired by tradition, he has developed his own high-energy style that blazes a new path for 21st century Zydeco music. Dopsie and the Hellraisers have played throughout the world since Dwayne debuted the band at age 19. First appearing at the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival in 2014, Dopsie’s set was such a big hit that he’ll return in 2015 and will on both the Cajun/Zydeco and blues stages.
- Terrance Simien has been performing Zydeco music for more than 30 years, and is a two-time Grammy winner and eighth generation Louisiana Creole. Leading his Zydeco Experience band, Simien has become one of the most respected and accomplished artists in American roots music today. Last year marked their 28th consecutive appearance at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, an event that is the gold standard for showcasing and celebrating all Louisiana music traditions.
- Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic: Thierry’s French Creole heritage is deeply rooted in Louisiana although he was born and reared in Northern California. Thierry and Zydeco Magic won the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame award for Best Zydeco Group in 2008. The 33-year-old is a multi-dimensional musician who has a finely honed ability to merge traditional Zydeco music with hip-hop, blues, jazz and rock. Building from his love and respect for traditional Zydeco, his original music is a blend of old and new.
- Ruben Moreno, making his debut on the Cajun/Zydeco stage, was born in Houston and was immersed in Zydeco music and culture from day one while living in the same building as his grandmother’s bar, Henry’s Lounge. He literally fell asleep each night listening to Clifton Chenier blare out of the jukebox on the other side of the wall. He developed his musical style while playing and touring with C.J. Chenier and Leroy Thomas. And it was Andre Thierry, also performing at the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival, who guided him to his love of the accordion in the summer of 2009.
- The Magnolia Sisters are a band of women who can play the whole gamut of musical styles from southwest Louisiana: Cajun, Creole, dancehall favorites, and front porch ballads. They each switch from one instrument to another during their shows. They are also an ideal band for seated concerts because, in addition to their vast dancehall repertoire, they tell stories, sing rich harmonies on a cappella ballads, and play string band numbers from the 1930s. Much of the Magnolia Sisters’ music has been gleaned from long-buried Cajun music jewels. Their most recent album, Stripped Down on Arhoolie Records, was nominated for a Grammy in 2010.
- Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble: Curley Taylor’s bluesy, soulful vocals and the band’s hard driving Zydeco beat blend to create high-energy dance music for all audiences. Curley’s music is true to its roots in Zydeco and blues, but contemporary enough to appeal to a broad range of music lovers. When at home in Louisiana, Curley can be found in the studio working on his latest album, or playing in one of the local clubs around the Lafayette/Opelousas area to the delight of his hometown fans.
- Jeffery Broussard & the Creole Cowboys: One of the most influential accordionists and vocalists in modern Zydeco music, Jeffrey Broussard continues to be one of the genre’s most dynamic performers. He began his career with traditional Creole Zydeco music playing drums in his father’s band, Delton Broussard & the Lawtell Playboys, then moved on to develop the nouveau Zydeco sound in Zydeco Force, and now returns to the more traditional Zydeco sound with his own band, Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys.
Once again the blues stage is booked by Martin Fleischmann and his company, Rum & Humble. For more than 20 years Rum & Humble has played a key role in presenting some of the world’s most celebrated musical talent (Radiohead, Manu Chao, and the Rolling Stones, to name a few) to Los Angeles audiences, in venues ranging from the Echoplex to the Orpheum Theatre to the Hollywood Bowl. The company has co-produced the Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Concert Series since 2011. In addition, Rum & Humble has collaborated closely and creatively with artists such as Jackson Browne and Paul Oakenfold as well as with a varied roster of corporate and non-profit clients ranging from KJAZZ Radio to the Conga Room nightclub to the National Geographic Society.
The festival has received national press accolades: “Everywhere you turned, there was something exciting happening. Put this on your 2013 festival calendar,” wrote Blue Revue editor Art Tipaldi, who made the trek from New England. The Blues Blast writer enthused, “I attend many venues and festivals throughout the year but the ones that seem to impress me the most are the ones that serve the community in some way. I highly recommend you put this on your calendar for next Memorial Day weekend.” And the music industry trade journal Hits added, “As the last strains of [Candye] Kane’s set rang in our ears, we left the grounds fully sated by music, food, drink and, as the saying goes, bon temps.”
The festival boasts dozens of food booths featuring a variety of fare: authentic Cajun creations and Southern BBQ as well as multi-cultural cuisine. More than 100 craft booths and retailers will be scattered throughout the festival grounds.
Tickets may be obtained online at: http://www.simicajun.org/2015/tickets.html
Support of the not-for-profit Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival has benefited dozens of local community, national and international organizations, a list of which may be found at: http://www.simicajun.org/2014/whobenefits.html.
Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival web site: http://www.simicajun.org
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