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Summer Music Festival Guide 2012 

click to enlarge Concertgoers at Reggae on the River - PHOTO BY BOB DORAN
  • photo by Bob Doran
  • Concertgoers at Reggae on the River

Summer's just around the corner, which makes it time for another round of music festivals, big, small and in between. Some are tailored to your specific music taste, some more eclectic. Among the options here in Humboldt or not-too-far away:

The 36th Annual Summer Arts and Music Festival. Despite troubles with the state park system, Benbow Lake Recreation Area will once again see festival action for a couple of weekends, starting with the Mateel's first big festival of the season. Among the five dozen acts on four stages (along with art, craft and food booths, a kid's zone, dancers, etc.), headliners include Fishbone, Thomas Mapfumo, Diego's Umbrella, French klezmer band Kabbalah, The Shook Twins, Monkey, and locals Joanne Rand and Absynth Quintet. June 2 and 3, Benbow Lake Recreation Area south of Garberville. www.mateel.org.

The 35th Annual Redwood Run. After a year at Cooks Valley, the Kiwanis folks are moving the biker bash back to its longtime home at Riverview Ranch. Expect the usual biker games along with rock and blues by Lukas Nelson, Charlie Brechtel, The Fryed Brothers, II Big with Billy Idol, Kaye Bohler, The Unauthorized Rolling Stones, and a tribute to the late Ronnie Montrose with special guest Michael Lee Firkins. June 8-10, Riverview Ranch, Piercy. www.kiwanisrwr.com.

The Third Annual Jefferson State Old Time Revue. Missing Link is back with another alt. old time/roots fest, this year moved up a bit so it's not competing with the Folklife Festival. Among the acts confirmed so far: Frank Fairfield, Petrovick Blasting Company, The New Five Cents, Clampitt Family and The No Good Redwood Ramblers. Saturday, July 7, Arcata Playhouse.

The 35th Annual Humboldt Folklife Festival. As usual, the Folklife folks conclude Dell'Arte's Mad River Festival with over a week full of music, all local, mostly folk with some variations. It starts Friday, July 13, with a Kickoff Party at Mad River Brewery featuring The Pilot Rock Ramblers and The Spindrifters and a Barn Dance at the Manila Community Center with Sue Moon and friends, continues Sunday with Blue Lake's Annie and Mary Day in Perigot Park, and then moves to Dell'Arte for a kick-off performance by The Scotia Band in the Rooney Amphitheater followed by Songwriters Night in the Carlo. Tuesday's Jazz Night is in the Carlo too, with the Redwood Jazz Association helping to curate. Wednesday the fest moves back to the amphitheater for another Country Night (with Huckleberry Flint once again headlining). Thursday it's Bluegrass and Beyond (out back). Friday it's an Old Time Barn Dance at the Arcata Veteran's Hall. Wrapping it all up with a big red bow: The All Day Folklife Free Festival Saturday, July 21, with dozens of bands, songwriters, pickers, workshops and more, in and around the Dell'Arte building. July 15-21, Blue Lake and Arcata. www.humboldtfolklife.org.

The 28th Annual Reggae on the River. The Mateel would like to move to another more versatile location, preferably French's Camp, but for now, Reggae is back at Benbow. The 30 plus reggae and world music artists are split between two stages; among them Toots and The Maytals, Junior Toots, Midnite, Oliver Mtukudzi and Black Spirits, Fully Fullwood's Tosh Meets Marley, Romain Virgo, Fantan Mojah, Pato Banton and locals Synrgy and JUCE. July 21 and 22, at Benbow Lake State Recreation Area. www.mateel.org.

The 19th Annual Trinity Tribal Stomp. This classic hippie music fest out Highway 299 falls on the same busy July weekend as Reggae and the end of Folklife. The Stomp lineup leans toward the jamband/neo-stringband side with Victor Wooten Band, Poor Man's Whiskey, Peter Rowan's Big Twang Theory, Clan Dyken, The Shook Twins and Absynth Quintet all on Saturday; David Nelson Band, Moonalice, LoCura and the all-star Tribal Stomp Orchestra featuring Mark Karan headlining Sunday. July 21 and 22 at Junction City Park on Highway 299 in Junction City. Trinitytribalstomp.org.

