Long Live the Delta Blues Festival - Antioch, CA
ANTIOCH — Waldie Plaza in Downtown Antioch will be singing the blues once again on Sept. 17 when the Delta Blues Festival rock and rolls into town for its 18th year.
For more than seven hours music fans will get their fill of traditional and modern blues, with elements of swing, jazz and rock, as this community and family-focused event with a supercharged lineup takes place.
Presented by the city of Antioch and the Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch, the 100-percent volunteer operated music fest remains free to the public while managing an international, national, local and amateur group of musicians respected across the blues field.
Headliner Jarekus Singleton leads the lineup along with Wee Willie Walker, Anthony Paule, Igor Prado, Terry Hanck, AC Myles and the Three Brothers Blues Band.
“This is our 18th year and it gets tough to make sure you’re giving everyone a shot, you’re booking internationally, watching the local scene and giving the audience a good show,” Frank Giovanni, festival organizer, said. “I try to make sure that we get a solid lineup and we introduce musicians to East County residents that they might not see and also trickle them in with old favorites like Terry Hanck that is guaranteed to bring the house down.”
Giovanni’s mantra of “free blues, no booze” has been in place since 1999 when the first Delta Blues Festival took place and he has no plans to change that or the colorful craft booths and food vendors that line the buildings of Waldie Plaza, close enough to browse, shop and munch while not missing a single note.
Food and music are natural partners and this year’s choices are bigger than ever with chicken and waffles, Creole delicacies, po’boy sandwiches, frozen custard, skewed chicken, fried fish, tacos, watermelon juice and Kettle Corn merely a drop in the bucket of possibilities.
At the two ends of the lineup are, first a local Antioch band and last, Jarekus Singleton, a young man Giovanni describes as destined to be the next big name in the blues world.
From Mississippi, Singleton will close the festival playing a blend of modern-day blues and emotional soul, incorporating funk-seasoned rhythms and hip-hop flavored lyrics.
“He’s energetic and incorporates all different styles of music into the blues including rock,” Giovanni said. “He’s new on the scene and certainly takes it to another spot; he takes the music and runs with it in a new direction.”
Leading off the festival will be Nate, Sam and Ricky Gamaez, who describe themselves as “just some brothers who want to share the gift of music.”
“They’re from Antioch and are all under 18 years old; we hired them because we’re all about local, supporting the arts in the area and making sure we give people a shot,” he said. “And they’re good!”
In between, fans will listen to A.C. Myles, a local talent from Fresno playing his guitar-driven blues, a man Giovanni dubs his secret weapon based on Myles’ ability to wake up the house and get everyone on the blues-page.
Next on the lineup will be Terry Hanck, playing and singing a rock-and-soulful-blues type of music, followed by Igor Prado from Brazil, who developed his own style of play. A self-taught lefty, Prado turned a right-handed guitar upside down and plays with the strings reversed, offering audiences traditional blues with West Coast swing, a style that mixes the blues with elements of swing and jazz of the 1940s and 1950s.
“We’re responsible for bringing Igor Prado from Brazil and that makes us feel really good; this little tiny blues festival in Antioch is commanding this power,” Giovanni said.
The penultimate act will be the soulful vocals of Wee Willie Walker, along with Bay Area mainstay guitarist Anthony Paule and a band of horns.
Along with providing everyone with a great day of blues, Giovanni wants to remind the community that the festival supports the David Williamson Memorial Scholarship, available to an East County student interested in studying music; he encourages students to apply.
The festival’s founder vows that as long as he’s involved, the festival will always be free to the public, but that a little help is welcome, in the form of donations, the purchase of festival T-shirts or by supporting the businesses that sponsor the festival.
“I want people to understand that there are good people in the world and we do this for everybody to get along, and everybody does get along. This is a beautiful atmosphere with a collective group of people of all ages and all cultures that just love the music,” he said. “It’s a very nice event and I’m really proud to be involved. Sometimes, you’ve just got to give something back and that’s what keeps us going.”
IF YOU GO
What: Delta Blues Festival
When: Noon to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17
Where: Waldie Plaza, Second Street, Downtown Antioch.
Info: DeltaBluesFestival.net for information about donations, purchasing T-shirts or applying for scholarships
Story by Marta Yamamoto - East Bay Times