Gator By The Bay Zydeco Blues and Crawfish Festival
Spanish Landing Park
Saturday, May 13, 2017
Is the weather ever crummy in San Diego? Locals bring camp chairs, out-of-towners sit on hay bales...
at the Festival Stage, one of two pavilions with portable wooden dance floors. Two smaller outdoor stages, The Fountain Stage and The Bourbon Stage are set between the Festival Stage and The Mardi Gras Stage pavilion.
Kevin Wimmer, Steve Riley, Brazos Huval, Sam Broussard - Steve Riley and The Mamou Playboys
Contrary to popular opinion, size does not matter. Many of the most fun bands play at the smaller Fountain and Bourbon Stages.If you were to sit at the Fountain Stage all weekend long, you'd be treated to blues, country, Americana, rock, salsa, cumbia, alt gypsy, and swing performed by bands who play to audiences who give them love and get out and dance.
Lady Star Blue Band: It’s barely noon and Lady Star is having a come to Jesus moment, torching the blues with the voice of a woman steeped in the gospel tradition. Blonde tresses, tight red flowing pants suit, the Chicago native is a force assuring the first wave of festival goers they are in for a spectacular day of quality music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_YFTL5KG9w much to the delight of dancers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5diUQ-HCDoE
You can get a music version of whiplash walking from one stage to another, spicy blues belted out by Lady Star then a three minute walk away, here's The Palominos with a set of classics and originals with honky-tonk overtones that make two-steppers happy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3c3HTECI0p0
The biggest problem at Gator By The Bay? How to defy Newton's Law of Physics and be in two places at the same time.
Alice Wallace, Americana with feeling. Like many of the artists, Wallace is an award winning musician. Her set had the influences of the likes of EmmyLou Harris to Lucinda Williams to Patty Griffin. The voice however, all Alice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAgwHKIUBwA
Who, I ask you, wouldn’t want to hear a band named The Motel Swing Orchestra. This is one big time party band featuring Palmer, the Queen of Boogie Woogie. The big Mardi Gras Stage is filled elbow to elbow with her musicians and any number of guests the Queen invites to play along, including blues belters Deejah Marie Pope and her daughter Sharifah. The audiences for her shows are always particularly stoked for high energy swing with a bluesy bent and lindy hop.
Kimba Light Afro-Cuban fusion with a big Havana beat. What a blast. Any band with two Cubans and two Californians is gonna have lots of band width. Merigue, salsa, bachata and a touch of funk and you have a recipe that makes a dancer very happy. I was in heaven. So were the people around the Fountain Stage when they played. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlrKipKoyqA
Relax in the park, shop at vendor tents selling quality merchandise. My only regret of the day - not buying one of the colorful print short sleeve shirts that would have been the bomb to wear at the Fountain Stage when listening to one of the Latin bands today.
Johnny Vernazza has played blues and slide guitar with the likes of Marshall Tucker and Elvin Bishop. He's a fixture on the San Diego music scene. The guy's been around and has the chops to prove it. Relax in the sun, feel the breeze off San Diego Bay, check out the perfume you just bought.
Mercedes Moore: she's always had the voice. In the past three years I've watched her perform here, she's more comfortable in her own skin on stage and that translates to a voice with range, depth and grit. Look out, San Diego...the next blues diva is on the verge.
Buskers perform on the path between the two main stages - open air entertainment, old tyme music!
Relax where you can; and fix that hat you just made.
The 2017 poster being created right on the premises.
Combo Libertad This might be the closest you’ll get to The Bueno Vista Social Club without flying to Havana. This band relishes reviving Cuban classic songs with the instruments and vocals to match. Congas, timbales, trombone, trumpet, bass conjure mambo, rumba, and cha-chas that wow the crowd. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-F8neVkWq0
Whitney Shay upshifts from swing to soul with pit stops for blues and jazz. When her reed/brass trio or her guitar or keyboard players take solos, hold on, you're in for a joyous ride. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLRf5-O_iTs
Listening to ballads sung by Padric Petrie and Jillian Calkins, I can hear echoes of the haunting songs sung by the first Acadian settlers to find their way to the bayous of south Louisiana. The intimate setting in the Bayou Grove is perfect for listening, getting a sense of the roots of the music being played on the four stages in the park.
Hold on to your hats, boys and girls...dancers love this guy Chino Swingside https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9a2I6cL_aI
Chino Swingslide revs up his Resophonic guitar to dive into Blues that gets from raucous and rowdy to downright stanky. In other venues you'd hear him dive into swing, jazz, tango (would love to hear him get going on that), and bolero. Did I mention that he hails from Barcelona? How the heck did the organizers find him?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpCVOuokY-E A razzmatazz version of "Billy Bailey Won't You Please Come Home"
Mercedes Moore's mom traveled all the way from Hilo to see her daughter perform. It was damn well worth it.
Big Jon Atkinson and Darrell Nulisch and Kid Ramos...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geHMMkrz9pU
I gravitated to the blues stages all day long. The down side is that I missed acts like Jarabe Mexicano/Latin, Sister Speak/Roots, The Paladins/Rockabilly, Billy Lee and The Swamp Critters/Cajun,Zydeco, Ginger Cowgirl/Indie,Country, The Farmers/Roots, Manny Cepeda Orchestra/Latin, The Naked I/Alt Rock and a whole bunch more.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.