The 12th Annual Buddy Brown Blues Festival. Expect most of the usual suspects when all-local blues bash returns on Saturday, Aug. 4, in Blue Lake's Perigot Park. www.humboldtfolklife.org.

The Fourth Annual Mad River Summerfest. Parking problems at last year's fest almost ended this free summer treat along the Mad, but it's returning with the same local focus on the music, just on a new date: Saturday, Aug. 18, and a new location, Christie's Ranch, the pumpkin patch on Glendale Drive, west of Blue Lake.

The 15th Annual Blues by the Bay. Redwood Coast Music Festivals' Labor Day weekend blues-o-rama is back full force. Saturday is ladies day with Laurie Morvan, Janeva Magness, Deanna Bogart, Dana Fuchs and the token male, Chris Cain. Sunday it's roots blues with David Jacob-Strain, Eric Bibb String Band featuring Dirk Powell and Cedric Watson and James Cotton: Superharp. Sept. 1 and 2, Halverson Park, by the Adorni Center, Eureka. www.bluesbythebay.org.  

The Not Quite Annual Bummerfest. When new organizers announced that the local alt. music fest founded in 2001 was back for another round, they were swamped with bands wanting to play. Among those tentatively confirmed: The Monster Women, Eureka Garbage Company, Gunsafe, Radios in Caves and Speed of Darkness. Sept. 1 and 2, Eureka Veterans Hall.

The 39th Annual North Country Fair. The Same Old People are currently booking musicians and vendors for another very Arcatan weekend of crafts, food and music. Sept. 15 and 16 on the Arcata Plaza. www.sameoldpeople.org.

Two big festivals we've listed in this guide for years are officially on hiatus: After 33 years, the venerable Harmony Festival is "reorganizing" and looking at "the possibility of creating Harmony Festivals in the coming years." And, after losing its home in Laytonville to the Gaia Festival, Earthdance moved to Vallejo, then founder Chris Dekker returned home to Australia. Now the NorCal Earthdance is "taking a sabbatical for 2012."

Among the many other surviving music fests elsewhere in Northern California:

The 18th Annual Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. This year's SNWMF is heavy on reggae, especially roots-style, with some of the top acts in the field including Jimmy Cliff, Third World, Luciano, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Israel Vibration, plus Jah Sun and Lion Camp and AfroMassive representing Humboldt. June 22-24, Mendocino County Fairgrounds, Boonville. www.snwmf.com.

The 17th Annual Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival. This fest always presents stellar folk and roots musicians, and this year is no exception. Headliners include k.d. lang, Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson, Ruthie Foster, Loudon Wainwright III, Leftover Salmon, Texas Tornados, Marcia Ball and Poor Man's Whiskey, and that's just the top of the bill. June 29-July 1, at Black Oak Ranch, north of Laytonville. www.katewolfmusicfestival.com.

The 22nd Annual High Sierra Music Festival. Still a jamband fan paradise, this fest keeps stretching out with Ben Harper, Built to Spill, STS9 and Toot and the Maytals among the headliners along with Galactic, ALO, Railroad Earth, and the twangy High Sierra-conceived Brokedown in Bakersfield with Tim and Nicki Bluhm joined by members from ALO. July 5-8, Plumas Sierra County Fairgrounds, Quincy. www.highsierramusic.com.

The Second Annual Gaia Festival. Launched last year by the Hog Farm as a slightly-downsized Earthdance-style fest, this time they have Michael Franti and Spearhead, Yonder Mountain, Hot Buttered Rum, Kinky, Dumpstaphunk, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, Bomba Estereo, Baka Beyond and David Lindley, just for starters. Aug. 3-5, Black Oak Ranch, Laytonville. www.thegaiafestival.com.

The Fifth Annual Outside Lands. This eclectic multi-stage mega-fest in Golden Gate Park is supremely high-powered with Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Jack White, Metallica, The Foo Fighters, Beck, Norah Jones, Santigold and Skrillex among the 60-or-so acts. Wow. Aug. 10-12, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. www.sfoutsidelands.com.

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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

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