The 4th Annual Baja Blues Fest Another Success

Leadership counts when you want things to go smoothly
BY: REN DRAKE HILL

This year’s Baja Blues Fest, held August 19 – 21 at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, reportedly was the most successful BBF ever, thanks to a nice haul of money for charity and the good time had by all. Although exact monetary figures were unavailable at press time, more money was raised, and more tickets sold than in years past.

The bursting-at-the-seams Friday night Meet and Greet Pro Jam was much more enjoyable this year. Blues fest volunteers were required to purchase tickets to this event, no more freebie for them. The result: not as many people were in attendance, but there was room to breathe (and party)!

As in years past, August birthdays are celebrated with a giant birthday cake or two. Who are these birthday celebrants? You have something against Aquarians?

The service, on the other hand, not so great. C’mon! There is plenty of staff, but as with the Cruz Roja Fashion Show the week before, the servers were found congregating at the bar and no one running drinks. It should not take 20 minutes to bring four waters and a margarita. Granted, there are not enough bartenders (two to be exact), to sling drinks, but servers were not waiting for drinks, they were just hanging out. (Too harsh???)

Praise to those who set up the ample tables, chairs and umbrellas for Saturday. There was nary a fist fight all day to determine one’s claim to seating. And kudos to the guy or gal who thought to tilt all the chairs to prevent dew from settling on the seats, thereby ruining some mademoiselle’s slacks.

The lineup wasn’t huge, only six bands, but each band was given ample time to play; no one was rushed off the stage after only a few numbers. The printed program was dead on with its times, and bands were playing on schedule! This is an amazing feat anywhere! Maybe we should draft the program managers to run the wait staff.

Opening for the festival was the JL Blues Project Baja All Stars. This group is comprised of newbies, such as singer Jahel Marshal, combined with seasoned musicians, including Andres Rivera who has played with local fav Pachuco Blues, and Arthur Cardenas of Hola Soy Lola fame.

Chris James and Patrick Ryan pound out unadulterated Chicago Blues, and are multi-award winners, including 2009 Blues Blast Music Award winner for their break-out recording, “Stop and Think About it.”

The Bayou Brothers with Sue Palmer really got the party jumping. I’ve never been a big fan of Zydeco music, but I left the fest clutching their CD. John Chambers and Ric Lee really wailed on accordion and drums, but Judy Seid stole the show with her superior strumming on the rubboard, a washboard-type gadget. Really, it’s a real musical instrument! Or so we were told,

John Nemeth is always a BBF favorite. This band plays all over the United States and we are lucky every year to snag them. Nemeth’s style is reminiscent of Junior Parker and BB King, but he is known for his own innovative music style, as heard in his 5th CD release, “Memphis Grease.”

The evening ended with headliner Coco Montoya, who rocked us into the night with soulful blues tunes, mixed with a hint of rock and roll. Watch for this guy on his own PBS “On Tour” special, November 20 (link available online at this website).

A big shout-out to Bobby’s By the Sea Restaurant and Rentals who, as last year, donated a mass of illuminated maracas to the dancing crowd.

In order to let the bunch cool down, raffles were held throughout the afternoon. The $1 raffle tickets brought in a whopping $2300 for charities, and a unique guitar fashioned out of Mexican highway sign garnered another $2100.

This year four local organizations were supported with proceeds: BECA, Benefitting Education and Community Advancement, an all-volunteer organization that raises thousands of dollars each year to help the students of the La Mision area.

Friends of The Library, a 501 (c)(3) charity, supporting the five Rosarito area libraries with books, crafts, and multiple reading programs throughout the year, next year to expand to include 30 schools. 100% of all funds raised for the library are used for these programs.

La Mision Children’s Fund, also a 501(c)(3) charity, an all-volunteer organization aiding local children in extreme poverty and addressing their critical needs.

Los Angelitos orphanage, a children’s home in the mountains above Rosarito, offering orphaned and abandoned children ages 1 to 18 years a secure, family-style life, complete with education. This facility has a skeleton staff and is aided with personal donations by individuals in the community.

 There are usually not a lot of people that show for Sunday’s jam session, most people being burned out by all the fun they had Friday and Saturday. But local musicians flock to the Rosarito Beach Hotel gardens to jam with the blues greats who drag themselves out of bed for the 1:00 pm event. If you haven’t attended a jam session here before, it’s a must for next year! There are some great creative moments shared here.

Save the date! Next year’s Baja Blues Fest will be August 18, 19, and 20, same bat-time, same bat-place.  Volunteers and coordinators are already being sought. Please contact Jackie Alameda at Jackie@bajabluesfest.org if you would like to volunteer for next year. It’s never too early to think about next year’s festival.

And, while we’re thinking of her, let’s all give a shout-out to Jackie Alameda for running another great event. It takes a lot of work to pull this off, and we, as well as all the charity beneficiaries of the event, are lucky she’s willing to keep on doing it year after year.