For nine years now, this festival has continued to do two things – keep music in schools and bringing music to the community. Since its beginnning, this Festival has raised over $145,000 for the Petaluma and surrounding area school districts. According to the founder and Petaluma music teacher Cliff Eveland, the goal for the 9th annual Petaluma Music Festival was to reach funding levels over $30,000, surpassing due to such a great musical line-up and killer raffle items this year. They had autographed items for raffle such as the Dead’s Bill Kruetzmann drum head, guitars from The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Jackie Greene, Steve Kimock, The Mother Hips, David Nelson, and even Snoop Dog gave a donation! As in year’s past, there was also a silent auction that included various items from musical instruments to local area wine. The funds from the festival helps the local schools to buy and repair instruments and pay for music instructors.
The line-up for this year’s festival included musical acts that were all from the San Francisco Bay and Central Valley areas, which was a first for this Festival. Listed on the schedule were 14 acts, adding a few more who played inside this domed pavillion of a sort. Let’s call it a hall; a round domed hall; a place to get out of the hot sun for a bit and listen to some acoustic music. I had not caught wind of this until the second act who played inside; the Doobie Decibel System, featuring Roger McNamme (Moonalice) and Jason Crosby (multi-instrumentalist), along with Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz (Animal Liberation Orchestra/ALO) who joined them for the show. Of the many acts, I was able to catch seven of them. I didn’t make it back to the Petaluma Stage often, and seems my timing was off as when I did, I was only able to catch the last note and “Thank You” as the band was taking off their instruments!
I must’ve really read the online schedule wrong as I walked in just in time for the last song from Moonalice, who started at “high noon.” Yeah, I must’ve been…. funny as I walked into the photo pit just as they were finishing. It’s all good though as I had a friend and JBO contributor in the crowd who contributed a few images for this article (Thanks David!).
Who is Moonalice? They are a San Francisco made musical outfit lead by Roger McNamme (Flying Other Brothers, Random Axes) with John Molo (Bruce Hornsby & the Range, John Fogerty, The Other Ones, Phil Lesh & Friends, David Nelson Band), Barry Sless (David Nelson Band, Kingfish, Phil Lesh & Friends), and Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna, David Nelson Band, Rod Stewart, John Lee Hooker and various members of the Grateful Dead including Jerry, Bob, Mickey and Phil). They were instroduced to the stage by the one and only Steve Parish, the Grateful Dead’s road manager for over 30 years, who is listed as their official “Road Scholar, Medicine Man and storyteller.” This day, they were also joined by multi-instrumentalist Jason Crosby on keys/organ who bopped around all day joining the likes of not only Moonalice but The Mother Hips, The Doobie Decibel System, and Jackie Greene playing either keys, organ, guitar or violin (and who I understand can also play the viola, French horn and trumpet to boot).
Performing their first show in 2007, Moonalice plays a mix of music they respect from the 60’s and 70’s (The Band, Hot Tuna, Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia Band, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Van Morrison, The Beatles, and even a little Jimi Hendrix and Louis Armstrong to name a few) as well as some originals such as, “It’s 4:20 Somewhere,” a song that has been downloaded more than 5 million times. Of course it was. Moonalice is also known for their commitment to sharing live music by broadcasting nearly every concert since 2010. They are also known for ending each show with a “Moonalice Legend,” a fable per say, that comes out of the design for the free poster they give away at each show. This day’s legend went something like this: “According to Moonalice legend, this is the 9th annual Petaluma Music Festival. To celebrate, we have brought a gift for each of you, this poster by the amazing David Singer. It features White Bird Moonalice and her pet human, Petaluma. White Bird has message for everyone: Petaluma likes suckers! She likes people, too, especially naked people, but lollipops are what turn her on. Lollipops, people and indica. Indica turns Petaluma on. White Bird, on the other hand, gets turned on by sativas. Our band is open minded: we get turned by everything good. We hope you do, too.” http://www.moonalice.com/splash
[Sidebar: There were a few others who was all over a few stages that day at the Festival. Fat Jimmy. Amplifiers man, amplifiers. Conjured up by a San Francisco sound magician Mike Pascale. These amps are built by hand, one at a time, on the same vision as those vintage amps with great circuit designs and builds based on the 50’s and 60’s. If you’re a musician in need of the holy grail of amps, contact Mike of Fat Jimmy and he’ll hook you up. Litterally. Then there was guitar player Mark Karan, who joined The Mother Hips and Jackie Greene playing lead and rhythm guitar and supporting vocals. Love Mark Karan’s sound. There were spaces he filled like none other, whether soft and beautiful or big and loud and rockin’. And then there is Lebo; Dan Lebowitz of the Animal Liberation Orchestra/ALO. He’ played with The Doobie Decibel System and Steve Kimock. Lebo’s got a very unique sound to the way he plays his guitar that makes it appear electricfied. Plus, while he didn’t do it this day, when he plays with ALO, he likes to jump off of things. Sometimes those things are stacks of amps, and man can he get some air.]
