Events

Petaluma Music Festival Rocks Out for Music Education

Partial of Petaluma Music Festival poster, 2019. Poster designed by Katie Kincaid.

A diverse lineup of Bay Area rockers comes together for a big day out at the Petaluma Music Festival to raise money for music education.

The summer concert landscape is filled with major weekend-long festivals that make the 21st century a great time for live music. Although ever-increasing inflation on pricing often makes it necessary to choose carefully on where to invest. But several regional one-day festivals provide strong value for weekend music mavens. The Petaluma Music Festival in Northern California's Sonoma County is one of these events, with the 12th annual edition again tapping into the Bay Area's rich pool of talent for an appealing day out at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds on the first Saturday of August.

"Keeping music in the schools" is the festival's motto and higher purpose, with proceeds going to fund music programs in the town's elementary and secondary schools. That makes the festival one of the most altruistic ways for local music fans to spend their entertainment dollar. This year's headliner Animal Liberation Orchestra is a longtime California favorite, selling out the Fillmore every February on their annual Tour D'Amore. The music starts in the noon hour for those who are really in it to get the most bang for their buck, while the hot Sonoma sun leads others to trickle in throughout the afternoon. By the time the clock hits 2:45 pm, the festival is in full swing with the difficult dilemma of competing sets on different stages from Magic in the Other on the Petaluma Stage and New Monsoon on the Lagunitas Stage.

Magic in the Other has been delivering one of the freshest sounds in the Bay Area since their formation in 2017, a trio led by drummer Ezra Lipp with bassist Steve Adams and guitarist Roger Riedlbauer. The band's vibrant sound blends a jazzy jam-rock aesthetic with meaningful songs that dare try to confront the chaos of the current era, while also offering uplifting vibes for a spiritual revolution to overcome society's current struggles. While first gaining acclaim as a player with Phil Lesh & Friends, Lipp has since made a mark as a talented songwriter and bandleader in his own right as evidenced on Magic in the Other's debut album What We Know Is Possible. Dynamic songs with thoughtfully inspiring lyrics like "How Is This All Ending", "Thin Veil", and "Light in My Window" have quickly become fan favorites.

A surprise highlight here occurs when Magic in the Other busts out a debut rendition of the Who's "Pinball Wizard", once again demonstrating their talent for providing fresh takes on classic rock gems (such as their takes on David Bowie's "Starman" and Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun"). The band is putting out a lot of energy here. It's a good thing that Lipp and Adams will have some time to rest up before pulling double duty later on with Animal Liberation Orchestra, where Adams is the longtime bassist and Lipp has become the new drummer over the past two years.

A certain synchronicity occurs just minutes later as New Monsoon continues to rock across the fairgrounds with their own bustout of the Who's "Eminence Front" to amp up the afternoon. In contrast to Magic in the Other, New Monsoon has been rocking the Bay for more than two decades although their appearances have become somewhat sporadic in recent years. So it's great to see core members Jeff Miller (guitar), Bo Carper (guitar) and Phil Ferlino (keyboards) rock out before a good-sized crowd of "Storm Chasers" on a sunny summer day like this. Miller has got chops to burn, and there are few bands who can rip hot jams on Santana and Allman Brothers tunes like New Monsoon, while also delivering soaring originals with great harmonies. Miller and Ferlino have also been frequent players in the Friday night Top 40 band at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, where they've helped the club develop a reputation for delivering the best bar band in America on any given night.

The action moves to the main stage with the Mother Hips, another guitar-driven regional favorite that's been rocking the Bay Area (and the nation) with their own blend of psychedelic Americana since the early '90s. Guitarists Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiacono have kept the band going through trials and tribulations, including Bluhm's fairly recent brush with mortality when he was hospitalized after a speed flying accident. The band always seems to find a way to keep rocking on though. Here the hot sun becomes a challenge to the crowd's energy at times, while the band seems to be searching for the sound on some of their newer material. The sound clicks into place for one of the festival's peak moments though on Loiacono's "Del Mar Station", one of the Mother Hips' classic tunes that epitomizes their skill for blending sweet vocal hooks with edgy guitars and big grooves.

It's here near the main stage where fans can also take part in a silent auction for various musical memorabilia, as well as a guitar raffle where just a few bucks gets a chance to win signed guitars from the likes of Chris Robinson, Ryan Bingham, or Animal Liberation Orchestra.

The David Nelson Band hits the main stage next and the group is cooking from the start on a 90-minute set that puts the festival into high gear. From collaborating with Jerry Garcia in the early '60s to becoming a founding member of New Riders of the Purple Sage, Nelson has counterculture cred like few others. With a power trio core that plays together in three bands -- guitarist Barry Sless, bassist Pete Sears and drummer John Molo also play together in both Moonalice and the Green Leaf Rustlers -- the David Nelson Band is always ready to cut loose and let the jams fly as they do here early and often. With keyboardist Mookie Siegel rounding out the quintet, the band brings a higher level of musicianship the stage every time out as they back Nelson on his signature blend of Americana, psych-rock, jazzy blues, and cosmic country.

