So, as I was sayin' about later in the afternoon . . .
Those who know where to go for alternative off the main street performances at the Adams Avenue Roots Festival usually head for two areas: the park or Lestats. This year, the park is set aside for a health fair. I long for the old park stage with what seemed a few years ago to be a really fun-filled venue for loud "funky" bands and equally odd funky fans. This year, struggling with a waistline in pursuit of the "fried food American spread," a need to justify NOT pursuing the latest hard core work out exercise craze, and a desire to simply unwind without a the sounds of outside frolic---I head for one of Adams Avenue's nationally known cultural houses: Lestats. http://www.lestats.com
I know from previous years that Lestats has provided one of the Festival's indoor stages. Almost inside, I feel an "Ahhhhhh, sigh." Dimmed house lights, soft glow stage lights, techies going,"Check, check, check." I am in a comfort zone. I ask out loud to no one in particular, "Who' playing?" A tall slender man says, "Lawrence, my wife, Ron Henkle, and Carlos Olmeda . They're doing a song swap. It's the start of the second set"
Of course, I sit down; I am aware of Robin Henkle and know Carlos Olmeda. The wife . . .I'll risk it.
The entire second set unfolds with mostly original songs from each artist.(Only a couple of "cover songs"-this is an up close "meet the songwriter" set). Each artist tells not only snippets of personal history as a performer, but they also gives us the back story of original songs inspiration. Their stage camaraderie creates a "We are in this together, ya'll" bond with the audience. A few more highlights-
Carlos is starting the first set. To this day, I'm not sure how we first met. It was definitely more than a few years ago. I do remember that it was Carlos' warm smile and genuinely warm personality that won my admiration. One day, with guitar in hand, he sang me one of his latest original songs on the spot-a quiet, soulful, song about love lost. Today, his smile radiates on stage, through sweptback ponytail, greying neatly trimmed beard and mustache and flashing eyes that have seen . . .much. He continues to write love laments(and delightfully quirky ones too). His website is:
Carlos, a bilingual singer/songwriter, instrumentalist with a depth of styles in his musician's tool bag, is adept at singing in Spanish or English. Carlos was born in Puerto Rico1. He opens the set with a powerful song in Spanish. However, it is his second song, "Goin' to Have to Let You Go" that catches me off guard. It sounds like an homage to 1940s European cabaret tunes with a simple 4/4 pulse. It is a gentle, slightly satirical lament. Carlos has several facets to his "serious' playful side. Here he is singing "Good Love"
1.See Interview: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/bands/carlos-olmeda
Lawrence, the woman of the group is from LA. Her songs have a feminist edge with a hint of 1940s look and a blues/torch song stylization. She is also a music historian and knows quite a bit about 1930s/40s American music. Her ballad "A Promise That I Can Keep" is a ballad. Lawrence can be traditional as well as "edgy."
Robin Hinkle, a man with many music careers and styles is a Rocker/ Blues man. He credits African American Mississippi blues greats like Muddy Waters, Sun House, and Robert Johnson for his style and has studied them for years. I first met Robin last year when he was playing at Little Italy's Art Walk. His style called to me through the events people noise---from a block away. It was refreshing, acoustic, adept yet with that Delta rawness. He had played the Art Walk earlier today and this was his next gig, before he takes the outdoor stage at the Roots Festival. One of my favorites today at Lestats is a guitar solo. He plays an instrumental arrangement of "Take Me For A Ride In Your Mustang Rita" that is a rhythmic syncopation romp. Audience feet start tapping in agreement. We are in the presence of a man with SKILLS!!!! Robin's website reveals volumes hidden by a quirky, common man stage presence. http://www.robinhenkel.com
Here's a little country taste of his style: "Walkin' MyTroubles Away"
Roots music is people music, the folk. It is usually acoustic and raw. Adams Avenue Roots Festival is a traditional yearly celebratory gathering of those who enjoy plain old fashioned song. San Diego has several alternative music festivals. I get around to as many as I can. This year, well, with so many challenges on our socio-political-economic everyday . . . . I really needed this one. "Sometimes, it just be's that way."