Sticking around the main Petaluma Stage, I wanted to catch the next act up, get me some of that California soul sound from The Mother Hips. It’s kind of baffling that these guys aren’t more famous than they are. They’ve been around since the early 90’s, had a record deal with A&R when they were students at Chico State, and have played hard in many playgrounds in many states since. I can imagine the stories. Their sound is original and powerful with Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiacono on guitar, a bass player (Scott Thunes) who came from a punk background to combine with a seasoned drummer (John Hofer) who has also had deals with A&R. (Read up more about them under JBO’s coverage of the 2015 Sound Summit.) Starting their hour-long set with, “Smoke,” which seemingly flows back and forth between smooth southern rock to heavy and loud rock-n-roll, the speakers were heavily vibrating my clothes and buzzing my ears. Thank goodness for ear plugs or I’d be in trouble! Their set included a few of my favorite Hips tunes with, “White Falcon Fuzz,” “Toughie,” “Been Lost Once” that had a space for Jason Crosby to just show his stuff on the organ, letting loose on a crazy jam that led us up and down the keys. There are some bands that you see live and remember how much you really like them. This is one band I do not see enough. There’s something about the energy they create on stage, that they give to and get from their fans, it is pretty real and pretty great to be a part of. Everyone just let’s loose.
They also tossed in an Everly Brothers cover with, “Gone Gone Gone,” when Mark Karan joined them on stage, who stayed with them for their next tune, “Song in a Can.” I really dug on their version of that Everly Brothers tune, roughing it up just a bit, in their own Hips way. What a surprise too, as I’ve never heard them do this before. Apparently, and according to set list dot fm, they’ve played this a whopping 36 times. Whattaya know. I also really dug, “Song in a Can,” another I’ve not seen them play – which could be just about right as they seem to not have played this since 2014 (again, another statistic that is “according to set list dot fm”). It’s a very groovey tune with a damn fine guitar solo, smooth on the rhythm guitar, and strong on the bass and drums. It also had another space for Jason Crosby to do his thang on the keys which got a little jazzy for a moment, fusing his jazz with their groove. It almost has a little bit of that Buffalo Springfield-Stephen Stills kind of feel to it. “Now your singin’ has made me cry more than one time. And I’ve even seen the words to your own songs choke you up too. So I lean and I lean on the baricade, and I realize something. That I wanna be just like you! And the light is bright that shines on you. Shines on you, shines on you.” Seriously, I may have just found another favorite song of theirs, which with their sheer talent and musical connectivity, is pretty easy to do. Ending their set with, “Magazine,” followed by, “Stoned Up the Road,” they did not hold back at all, even with Tim’s ankle still wrapped up and he having to sit the whole time. These guys… Go see them on tour. Maybe bring some ear plugs, just in case they get real loud. http://www.motherhips.com/tour/
After catching my breath from the set from The Mother Hips, I wanted to go over and check out, “Joy and Madness,” as recommended by more than one friend there that day. Super funky is putting it lightly. There was a little Sly in there, a little P-Funk, a little Prince, and even a dash of James Brown. Funny, in the days following the festival, I couldn’t remember there exact name. I thought it was “Happy and Joyful” or “Joyful Funkness” or “Funky Happy Joy Joy,” or something that might describe that feeling that they left with you that day. According to their website, they are, “A funk and soul revolution for your heart, hips and feet.” I might hole heartedly agree with that statement. Great horn section, incredible rhythm section (who doesn’t love to see a girl kick ass on the bass?) and a front man who knows how to get loose and get the crowd going. They are a nine piece group out of the Sacremento area who has been described as, “Jamiroqui meets J. Geils.” They can layer on that groove for sure and they can keep up with some of the other funk and groove masters, sharing the stagew with Tower of Power, Trombone Shorty, Dumpstaphunnk, Collective Soul, the Pimps of Joytime, The Motet and The Monophonics. I really can’t list any tunes they played that day, as I’m a newbie to their sound, but man, they sure got their sweat on, and so did the crowd who got down with ’em. http://joyandmadness.com
