Home For The Holiday

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

If you have decided not to go away for the Labor Day weekend this year, then you may be looking to catch some entertainment in the local area.  Here is a roundup of some of the live music events you can check out over the long holiday weekend, all within about an hour’s drive from Salinas. 

If you are a fan of the blues, then you might enjoy seeing one of Coco Montoya’s two shows this weekend.  With a career spanning 30 years, this one-time member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers studied guitar under legendary bluesman Albert Collins and has been described by Billboard magazine as “the real McCoy in a world of blues guitar pretenders.”  Montoya has released four solo albums and has played at some of the world’s most prestigious blues and jazz festivals.  He plays this Friday and Saturday nights at Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz.

You can head for Henflings in Ben Lomond on Saturday and dance the night away with Fruit, one of Australia’s most exciting new exports.  This five-piece band features three female vocalists, two of whom play guitar and the other an array of horns.  Add to this bass, drums and a musical style that spans funk, soul and folk, and you’ll soon see why Fruit has been attracting attention at festivals as diverse as the WOMAD festival and the Edinburgh Fringe.

Chill out on Sunday afternoon with a free event in Santa Cruz’s San Lorenzo Park as the Kuumbwa Jazz Center celebrates its 28th birthday.  Food and drinks will be available, and Brian Auger, legendary British master of the Hammond B-3 organ, will be providing the music with his band Oblivion Express.  Auger has worked with countless top names since the 1960s including Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry and perhaps most notably Julie Driscoll, with whom he recorded the smash hit “This Wheel’s On Fire,” as Brian Auger’s Trinity.  Brian Auger has lived in the United States since 1975, and still plays the same keyboard he has had since 1968.  “Even after all these years,” he said, “I never get tired of playing it.”

If you’d rather make the music yourself, then a trip down to the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur on Monday might be for you.  Starting at 2:00 pm, the library will be hosting its annual Labor Day Open Mic in the garden.  Admission is free and a full PA system will be available. Anyone who wishes to is encouraged to come along and sing, play an instrument, read poetry, tell jokes… The possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the performers.  Expect a few surprises too – a recent open mic event at the Library featured a drop-in performance by a nationally-touring bluegrass band that just happened to be driving by and saw the signpost.  Even if you don’t perform yourself, it’s worth the trip just to sit among the redwood trees, soak up the atmosphere and listen.

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, August 28, 2003

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