Can you do this with an upright bass? Lee Rocker can. (Photo: LeeRocker.com)
It’s a bit of an understatement to say that the Eastern Sierra’s summer music season has been a blast. Festivals new and old upped their game this year. Every weekend, crowds have been blown away by the best in chamber music from Mozart to the Beatles at the Mammoth Lakes Music Festival and blistering-hot bands at the Jazz Jubilee, Beethoven at the Sierra Summer Festival, popular headlines such as Los Lonely Boys (Bluesapalooza), Toad the Wet Sprocket, Ozomatli, the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars (Blue Sky), Train (Mammoth Festival), and the best in trib bands at Mammoth Rocks.
And it ain’t over yet. There’s still one more festival left, and it too is setting the bar higher … the Millpond Music Festival kicks off its 19th edition Sept. 17-19, this year bringing in some newer, local artists who will play alongside show business veterans. “Words can’t possibly express how excited we are,” Millpond organizers said. “The lineup is phenomenal, quite possibly the finest and most diverse ever.”
The key word being “diverse.” Check out some of this year’s headliners.
In actuality, Jo Henley is not a person. Rather, Jo Henley is a Boston roots-rock band formed by longtime musical collaborators Andy Campolieto and Ben Lee, known for their unique blend of rock, folk, country and bluegrass that their fans affectionately refer to as “new roots.” The band has garnered a reputation for exciting, high-energy live shows that showcase carefully crafted songs and sparkling instrumental prowess on everything from acoustic guitars, fiddle, mandolin and banjo to train beats and weepy steel guitar. Not already familiar with Jo Henley? Take a moment or two to check out their website (www.johenley.com) and listen to some samples. That should more than get you geared up for their live performance on Saturday afternoon at Millpond!
The word “Masanga” comes from an African word meaning the coming together of rivers or roads representing the meeting of African, Latin and American traditions in this group. The group features seven Zimbabwean marimbas of various sizes along with vocals, drums, percussion, saxophone and trumpet.
In Los Angeles alone, the group has performed at the Hollywood Bowl, Skirball Cultural Center and the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, as well as internationally at the prestigious Madrid Theater and the World Festival of Sacred Music. Dr. Ric Alviso, a Cal State Northridge ethno-musicologist (yes, that’s a real title), Professor of World Music, and Director of the CSUN African Music Ensemble leads the group. Professor Alviso studied traditional African music in Senegal and Zimbabwe for two years and in 2000, the Masanga Marimba Ensemble evolved from a class he was teaching.
Masanga’s music runs the gamut from exciting and full of energy to introspective and hypnotic, keeping the rhythms strong and the singing rich with melodic leads and harmonies. Masanga is the only marimba ensemble in Southern California that combines Latin and African traditions, which will be on full display during the group’s Saturday night show on the Millpond Main Stage.
“The Stray Cat” Lee Rocker
Lee Rocker made his mark singing, playing, standing on, spinning and rocking his giant upright bass in the legendary ‘80s band The Stray Cats. The group has sold nearly 10 million albums and garnered an astounding 23 gold and platinum records worldwide. The Stray Cats were a radio staple, music video pioneers at the infancy of MTV, and repeatedly brought rockabilly music to the top of the pop charts.
But if you missed them back in the day, you get a second chance of sorts at Millpond. Catch musical legend The Stray Cat Lee Rocker in his new show, which features classic Stray Cats hits such as “Rock this Town,” “Stray Cat Strut” and “Sexy and Seventeen.” And that’s not all. Rocker also throws down slamming renditions of songs by other musical icons, such as Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and the Beatles. Joined by guitarist Buzz Campbell, guitarist/slide player Brophy Dale and San Francisco’s maestro session drummer Jimmy Sage, Rocker lives up to that last name of his, promising an incredible concert experience for music lovers of all ages. Rocker takes Millpond’s Main Stage as Saturday night’s headline act beginning at 8:45 p.m. Stop by www.leerocker.com to learn more and listen to some samples.
This year’s schedule:
Idle Hands 6:30 p.m., Joe Craven Trio 7:35 p.m. and Los Fabulocos 9:10 p.m.
Adam Burns Band 1 p.m., Richard Smith & Julie Adams 2:10 p.m., Jo Henley 3:20 p.m., Marc Atkinson Quartet 4:45 p.m., Masanga Marimba Ensemble 7 p.m. and “The Stray Cat” Lee Rocker 8:45 p.m.
Dance makes an appearance at the festival on Sunday with Xitlahauc Estrellas de Mexico Latin Dance Group 9 a.m., followed by Sage Romero & The Aca Mya Dancers 10 a.m. Music returns with Old Coyote Moon 11:05 a.m., Old Man Luedecke 12:10 p.m., David Jacobs-Strain 1:20 p.m., Slaid Cleaves 2:35 p.m., Celtic Fiddle Festival 4 p.m. and Los Pinguos brings the weekend to a close at 5:45 p.m.
Many other performers will also appear in the Workshop Tent all weekend.
Camping spaces are still available at Sage Flat, Pondside & Forest. For more info and to order tickets by phone with Visa, Mastercard or American Express, call 760.873.8014, or go online at www.inyo.org.