The 25th annual Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival will rock once again at Memorial Day weekend, May 24-25, at Rancho Santa Susanna Community Park, 5005 Los Angeles Ave., in Simi Valley. The event features two full stages for each of its musical genres. Music will proceed non-stop each day from 12 noon until 7:30 p.m. Tickets, $22 adults 13+ ($20 online until May 1) and $15 children 7-12, are available online or at the gate. Parking is ample and free. Fast-moving California Hwy. 118 (Ronald Reagan Freeway) can be taken to the Stearns Street exit; the festival is four blocks south.
The blues stage presents its strongest bill ever featuring Robert Randolph
, the American funk and soul ensemble led by pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph
; Los Angeles-based Southern soul and blues legend Swamp Dogg
; British blues patriarch John Mayall
; blues revival pioneers Canned Heat
; Texas-born bluesman Guitar Shorty
; and Blues Music Award-winning singer and guitarist Tommy Castro
. The blues stage will also feature Flattop Tom & His Jump Cats
, Nancy & the Nightcrawlers
, Dennis Jones
and Andy Walo
Meanwhile, on the Cajun-Zydeco stage, Grammy® Lifetime Achievement recipient C.J. Cheneir
brings the Red Hot Louisiana Band
, assembled by his father, Zydeco king Clifton Chenier
. Veteran Zydeco accordionist Nathan Williams Sr.
will appear, as will Nathan Williams Jr. & His Zydeco Big Timers
. Dwayne Dopsie
, hailing from one of the top Zydeco families in the world, will front the The Zydeco Hellraisers
presents their indie-rock-influenced Cajun music. Southern California’s own Lisa Haley
, a popular attraction at the festival for many years, will return, as will Andre Thierry
and the Bayou Brothers
The annual Mardi Gras Parade will take place both days at 4 p.m.
About the performers:
Robert Randolph & the Family Band first gained national attention with the release of the album Live at the Wetlands
in 2002. The group followed with three studio recordings over the next eight years — Unclassified, Colorblind
, and We Walk This Road
— which, together with tireless touring and unforgettable performances at such festivals as Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, won them an expanding and passionate fan base. Randolph’s unprecedented prowess on his instrument garnered him a spot on Rolling Stone
’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list, and also attracted the attention of such giants as Eric Clapton
and Carlos Santana
, who have collaborated with him on stage and in the studio. His new album on Blue Note Records is Lickety Split
Raunchy, satirical, political, and profane, Swamp Dogg is one of the great cult figures of 20th century American music. The nom du disque of Jerry Williams Jr., an R&B producer and songwriter of the ’60s, Swamp Dogg creates pure Southern soul music anchored on tight grooves and accentuated by horns. His songs are as much about message as music. His albums Total Destruction of the Mind
and I’m Not Selling Out, I’m Buying In
, both reissued last year, are cult classics. Swamp boasts gold and platinum records for both soul and country covers of his composition “She’s All I Got.” The Northridge resident’s 12-minute live rendition of the Bee Gees
’ “Got To Get a Message to You” is not to be missed. A new album is due in the summer 2014.
John Mayall was born in 1933 and grew up near Manchester, England. It was there as a teenager that he first became attracted to the jazz and blues 78s in his father’s record collection. After an early career in design, Mayall assembled The Bluesbreakers
which featured such giants of British music as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce
, Peter Green
, John McVie
and Mick Taylor
. In 1969 he moved to L.A.’s Laurel Canyon, long a mecca for musicians, where his now U.S.-based Bluebreakers featured Coco Montoya
, Walter Trout
and Buddy Whittington
. Now living short miles from Simi Valley, he continues to record and tour the globe.
