By Ricky Richardson, Contributing Writer
(Lawndale, CA.)- Jane Addams Park on Firmona and Marine Avenue were packed with blues lovers for the highly anticipated return of a live in-person music festival. It’s a Blues Thang!
The Lawndale Blues Festival gets bigger and better each year. This is an awesome event that brings together the community- family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and others from the greater blues community to enjoy some good food, great music in a relaxing environment.
The weather Gods with a penchant for the blues, looked favorably upon the festival. The day consisted of a lot of sun and a nice coastal breeze.
This year’s festival was held on September 11, 2021. The 20th Anniversary of 9/11 featured solemn and somber remembrances that took place all over the United States.
City of Lawndale Mayor Robert Pullen-Miles served as Master of Ceremonies, introducing each of the amazing bands on the lineup and acknowledging and recognizing the elected officials in attendance.
The show got off to a rousing start with a return engagement of SmackDaddy Blues Band. They know how to jump start a party. SmackDaddy Blues Band is a high octane rockin’ blues band. The band members are Rodney Milon, aka-BR on guitar, Michael G on the Mississippi Saxophone (harmonica), John Albert- bass and Jeff Stern on drums. It didn’t take long for the band to engage the crowd with some blues with a dose of funk and soul. Their entertaining set featured the tunes “Walking Blues,” “Rock Me Baby,” “Watch Out Baby,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” a tribute to the late great drummer Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones. Their set continued with “Leave My Little Girl Along,” “Checking Out My Baby,” “Out of Sight,” “Drive in Life,” tribute to the great James Harman (Ice Pick) and concluded their set with “Shape I’m In.” Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Marian Tomas Griffin performed a heartfelt, touching original tune “Tallon of the Ten House,” dedicated to the memory of Firefighter Sean P. Tallon, Ladder Co. 10.
Up next was Guitar Shorty. The legendary guitarist has influenced countless guitarists past and present. Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy are two names that come to mind. There were a couple of young fans in the audience checking out his style. This is Guitar Shorty’s festival debut. It didn’t take long to put the crowd into a frenzy with his distinct high energy set of blues, raw, soulful vocals coupled with a flurry of fiery guitar riffs throughout his set. The band performed “The Blues Done Got Me,” “It’s Too Late,” “Hard Life,” and “I’m Gonna Leave You.” Guitar Shorty on guitar, backed by Wadada on bass, Moog Star Clemon on Vocoder keyboards, Danny Dangerous-drums, Crazy Tomes on guitar and Malcolm Lukens on keyboards.
Gregg Wright returned to the festival fronting his own band. Long time festival goers remember Gregg Wright from his breakout performance as a member of the wonderful band Rosie Lee Brooks and Brooks Project Band. Gregg Wright immediately tapped into the local power grid to deliver an electrifying performance to the delight of the crowd. “Come Together,” “Don’t Talk to My Women,” “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “Gone, With Your Bad Self,” Cry Myself A River,” and “Hoochie Coochie Man,” were the tunes performed during their set. Gregg Wright on guitar was accompanied with Ron Battle-bass, Moe Beeks on keyboards and Danny Ritter on drums.
Shari Puorto is an American award-winning roots/rock/blues singer,songwriter and performer with a powerful, soulful voice. Shari Puorto Band took it up a notch as they returned to close out the 8th annual Lawndale Blues Festival. The band opened their set with “Home of the Blues,” “Don’t Mess With Me,” “It’s a Damn Shame,” and “Sugar Daddy,” to name a few.
The Classic Car Show presented by Astro Motive Auto Service was on site with a showcase of Hot Rods, Custom and Low Riders.
The City of Lawndale in partnership with Los Angeles County Supervisor, Second District, Holly Mitchell’s Office and St. John’s Well Child & Family Center hosted a double dose vaccination clinic on site.
Everyone is in agreement that the blues festival was a way to make things feel like a sense of normalcy again, to shake off pandemic fatigue, at least for a while. The late great Willie Dixon stated “The Blues is a fact of life.”