Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Arts & Life

Barry Brenner will be among the headliners at this week's Blue Wing Blues Festival in Upper Lake. Courtesy photo.


UPPER LAKE – This week, a new event is coming to Upper Lake with the inaugural Blue Wing Blues Festival.

Freddie Hughes, Bettie Mae Fikes, Mike Wilhelm and Frankie Lee will be featured vocalists during four evenings of world-class blues music in the open air garden setting of the Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake, from Wednesday, July 18 through Saturday, July 21.

Hotel and Saloon owner Bernie Butcher organized the show, which is co-sponsored by local radio station KNTI-FM 99.5.

The Blue Wing Blues Festival starts each evening at 5:30 p.m. with a set from the great finger-style, steel string blues guitarist Barry “Big B” Brenner, followed by the headliner of the evening. The Blue Wing Saloon will be serving a tasty barbecue dinner with the show. The cost for the show and dinner is $25.

The festival opens on July 18 with Freddie Hughes launching his new CD on the BluesExpress label.

Born and raised in Berkeley, Hughes has performed world-wide since his first hit single in 1970 and has appeared with such greats as Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Etta James.

Hughes will be backed by the Rich Kirch Blues Band. A Chicago native, Kirch moved to the Bay Area in 1988 at the invitation of the late, great John Lee Hooker and played with Hooker on tours around the world for 13 years. He and his band have backed Freddie Hughes, Kathi McDonald and many others in recording sessions over the years.

Although Bettie Mae Fikes now lives in Los Angeles, she is well known in Lake County from her regular appearances at the Konocti Blues Café. Born in Selma, Alabama, Fikes was active in the Civil Rights Movement, beginning her singing career with the SNCC Freedom Singers and performing at the 1964 Democratic Party convention in Atlantic City and again at the 40th anniversary convention in 2004.

Fikes has graced the stages of Carnegie Hall, Newport Jazz Festival, the Library of Congress, and numerous blues festivals. She will be backed by a band organized by Nice resident Robert Watson, who played lead guitar with James Brown until Brown’s death last year.

Friday evening belongs to two popular groups that have appeared regularly at the Blue Wing Saloon/Café during its weekly “Monday Blues” sessions. The Lake Blues All-Stars feature guitarist Jim Williams, bass player Jon Hopkins, and Mike Wilhelm, who is featured on guitar and vocals.

Known for his adroit finger picking and bottomless baritone, Wilhelm has a long and varied music history stretching from the Summer of Love in San Francisco to the Blue Wing Blues Festival 40 years later. Friday will conclude with a high-energy set from Twice as Good, featuring the popular father and son duo of Rich and Paul Steward.

The grand finale of the festival on Saturday will feature BluesExpress recording artist Frankie Lee, whose appearance in Lake County is being co-sponsored by ReMax Realty.

From his humble beginnings in rural Texas, Lee moved from gospel music in the Baptist Church to his life-long love affair with the blues. His career took off in the early 1960s when he was invited to join the Ike and Tina Turner Review as a featured vocalist in their traveling road show. Since then, Lee and his band have traveled world-wide and most recently released a popular CD called “Here I Go Again.”

For more information visit the Blue Wing Saloon Web site at www.bluewingsaloon.com, telephone 275-2233.




Guitar legend and Lake County resident Mike Wilhelm and the Blues All-Stars play on Friday. Courtesy photo.




The darker tone that sets in with “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” has much to do with the fact that Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his classmates are facing the choices and challenges of young adulthood.

Without so much as one game of Quidditch, this fifth installment in the series leaves behind the adolescent exuberance and playfulness of the students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which in turn is no longer a sanctuary for those eager to learn the magical arts. Villainy arrives in a form more sinister than that posed by Lord Voldemort, though he hangs like a black cloud over Harry’s every move.

“Harry Potter 5” begins with the end of another long, lonely summer at the Dursley household for Harry Potter as he awaits another year at Hogwarts. In defense against an unprovoked and inexplicable attack by two Dementors, Harry is forced to use his magical powers outside of school and in the presence of a Muggle, namely his obnoxious cousin. For this transgression, Harry is about to be expelled from Hogwarts in a kangaroo court orchestrated by the Minister of Magic.