Sless and Sears have developed particularly strong chemistry, seeming to dare each other to take sonic leaps higher and faster as they spur each other on during jams that really get the audience going. Another jam on "Iko Iko" ignites an energetic dance party as the band takes the simple groove for an extensive ride with Sears pumping up the low end.

Then it's back over the the Lagunitas Stage where longtime bluegrass stalwarts Hot Buttered Rum are cranking out a high energy sound of their own. The local Lagunitas Brewery from right here in Petaluma has become a major national force, and here they augment some of their standard selections with 2019's new Phase Shift, a juicy hazy IPA that really hits the spot on warm summer evenings like this. It's a good one to wash down the jams here because Hot Buttered Rum is cooking too, with their patented blend of bluegrass instrumentation and good time rock 'n' roll. Singer/guitarist Nat Keefe, ace banjo man Erik Yates and company are joined for much of the set by guitarist James Nash, who helps the band rock out in a big way on the Cars' "Just What I Needed" as the classic rock hits keep coming throughout the day.

By the time Animal Liberation Orchestra hit the main stage for their headlining set at 8:00 pm, it's getting dark and the temperature is starting to get a bit brisk. But the band quickly warms things up with a groovy set of feel-good jams to ignite the night. Upbeat jams on "Try" and "Get to Do It Again" get the set off to a hot start, with keyboardist Zach Gill singing of "living the dream". Bassist "Good Time" Stevie Adams takes the lead vocal on "Rain", a song with more of a sunny disposition about the cleansing power of the rain to wash the blues away.

The band has moved into a "2.0" era over the past couple years with the dynamic Ezra Lipp stepping in for original drummer Dave Brogan, but here fans get a special treat as Brogan makes a special guest appearance to conjure the best of both worlds. Keyboardist Zach Gill introduces Brogan midway through the set, relating a tale of meeting him for music lessons and then starting the band at the second lesson. Brogan then takes a seat at the keyboards while Gill plays the frontman role on "Girl I Wanna Lay You Down", followed by Gill displaying more of his multi-dimensional skills on ukulele for Animal Liberation Orchestra's classic "Plastic Bubble".

Adams, Gill and guitarist Dan "Lebo" Lebowitz have longtime chemistry that seems to just keep on growing, augmented perhaps by the chemistry that Adams and Lipp have developed with Magic in the Other. The band gets into a hot jam on "The Ticket", conjuring a soulful '70s funk vibe that has the audience getting down. The group is really gelling now, with the collective sound adding up to what seems more than the sum of the parts. Animal Liberation Orchestra wraps the festival with a big encore jam on their classic "Shapeshifter", including a surprise melodic instrumental jam on Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine".

The festival has delivered more than nine hours of music while raising somewhere in the neighborhood of $60,000 for local music programs (if last year's haul is any indication). The Petaluma Music Festival has also grown to become one of the Bay Area's most reliable days of musical fun in the summer season, no small accomplishment considering how much is going on in the region on any given summer weekend.

Related Articles Around the Web
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Film

The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.

Music

July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.

Music

With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.

Film

Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.

Music

MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.

Books

Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.

Film

Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.

Music

John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."

Books

'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.

Film

It's a Helluva of a World in Alain Corneau's 'Série Noire'

Alain Corneau's Série Noire is like a documentary of squalid desperation, albeit a slightly heightened and sardonic one.

Music

The 15 Best Americana Albums of 2015

From the old guard reaffirming its status to upstarts asserting their prowess, personal tales voiced by true artists connected on an emotional level in the best Americana music of 2015.

Music

Dizzy's Katie Munshaw Keeps Home Fires Burning with 'The Sun and Her Scorch'

In a world turned upside down, it might be the perfect time to take a new album spin with Canadian dream-pop band Dizzy and lead singer-songwriter Katie Munshaw, who supplies enough emotional electricity to jump-start a broken heart.

Music

Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers Bring Summery Highlife to 'Ozobia Special'

Summery synths bring highlife of the 1980s on a reissue of Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers' innovative Ozobia Special.

Music

'The Upward Spiral' Is Nicolas Bougaïeff's Layered and Unique Approach to Techno

On his debut album for Mute, Berlin-based producer Nicolas Bougaïeff applies meticulous care and a deft, trained ear to each track, and the results are marvelous.

Music

How BTS Always Leave You Wanting More

K-pop boy band BTS are masterful at creating a separation between their public personas and their private lives. This mythology leaves a void that fans willingly fill.

Music

The Psychedelic Furs' 'Made of Rain' Is Their First Album in Nearly 30 Years

The first album in three decades from the Psychedelic Furs beats expectations just one track in with "The Boy That Invented Rock and Roll".

Music

Fontaines D.C. Abandon the Familiar on 'A Hero's Death'

Fontaines D.C.'s A Hero's Death is the follow-up to the acclaimed Dogrel, and it features some of their best work -- alongside some of their most generic.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.