Heading back over to the main stage, I caught some good ole southern rock and americana from the David Nelson Band. Opening their set with a classic Bill Monroe tune, “Rocky Road Blues,” they got the fans back on their feet and dancing. “Now the road is rocky, but it won’t be rocky long. Cuz another man has got my woman and gone. I’ve got those blues, I’m wearing out the soles of my shoes. I’ve got those blues, I’m wearing out the soles of my shoes. My gal went away and left me, she left me with the dog gone blues.” Gotta luv the old timey lyrics from times much more simple. Playing with David Nelson (New Riders of the Purple Sage, Jerry Garcia, etc.) were co-founding members Barry Sless and Mookie Siegel (New Riders of the Purple Sage, Mark Karan and Jemimah Puddleduck, Ghosts of Electricity, Bob Weir and Ratdog, Phil Lesh, Kingfish, etc.), along with Pete Sears and John Molo from Moonalice. They also covered The Dixie Cups’ “Iko Iko,” the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple,” and closed their set with Traffic’s, “Rainmaker.” In between it all were a host of originals, my favorite being the groove of, “Fable of a Chosen One,” a song that David has been performed with Phil Lesh & Friends more than once. Lyrics that paint a picture of a man who was, “drawn to the call, never knowing where it led.” With voices in his head, strange feelings in his body, he’s go no escape. Not even the tallest hillside or loudest ocean roar can drown out the sound. There was a funk out of the organ and a circular rhythm to the guitars that likened to that underwater sound we often got out of Jerry’s playing. That may not be the perfect description, but somehow it all worked very well. Moving ever so funkily into, “Different World,” a song that starts out very much like, “Estimated Prophet,” and nearly fooled me for just a minute; just a mere minute. A little on the slow reggae groove, it’s a little sticky on a warm summer day. http://www.nelsonband.com
I slipped away from the main stage for a tad, to head inside the only inside stage area to not only catch reprieve from the sun, but to catch a few tunes from The Doobie Decible System. While not on the festival line-up, I’d heard that there were a few extra acts added, this being one. I’d never seen them before and really didn’t know what to expect, but knew I wanted to see them as well as get a break from the heat. I walked in as they were still setting up the stage and tuning up their instruments. Opening up with Buffalo Springfield’s, “For What It’s Worth,” which is ironic as I had just thought that I’d heard a little nod to this song in, “Song in a Can,” from The Mother Hips. Music is so connective sometimes, especially when the influences are tossed in. We also got Pink Floyd’s, “Wot’s…. Uh the Deal.” Whaaaaaaat?????? Holy major surprise and it was played and sung just wonderfully by Jason Crosby. Everything was played very soft and sweetly, being on the “unplugged,” side of things. With each song played, I didn’t want to leave that space. I ended up sticking around for their whole set, which caused me to miss the end of David Nelson’s set…… que sera. There were a few songs I didn’t recognize, but I definitely recognized The Beatles’, “I’m Only Sleeping,” “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” Neil Young’s “Ohio” which closed out their near hour-long set …….. I did thoroughly enjoy one of their originals with a not-so-surprising title, “A Couple of Puffs.” Keeping it light and not too serious, a couple of puffs makes the sun shine bright. “Take a couple of puffs. Yes, a couple of puffs. Just enough, just a couple of puffs. No matter what no matter when, that kind of buzz you can depend, to make each moment as happy as can be. Just a couple of puffs.” Definitely a not so serious kind of song. http://www.ddsband.com
Next, I scooted back over to the Lagunitas Stage to catch The Sam Chase & The Untraditional, a band I’ve heard of that I’ve never seen that I’m told I would thoroughly enjoy. Well, whoever told me that was right. I’m so glad I caught them. About 40 minutes of their most energetic and rockin set. Let’s see, how to describe. They reminded me a little of that band that’s making its way up the musical chain, Nathanial Rateliff and the Night Sweats; at other times, I was reminded of the raw energy of Mumford and Sons with, “What is All the Rage,” from their latest release, Great White Noise. They wore it on their sleeves too; really put it all out there on the stage, held nothing back. Let’s see, how to describe their sound aside from the general relation to another sound. Well, on their Facebook page, they refer to their genre as, “kick-ass folk.” That works for me! They definitely kicked some major crowd ass that day. The little lawn was packed