Fortunately, Headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) intervenes with an impassioned defense, allowing Harry to return to school. However, much of the wizardry community believes that the story of the teenager’s recent encounter with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is an outright lie.

Once back at school and feeling ostracized and alone, Harry is beset by nightmares that seem to foretell sinister events. The return to Hogwarts makes the star student apprehensive and uncomfortable. Even Dumbledore is suddenly acting strangely distant from the confused young wizard. Only his longtime chums, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), stick by him.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Magic, in an effort to keep an eye on Dumbledore and the Hogwarts students like Harry, appoint a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the extremely duplicitous Professor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton).

The arrival of Umbridge signals a new era of unbearable authoritarian rule at Hogwarts. Wearing a Cheshire cat-like grin and constantly pink clothes, the stout professor of Dark Arts is a reliable functionary who would have been at home in a totalitarian regime run by Stalin or Hitler. She’s a fanatic for rules and regulations which she imposes at the slightest whim, and has new edicts posted on the school walls at a speed that almost runs out of space.

The main object of Umbridge's wrath is Harry and she clamps down on him so hard that he becomes more isolated. Meanwhile, her method of instruction is to dispense with any useful teaching of magical arts. Then she begins getting rid of teachers sympathetic to the students, before ultimately confronting Dumbledore to assert complete control over the school.

Since the Umbridge method of teaching the course of defensive magic leaves the young wizards woefully unprepared to defend themselves against the Dark Forces threatening them, Harry organizes an underground rebel band. Meeting in secret and calling themselves Dumbledore’s Army, the students learn from Harry, Hermione and Ron how to fight back against the evil forces, something that will come in handy for the inevitable showdown with Umbridge on campus and the more sinister forces lurking outside the school.

So much of the plot is dominated by the reign of terror imposed by Umbridge that Lord Voldemort is almost an afterthought, though he does appear for a climactic battle scene. Due in part to the looming threat at Hogwarts, the movie allows for the friendship of Harry, Hermione and Ron to blossom with even greater importance for their own survival.

Another milestone is that Harry gets his first kiss, which seems almost quaint considering that Daniel Radcliffe appeared recently on the London stage in Peter Shaffer’s “Equus,” notable for the fact that the young actor was required to be fully disrobed.

As Harry prepares for the battles ahead, he is tutored by his godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who reveals the existence of the secret organization of the Order of the Phoenix. The training that Harry and his pals conduct will prove most helpful when a big confrontation occurs in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic, where they face off with the insidious Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) and his odious henchwoman Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter).

Fans of the books and the previous film installments should see “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” if only because it would seem too irresistible to pass it up. Anyone just now stumbling upon the franchise may not be so impressed, if only because the dark mood may not be terribly enlightening and the plot not so compelling as a stand-alone story.

Still, the presence of Imelda Staunton as the eerie and creepy Dolores Umbridge is a wickedly delicious treat. And speaking of creepy, one should not overlook the wonderful performance of Alan Rickman as the dreaded Professor Snape.

Tim Riley writes film reviews for Lake County News.



I'm a little tired of the phrase “Back In the day.” However, for purposes of retrospective clarity, I'm going to use it one mo' gin.

Back in the day, at the height of their glory, when their stage productions cost somewhere near a million bucks, even the way Earth, Wind & Fire was introduced to the adoring throngs, was hugely melodramatic and mellifluous at the same time. (Yes, that sentence was rather long George, but I'm making a point here):

The stage is almost black. Suddenly, three crescendoing Eastern, metaphysical gongs in succession. Then, an invisible voice, shouting at the top of his lung capacity, "PRESENTING, EARTH, (dramatic pause) WIND AND (decrescendo as voice escapes the mic range) FIRrrie ... "

I was a witness to it at the Oakland Coliseum in the mid-70s. You can still hear it for yourself on the Earth, Wind & Fire, Gratitude album.

We didn't get the levitating introduction from Konocti MC Terry Montgomery, but things did go up from there at EWF's Friday July 6, 2007 set at Konocti Harbor Spa and resort.