C.J. Chenier was born 1957, the son of the great King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier. C.J.’s father was the first Creole musician to win a Grammy Award. C.J. spent his childhood in the tough tenement housing projects of Port Arthur, Texas. When Clifton died in 1987, C.J. adopted the Red Hot Louisiana Band and recorded his debut album for Arhoolie Records with later recordings on Slash and Alligator Records. His 1995 appearances on the The Daily Show
and CNN brought Zydeco music to its widest audiences yet. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
Canned Heat rose to fame because their knowledge and love of blues music was both wide and deep. Founded in 1966 by blues historians and record collectors Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite, the band drew on an encyclopedic knowledge of all phases of the genre and attained two worldwide hits, “On the Road Again” in 1968 and “Going Up the Country” in 1969. Despite the untimely deaths of three of its founding members, Canned Heat has survived under the leadership of Fito de la Parra
since the late ’70s.
Guitar Shorty, a.k.a. David Kearney, was born in Houston in 1939, raised in Kissimee, Fla., and now makes his home in Los Angeles. Over the years he’s played behind T-Bone Walker
, Willie Dixon
, Guitar Slim
, Big Joe Turner
, Little Richard
, Sam Cooke
and fellow Simi Valley Festival performer Swamp Dogg. His recent albums on Evidence and Alligator albums attest to the high energy level of this survivor of blues’ classic era.
Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers were rated one of the “Top 100 Reasons to Visit Louisiana.” The last of eight children, Dwayne attributes his musical abilities to the influence of his father, Rockin’ Dopsie Sr., a pioneer of Zydeco music.
Feufollet: In Feufollet’s repertoire, deathbed ballads meet glockenspiels and omnichords, Cajun French choruses are written on iPhones, and indie-rock vibes invade Acadian archives. The Louisiana-based band is deeply rooted in the francophone soil of Louisiana and pushing boldly into unexplored yet utterly natural varieties of Cajun experience. They are famous for their renditions of heartbreaking songs and rollicking tunes.
Lisa Haley & the Zydecats: Haley is a fourth-generation fiddler whose maternal family were Irish immigrants, arriving in Roddy Bayou, Louisiana in 1718 to escape a smallpox epidemic. They moved near Hollywood for her mother’s health, where Mickey Mouse Show producer Bob Holoboff offered to make Lisa a Mousekateer. Her parents politely declined, thinking it no life for a young lady. They said the same of Cajun music as a career. Lisa turned down a classical music college scholarship, favoring her more passionate calling: exploring the potential of Cajun and Zydeco potential as a “world music.”
The Blues Stage welcomes a new booker this year, Martin Fleischmann and his company, Rum & Humble. For more than 20 years Rum & Humble has played a key role in presenting some of the world’s most celebrated musical talent (Radiohead
, Manu Chao
, and the Rolling Stones
, to name a few) to Los Angeles audiences, in venues ranging from the Echoplex to the Orpheum Theatre to the Hollywood Bowl. The company has co-produced the Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Concert Series since 2011. In addition, Rum & Humble has collaborated closely and creatively with artists such as Jackson Browne
and Paul Oakenfold
as well as with a varied roster of corporate and non-profit clients ranging from KJAZZ Radio to the Conga Room nightclub to the National Geographic Society.
The festival has received national press accolades: “Everywhere you turned, there was something exciting happening. Put this on your 2013 festival calendar,” wrote Blue Revue
editor Art Tipaldi, who made the trek from New England. The Blues Blast writer enthused, “I attend many venues and festivals throughout the year but the ones that seem to impress me the most are the ones that serve the community in some way. I highly recommend you put this on your calendar for next Memorial Day weekend.” And the music industry trade journal HITS added, “As the last strains of (Candye) Kane’s set rang in our ears, we left the grounds fully sated by music, food, drink and, as the saying goes, bon temps.”
This family-friendly event boasts a huge kids’ area with bouncers, rock walls, specialty acts, crafts and talent shows.
The festival boasts dozens of food booths featuring a variety of fare: authentic Cajun creations and Southern BBQ as well as multi-cultural cuisine. More than 100 craft booths and retailers will be scattered throughout the festival grounds.