By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
In fact, the Benevolent Society once helped out Stephen Adams, the ailing guitarist and British Invasion preservationist who originally had the idea for re-creating Sgt. Pepper live. Adams, once the leader of the local band Dreambreakers, suffered a stroke and is now in assisted living in St. Louis. Nevertheless, Blassingame says he will be as much at this show in spirit as he was at the first one. "It makes me very sad, but we still get inspiration from him," he says. "We still always ask ourselves, 'What would Stephen do?'"
Meanwhile, a few blocks away at iFest...Saturday's highlights include appearances by Houston-based Congolese musician Emman LeGrand, two performances by local roots-rock/alt-country legends the Hollisters, trad-Cajun innovators the Bluerunners, the Soul Rebels Brass Band, the Neville Brothers, blues belter Shemekia Copeland (daughter of Third Ward's own Johnny Clyde Copeland), lightning-fingered Dominican merengue accordion master Joaquin Diaz, and the Lowrider Band, which, for all intents and purposes, is in reality the band War of "Cisco Kid" fame (see "Why Can't We Be Friends?," page 51).
It will be alt-country day on the Houston stage, with performances by the Hollisters, Sean Reefer, Miss Leslie, Johnny Falstaff and Sugar Bayou, while the Latin stage sports Mexican rockers Somabit, Joaquin Diaz, the bluesy psychedelic rock of Argentine-Houstonian brother band Espantapajaros, and Los Pistoleros de Texas, former Los Skarnales accordionist Robert Rodriguez's San Antonio-style conjunto.
All that and zydeco (Brian Jack), acoustic soul (Joe Lee McCoy), Barrie Lee Hall's tribute to Duke Ellington and Carolyn Blanchard's to Lena Horne, drum circles, a kid-friendly hip-hop jam (led by Bobbie Fine), gospel and tales from Queen Quet, the Gullah Griot.
And there will be lots and lots of dancers, from India, Azerbaijan, Mexico, China and Ethiopia. According to iFest education coordinator and performing arts director Rick Mitchell, the National Dance Theater of Ethiopia, which is making its American debut here, is especially worth seeing.
"Last year, iFest President Jim Austin and Jew Don Boney went to Ethiopia and saw them and came back raving about them," Mitchell says. "There has been a lot of traffic lately between Houston and Ethiopia because of the Lucy exhibit, and so the Ethiopian government has offered to help us bring them here, partially because they are so happy about how the Lucy exhibit has turned out."
Mitchell says that the dancers are backed by a quintet of live musicians. "The music sounds north African, but the dance moves are sub-Saharan African," he says. "We've seen Senegalese and South African dancing, but we've never seen anything quite like this — Ethiopia is the crossroads between sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, and the music reflects that. And one more important point not to forget: The women are beautiful."
Sunday's main-stage highlights include Menwar, a group from the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Mitchell says the group's trip is sponsored in part by a French Bureau of Export grant, and that their music has a Caribbean, Rasta cargo chant, pirate vibe. "Even though it's from halfway around the world, it reminds me of reggae," he says. "Mauritius has that same mix Madagascar has, or Réunion Island, where you have that African influence and a little Indian and Indonesian influence, and then kind of that cross-pollinating of European influences, both French and Portuguese."
Also appearing is the Garifuna Collective, the Afro-Belizean group which sadly lost its leader earlier this year. "Andy Palacio was an icon of Central American music and a member of the government in Belize," Mitchell says. "And last year he released an album that was world music album of the year in most polls, and then he dies tragically in his mid-40s of a heart attack." His band decided to soldier on without him. "He was not the only talent on the tour," Mitchell says. "Umalali, the women's collective who were backing singers for Palacio, should be big later this year after their album comes out."
Hugh Masekela was supposed to lead a Pan-African jam session to close the main stage down, but the South African jazz giant was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year and had to pull out. As a fill-in, Mitchell enlisted no less a personage than Taj Mahal — in Mitchell's words, "the one North American blues musician who has built a career out of demonstrating the connections between North American music and Caribbean music and African music."
And I'm out of space. But trust me, there's plenty more good stuff on the bill. But since we're talking about a Sunday lineup, we will offer one last tip: Don't miss Bay City gospel group the Jones Family Singers for a dose of Pentecostal Holy Ghost power.