and full of energy, stomping some sandals and flipping some flops, according to Sam. I also felt quite a bit of blues, dirty at times, easygoing at others. There were visions of dark bars and dirty cigarettes hanging from cursed mouths with a whisky hangover. Their set was a good reflection of who they’ve set out to be. Lead singer, Chase, has a roughed up voice, scratchy and gritty, it kind of turns the songs down a different street, one that can be dark and mysterious before it turns into a theatrical scene. The lyrics are meaningful and honest, almost a little personal and too relateable at times. His finger picking guitar style is fast and complicated, in the rhelm of Kristian Matsson aka Tallest Man on Earth, Bob Dylan, or in that early bluesman “open tuning” style. Each one of the musicians matched their sound as well, moving about, engaging each other and the audience fully, to their own limits at times, creating quite a peformance. Backing Chase is Dave Rapa (bass), Joshua James Jackson (trumpet), Debbie Neigher (keys), Devon McClive (cello), Nikko Rios (guitar) and Ted Desmarais (drums). Go find ’em on bandcamp dot com and download some of their music. Their discography goes back to 2009. Enjoy. With the general overlapps at these festivals, while I caught their set start, I found myself slowly, really slowly walking away from them in order to go catch another act. http://www.thesamchase.com
As I move from the Lagunitas Stage to the main Petaluma Stage, I can hear the sound change from the kick your ass energy to a softer, more fluid and easy sound. Steve Kimock and Friends had just taken the stage and was deep into their first tune, “It’s Up to You,” a very jazzy and ambient song, perfect for a sunny breezy late afternoon. Kind of reminded me a bit of something Pat Metheny might do. Continuing with that easy sweet sound, they played one called, “A New Africa” which led into this little interdlude of a cover by the Melodians called, “Rock it With Me,” (or “I”, whichever way you like to call it) giving this montage a very reggae feel from Jamaica before heading back into, “A New Africa.”
So, who were Steve’s friends? He was joined by long time bandmate Bobby Vega on bass, newer mate and multi-instrumentalist Leslie Mendelson on guitar and vocals who has been playing with Kimock for less than a year, and Wally Ingram on drums who will also be playing with Kimock at the 6th Annual Hangtown Music Festival in October. He also invited Jeff Chimenti on keys and Dan Lebowitz on electrified acoustic, or whatever we may call his sound. Steve played mainly lead, but would move over to the pedal steel guitar to sweeten the sound.
Kimock would also cover, “Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie,” by Elizabeth Cotten, which was sung so sweetly, so gently, so soothingly by Leslie; “Tore Up Over You,” by Hank Ballard (which really got swinging big with Lebo and Steve exchanging licks and then Chimenti on organ just taking us to church and then over to Vega on bass, who just layed it down. Seriously.); “Gone Gone Gone” by the Everly Brothers, which was also played earlier and completely differently by The Mother Hips, with Kimock’s version being much more jazzy, especially with the addition of that sweet sounding trumpet from a performer who’s name I did not catch; “Mystery Train” by Junior Parker; and closing their over hour and a half set with “Waiting for a Miracle” by Bruce Cockburn, which again sung by Mendelson in that sweet soothing voice with a little backing by Lebo. Many of these tunes were favs of the Jerry Garcia Band and/or the Grateful Dead, which is where I mostly recognized them from. Much of the singing during their hour and a half set was done by Leslie Mendelson or Lebo, or both exchanging lyrics. I really dig Leslie’s voice. There’s something very soothing about her tone. Warm and comforting, she performs with the experience of someone three times her moments behind a microphone. http://www.kimock.com
Maybe regretting not taking the time to see David Luning (http://www.davidluning.com) for a spell, I opted for a rest and a meal. Heading back to the vendor area, I could have greek, vegetarian, famous Rocky’s organic chicken and some french fries, fresh fruit smoothie or ice cream (which looked awesome but not really a meal), beer (which also looked awesome and was not really a meal and I was driving later so….), kettle corn (again, not really a meal), and other festival grub. I landed in line for Thai food and man, I’m so glad I did. While the wait was a tad long, it was more than worth it. I had the yummiest Pad Thai. Mmmmmm good. Thank you vendors, for cooking food for us hungry festival goers all day long in the hot sun. Thank you.