The players took their places. The familiar, founding members, Verdine White on bass, Ralph Johnson, percussion & vocals and the "new" master conductor of the EWF auditory experience, Phillip Bailey on lead vocals, percussion and inherited kalimba (African thumb piano) mantle from co-founding leader, Maurice White, who records with the group, but doesn't tour anymore.

The new members are Bobby Burns on trumpet; Larry McKinley, piano; Reggie Young, trombone; Russian born Bobby Z, guitar; Greg Moore, guitar; John Perris, guitar; Gary Byas, sax; Kim Johnson, vocals; David Watworth, vocals and percussion; and Myron Kimble, keyboards and Music Director.

The band's set list was 17 songs:

  1. Boogie Wonderland

  2. Sing A Song

  3. Sun Goddess

  4. Serpentine Fire

  5. Kalimba Story

  6. Evil

  7. You Can't Hide Love

  8. Look Into My Eyes

  9. After The Love Is Gone

  10. Reasons

  11. Love's Holiday

  12. Got To Get You Into My Life

  13. September

  14. Groove Tonight

  15. Get Away

  16. That's The Way Of The World

  17. Devotion


Seventeen songs! Nonstop. No intermission. Phillip Bailey did at one point say, "Welcome to the second half of the show,” without missing a beat.

On his signature tune, Reasons, Bailey's soaring falsetto effortlessly segued into an ad lib scat, reminiscent of Judy Garland's Over The Rainbow. A seamless moment.

I marveled at how the band's tech/road crew seemed to get things done with choreographed precision. When a roadie handed Phillip a second bottle of juice, the hand off was done while Phillip played timbales with one hand.

Did I mention vocalist Kim Johnson? She sang like an angel and looked good doing it.

Trumpeter Bobby Burns smoked through a mean solo on Evil. Likewise saxophonist Gary Byas on Sun Goddess. Vocalist/percussionist David Watworth gave his timbales kit a rigorous martial arts workout with spinning kicks on the cymbals and other licks way to difficult for description. Always on time!

Did I mention Russian bred guitarist Bobby Z? Must be seen to be believed. From Russia with funk!

The set ran about two hours. The near-capacity crowd was on its feet throughout. EWF closed appropriately with their hit Devotion.

Two little tykes came out for the finale. I suspect they were Phillip Bailey's grandchildren. One of them held a play guitar which he wielded expertly as the band hit that last finale note. Then the children were picked up by Mr. Bailey and they waved to the crowd as they exited. As the chorus reads in Devotion:

Blessed are the children.



Thurman Watts writes about music for Lake County News.


Yo Daddy performed Friday night at Library Park. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKEPORT – The Summer Concerts in the Park drew the largest crowd to Library Park so far this season on Friday.

Community members and visitors came out to hear Lake County's own Yo Daddy Friday perform Friday evening.

Warm temperatures and a light breeze made the evening a most enjoyable one.




A huge crowd came out to enjoy great music and beautiful weather on Friday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

KELSEYVILLE The Lake County Community Radio (LCCR) and Clear Lake Performing Arts (CLPA) are combining forces for a joint fundraising guitar concert duo.

The concert takes place at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 23, at the Galilee Lutheran Church in the Rivieras, 8860 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville.

The classical guitar concert features two extremely talented instrumentalists: Bert Lams on steel strings acoustic and trades sets with Chapman Stick player Tom Griesgraber.

Bert Lams’ classical guitar demonstrates his affinity and skill with the music of J. S. Bach. Lams, a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, is also known for his arrangements of classical music for the California Guitar Trio (CGT).

His new arrangements of Bach’s cello suites and violin partitas for solo guitar bring a unique twist to the classical guitar world not only as they are performed on steel string guitar with a pick, but also for being set in what’s known as “new Standard Tuning,” a tuning more closely resembling a cello than a classical guitar.

An honors graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass., Griesgraber is one the world’s most active performers on the Chapman Stick; a unique 12-string guitar and bass hybrid played more like a piano with both hands sounding notes.

Griesgraber is an active composer and arranger for the instrument, and his shows generally include a mix of original material as well as arrangements ranging from Bach to the Beatles. Griesgraber is the son of John and Thomaseen Griesbraber, Buckingham residents who are members of the CLPA.

