(Dana Point, CA) – Whether soaking in the top-notch entertainment on the Back Porch Stage, the two main stages, or perusing the food court, the unique craft booths, stretching out on the sprawling lawns, watching the swaying palm trees, basking in the warm weather or reveling in the friendly blues camaraderie, there was something for everyone at the Doheny Blues Festival May 20-21 at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, California. For several years now Doheny has delivered a variety of roots and blues together for the masses. This year was no exception.
Along with blues and soul favorites like Bobby Rush, Canned Heat (who are celebrating their 50th Anniversary!), Janiva Magness, Mavis Staples, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers, Monster Mike Welch & Mike Ledbetter, Samantha Fish, John Primer and Bob Corritore, Moreland & Arbuckle and JJ Grey & Mofro, there was also the blues-based rock flashback of Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, the trance of Robin Trower, a soul-inspired set by Melissa Etheridge, James Gang and Eagles alumni Joe Walsh, soulful, Country-rock flavored songs of Chris Isaak and the honky-tonk of Junior Brown.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about the variety this year but I had faith in Doheny and I wasn’t disappointed. Afterall, I did get to experience Gregg Allman (and James Cotton) there in 2014 and so grateful for that! Plus artists like Crosby Stills & Nash in 2010 and Bonnie Raitt in 2015, neither whom I’d ever seen before, and more. People like to sing along and it always ends up one big party. This year, between testifying with Mavis Staples or getting down n’ dirty with the Led Zep tunes, it was all unique, entertaining and great fun. One of my favorite sets of the weekend was from Monster Mike Welch and Mike Ledbetter who drenched us with truly inspired and soulful Chicago-style blues that flowed like velvet and hit us like thunder.
Offering a variety does open the arena up to a wider group of music lovers (i.e. ticket buyers) who in turn may be introduced to unknown-to-them blues artists that they may fall in love with. This is a win-win for live music in general. Doheny also always features regional blues-roots artists that deliver just as tight as their more famous counterparts! This year it was Whiteboy James and The Blues Express, The Mighty Mojo Prophets, 2000 Lbs of Blues, Nico Duportal And The West Coast Connection, Adrianna Marie and Her Groovecutters, Casey Hensley Band, and Big George & The Blues Tones bringing it.
I look forward to this spectacular festival each year. Living in Southern California I realize I have a distinct advantage but I would recommend the experience travelers. Some people may not like crowds but I personally consider blues-music fans a fine and fun mob of my brothers and sisters and a festival like this is just one big ‘ol musical family reunion!
See you next year.
Michele Lundeen/Blues Festival-Guide Editor
Photos ©Jeff Beeler/Capturing Life Photography