Festival Review: Blue Water runs deep at Sawdust

Reggae hall of fame dedication among the highlights as musicians — sometimes battling the clock — packed Laguna stages.

April 03, 2014|By Don Leach
  • Local guitarist and performer Ken Garcia brought his Latin groove to the main stage during the 2014 Blue Water Music Festival at the Sawdust on Sunday.
Local guitarist and performer Ken Garcia brought his… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

The Blue Water Music Festival, hosted by Rick Conkey and his nonprofit Blue Water Green Earth, returned to Laguna Beach last weekend at the Sawdust Art Festival grounds under the shade of the tall eucalyptus grove. The two-day event featured a variety of acts in several musical genres playing an even wider variety of instruments.

As with all music festivals, there were the expected headliners, but it was the discoveries on the outer stages that made it so fun. The acts given the tiny tavern stage were small in space but big on talent Saturday. It seemed to be where most of the fun was. Despite the cramped quarters, many of the bands found ways to scrunch it all in. The artists got creative with stage layout.

On Saturday, the Adam Lasher Band was the first one I glimpsed. Lasher is familiar playing in Laguna venues, but I'd never seen him before. He easily mixed his soulful voice with his amplified acoustic guitar on each song, accompanied by a bandmate who played a wooden box, tambourine and shaker simultaneously, keeping an easy rhythm with hands and feet. With his emotional commitment to each song and chops to back it up, it's easy to see why Lasher is in demand.


As I'm partial to '50s rock 'n' roll styles, one of my favorite bands of the day was Moonshine. With pinup-girl good looks and a vintage mic, singer Celena Delpizzo-Howell garners the attention with her sassy vocals, but it was her brother Dylan who impressed on guitar. He brings to mind something between Elvis' first guitarist, Scotty Moore, and Brian Setzer's guitar on "Stray Cat Strut" thrown in a jazz jar.

Without much expression or movement, Dylan kept a steady train shuffle between him and the drum kit, driving the beat forward. The song "Cold as Stone" was a highlight, as was a solid cover of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."

I caught up with Jeff Crosby and the Refugees on the big blue stage. Crosby commented on how beautiful the Sawdust grounds were — this coming from a guy from a small country town in Idaho. The singer-songwriter seemed to be just hitting his stride after opening on a solid blues-rock solo. He announced after that he had only one song left. This seemed to happen to a few artists throughout the day — too tight a schedule and having to cut sets short.

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