The California World Music Festival is about much more than music
At the California World Music Festival last weekend in Grass Valley, high points were where you found them, and you could find them everywhere, even when you weren’t looking.
This was a festival, after all, spread out of several acres of forest and meadowland and where music was being played on as many as three stages at a time—not to mention all the other events going on, from crafts and kids’ activities to giant puppetry, tai chi, yoga, and Caribbean and folk dance workshops. And it lasted three full days, Friday through Sunday.
The quality of a festival like this one is in the details, and Dan DeWayne and Christine Myers, who put it on, think of everything. The Chico-based owners of Maple Creek Presents have been doing festivals for many years (they founded the famous Strawberry Music Festival and produce the Chico World Music Festival), and they’re really good at it. The food was diverse (everything from Indian and Afro-Caribbean to pizza and barbecue), inexpensive, tasty and nutritious. There was good beer and coffee and homemade ice cream for dessert. Artisans offered colorful wares. There were all kinds of activities for the kids. And the festival site, the Nevada County Fairgrounds, look more like a mountain park than, well, a fairgrounds.
Then there was the music. By day it filled three stages simultaneously, and in the evening it centered on adjacent stages in the big meadow. Some of the groups were known quantities for new-folk lovers—ace mandolinist Sam Bush, for example, who tore up the place Saturday night, and such circuit regulars as scorching Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser, the Afro-pop group Kotoja and Windham Hill guitarist Alex DeGrassi.
Just as fun, however, was discovering the surprises among the unfamiliar groups. The Ennis Sisters, three young beauties from Newfoundland (my wife’s home province in Canada, which added to the attraction for us), charmed the audience with their harmonies and humor. And the pop-rock Australian grrl-group Fruit blew the place away Saturday afternoon with its fierce playing and intelligent songs. Friday evening, Mali musician Boubacar Troaoré brought an African dimension to the blues form with his soulful singing and skillful guitar work—I just wish I’d known what the words meant.
All in all, a wonderful weekend.