Real Blues Festival Of Orange County 3
August 27, 2012
By: William Phoenix
The annual Real Blues Festival Of Orange County is Southern California’s only grass-roots festival for the Blues. Presented by the Orange County Blues Society, this year’s event was held on August 26th at Malone’s in Santa Ana and ran from 12 noon to 10 p.m. The festival’s third-year line-up included: Whiteboy James and the Blues Express, the Jumpin Jack Benny Blues Band, Tricia Freeman Band, Jay Gordon and Blues Venom; KOCI-FM’s’s Dave Toole and bornBlue; and the Real Blues Festival founder, harpist/vocalist, Papa J.
The music began at approximately 1:00 p.m. While the proceeds from this day benefited the Better Vision For Children Organization, this was to be no mere charity event, however, but live exposure to a genre of music your crusty chronicler had not recently been exposed to thanks to his “Mistress”—writing—keeping him at home. Indeed, it was a rare musical moment when your all too often penned-in penman was able to leave his laptop and appreciate and circulate among an assortment of artists about which he sometimes writes.
It was liberating. Even before yours truly and his lovely lady-friend entered the venue, the air was alive with the blues as Dave Toole and company belted out Booker T. Jones “Born Under A Bad Sign”. The band continued with other blues standards in a way that made it quite clear they actually enjoyed the genre and that this was, perhaps, more than just another gig.
The growing audience quickly became an amalgam of humanity, male and female, young and old, the able and disabled, bikers, tattooed ladies, ‘50s flashbacks, baby-boomers and gray-haired seniors. It was truly an “all ages” event for anyone and everyone with any interest at all in the blues. Highlights of the event included (but were not limited to): Papa J taking the stage on various occasions offering up a heaping helping of old school blues.
He even joined the smoky-voiced siren Tricia Freeman in an impromptu encore performance of the classic “Sweet Home Chicago” playing his harmonica like a horn player. Freeman’s previous performance of Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart” was also a real crowd pleaser. It was often obvious that this show was a labor of love to Papa J and many of the other performers.
Jay Gordon and his familial band Blues Venom would belt out metal-tinged tunes and go on to take the award for “highest volume” as guitar hero Gordon played like he was in an amphitheatre. (After an early issue with an amp, Gordon should have closed “With A Little Help From My Friends” instead of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. For lending Gordon a helping hand in the form of an amp, Freeman’s band gets the “Good Samaritan” award for ensuring that the show would go on.)
All in all, there was something exciting, unexpected and practically primal to the performances here that couldn’t be matched elsewhere . . . either in spite of the occasional tech troubles, feedback and foibles or perhaps because of them. Quite simply, the Real Blues Festival Of Orange County 3 was live, raw, real and fun!
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.