Andrew Weiss, Station Manager of KPFZ, the new 88.1 community radio station now under construction at 149 N. Main St., Lakeport, and Paul Brewer, CLPA chair, will present background information on KPFZ progress and the Lake County Symphony Orchestra, along with an outline of projects plans over the coming year.

Upon launching the new full-power station, KPFZ is slated to reach all of Lake County and beyond to four other counties from a tower on Mt. Konocti.

Concert tickets are $15 at the door only, and proceeds will help pay expenses for the artists and benefit both the LCCR and the CLPA. CDs of the artists’ music will be sold at the concert.

For further information, please call co-chairs Taira St. John, KPFZ board member, 262-0400, or Hope Brewer, CLPA board Member, 277-0877.



A reasonable question to ask: whatever happened to the brilliantly manic Robin Williams, sharp-tongued with his acerbic wit? The answer won’t be found in his latest film, “License to Wed,” which serves him up as an oddly creepy minister where his comedic talent is based on his unhinged mental state.

The sign of a weak script is that Williams’ Reverend Frank is often reduced to spouting clichéd double-entendres that are meant to be funny, but more often produce a groan-inducing feeling of discomfort at hearing such words emanate from a man of the cloth. It’s bad enough that the minister is an obnoxious character, but he also has an annoying young assistant (Josh Flitter) who is described as a “minister in training.”

In any event, “License to Wed” isn’t all bad, and that has more to do with the objects of Rev. Frank’s hellish boot camp for young couples on the verge of matrimony.

Sadie (Mandy Moore) and Ben (John Krasinski), both of whom seem kind of innocent and even klutzy, meet in cute fashion at a Starbucks, and after a seemingly too-short period of courtship decide to get married. Coming from an upper class background, Sadie nevertheless appears firmly rooted in reality, which is more than you can say for most of her family. Her divorced sister Lindsey (Christine Taylor) is hopelessly bitter, and her dad (Peter Strauss) is a stiff, pompous windbag who likes the sound of his own voice. The others are mostly alcoholics.

The affable Ben has an Everyman quality about him, as he goes about his normal routine of pleasing Sadie and still hanging out with his best buddy (DeRay Davis), who’s eager to offer advice regardless of its merits. Sadly, Ben will be put to a great test when Sadie decides that for family reasons she wants her wedding to take place in the church where Reverend Frank presides.

However, the wedding can’t take place until Ben and Sadie pass the “wedding class” conducted by the deranged reverend. After just one session, Ben should have had the good sense to call the whole thing off or insist on another venue for the nuptials. But then, Sadie’s family is a bit intimidating.

So the heart of this movie, aside from the inept development of any romantic chemistry, is the increasingly strange tasks to be accomplished in order to secure the Reverend Frank seal of approval. The first rule is an insistence on abstinence, which is oddly enforced by Reverend Frank sending his young henchman on a covert mission to plant a bugging device in the apartment Ben and Sadie share.

To measure compatibility, the minister insists that couples engage in full-blown disputes to see how they reconcile their differences. Then to assess parental skills, Ben and Sadie must care for twin robotic babies who throw tantrums and have bodily functions at the most inopportune moments.

It’s creepy enough that Reverend Frank and his minion are voyeurs spying on the most intimate details of a relationship. The ultimate insanity, however, is when Reverend Frank insists that Sadie drive a car in heavy traffic while blindfolded and with Ben giving directions.

At some point, you can’t help but wonder why the lovebirds don’t simply refuse an absurd assignment. Of course, then the filmmakers would be at an even greater loss on how to salvage a few more laughs from a plot line on an inevitable collision course.

Amidst all the physical humor, sex and bodily function jokes, pratfalls, and even humiliating situations, there are some laughs. “License to Wed” may not always be blissful comedy, but there is some humor in the film even though Robin Williams seems on a mission to undermine some of the comedic elements. Perhaps fitting for a movie using some character actors from TV’s “The Office,” the funniest scene goes to the hapless fellow in the marriage class who’s desperate to save a plate of potato skins.

Tim Riley writes film reviews for Lake County News.


Upcoming Calendar

06.19.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
06.22.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
06.22.2024 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Love of the Land Dinner
06.25.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
06.29.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.02.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
Independence Day

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