Oh, and on that note, I would like to apologize to the folks who had to clean up the ladies bathroom. As a woman, I was pretty ashamed at the sight. I went in to use it before hitting the road for my very long ride home and, well, gasped as I walked in. Shoving ALL of the seat covers in the toilet? Really? Pulling the toilet paper dispenser from the wall? Really? Ugh. Thank you to the crew at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds for your hard work and efforts at keeping that place clean and ready for use by folks like us. Clearly, some folks who were there should have shown ya more respect.
Closing out the Festival on the main stage was Jackie Greene, definitely a JBO favorite. Set to hit the stage at about 8:00 pm, we waited and watched the sun begin to set and the wind pick up. Burrrrrr! I opted to run back to my car for my sweatshirt since I only brought a light sweater with me, a layer which I’d already put on and knew the good of (Something my Mom would say if you put your jacket on too soon or kept your jacket on in the house when you came in from the cold. I can hear her now, “Take that off or you won’t know the good of it!”). Well, with that decision, I ended up just missing out on Greene’s opening tune, “Back to the Bottom,” one from his newest release, Back to Birth, out just about a year prior in August 2015. Well, I could kind of hear it as I was walking back inside the gate at the Fairgrounds. Kind of. I made my way back to the stage for, “I’m So Gone,” giving the crowd a heavy start with two rock-n-roll tunes back to back. Jackie has created songs that allow both his and Nathan Dale’s guitar prowess show. Together, they can blow your socks off as they share the energy and drive each other higher. It was also nice to have Jason Crosby on keys/organ and occasional violin as well, filling out not only the big stage but the inbetween spaces of Jackie’s songs.
In addition to Jason Crosby, Jackie invited Mark Karan to join the stage for the last half of his set. While both musicians have joined Greene before, maybe not all together like this. I must say, Jackie can hear things and make on the fly decisions on where the song should go next. Watch him as he looks around at each musician, they looking back at him awaiting instructions. There’s a nod and off they go!
Greene’s set was a roller coaster of heavy rock tunes, soft ballads, american folk and throwbacks to influences as they pull out four covers to end the show – “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” by the Allman Brothers Band, a cover I’ve not heard them do before and it was full and big and wonderful; “Medicated Goo” by Traffic which I could say the same about; “Jack Straw” by the Grateful Dead and one of a handful Greene does, this one exchanging verses with Nathan as Jerry and Bob would do; and then there was that “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Beatles. Oh my, what a display of soulful goodness both on vocals and guitars, all three of them (Greene, Dale and Karan) playing off each other.
I have my old and new favorites. I’ll always love certain songs, like “A Moment of Temporary Color,” “Uphill Mountain” (I love harmonica and acoustic guitar together, especially in this song), “Shaken,” and “So Hard to Find My Way.” And, now I’m falling in love with the new ones just as much. “Silver Lining” has that ooey gooey slide that I adore. It’s a sound I can never get enough of and Greene’ can slide. “Light Up Your Window” has such an easy beat, it’s so danceable and sticks with you for days after the last note is heard. And, “Hallelujah” which sounds good on any day, not just a Sunday. It’s that last half of the song – it makes you fee like you are being led down the center isle of an old church in New Orleans by a colorful and lively band, clapping your hands and dancing like it’s your last dance. Oh, and how fun was “So Hard to Find My Way” with the addition of Jason’s violin!
Filling his set with both his old and new stuff and playing for just over an hour and a half, this is just becoming more seasoned and more connected each show. Dale has been with Greene ever since I can remember. Most recent musician changes were in drums, with Fitz Harris joining in 2014, and now Jon Cornell on bass, joining in 2015. There is a new and refreshed playing, a new take on some of the songs, while maybe just a tweak here and there, but a difference that is powerful and good. Really good. http://www.jackiegreene.com
JBO hasn’t had the pleasure of attending this big one-day festival in some time. This 9th Annual Petaluma Music Festival was definitely packed with high energy performances on all stages. It’s one place that is easy to get in and out of, small enough to feel intimate but large enough to handle over 15 acts, and has plenty of vendor options and daytime activities for music fans of all ages to enjoy. From the first to the last note, festival goers were treated to some pretty incredible music too, and all from the surrounding area meaning seeing them again might be easily in the cards. There were blown amps (Jon Cornell of the Jackie Greene Band before the first song was done!), zapped out speakers (within the first three songs performed by The Sam Chase & The Untraditional), and busted strings (Steve Kimock shredding a little hard during, “One for Brother Mike”). Now that’s how ya play it.