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Monday, March 1, 2010

BLUES & ARTS - Blues and Art...A History

The Three Music-Art-teers...
Birthing the Blues and Arts Fiesta of San Felipe

[Photo: Andrena Joyce showcasing her art on the Malecon outside of Beachcomber at 2007 Blues & Arts. Photo taken by John Pack]

You would think that an annual event with a shelf life of only four years would have a history that you could easily find. Not so. In San Felipe we have been planning the Blues and Arts Fiesta of 2010 since, well since we finished the last Fiesta.

Each year we hope to surpass the Fiesta's ability to please what we anticipate will be enormous crowds that have followed our advertising campaign like zealots. We believe we have what it takes to make traveling to Baja the panacea for working too hard, losing too much, or living too fast. Whatever you have been in the States you can disguise in our little sleepy town for a weekend. You can drive your car, truck, Harley, Jeep, or bike down the winding path to "freedom".....the glory road of beach, beer, and bands into our stadium where for several hours you can arrange yourself in a portable chair and take life as Jimmy Buffet's disciples would.

Last year, political histories were made. This year, at least for awhile, we want to act as if nothing troubles us. When we arrive at the Blues and Arts Fiesta venue we will pay out some bucks to dive into dust, beer, chili, shrimp, and some music that will tell us we are not the only ones in pain....or in love. Either one.

I wanted to find out why San Felipe chose blues music to define a place that is so full of rich, delicious, Mexican troubadours who line our Malecon and ask for tips for the songs that they play on ancient guitars.  Was this their only spotlight; getting slight applause from restaurant clientele who were really more interested in their Margaritas?

Since I am an historian of art I would also anticipate that I might be able to judge the motives of cultures who must get together now and then for an event. I believe this started happening when beginning man and beginning woman had kids, families, tribes, and land to decipher. Which plot was owned by whom and how to translate dissention into peaceful evolution... that was probably the business of the first get togethers.

Archeologists have unearthed arenas, and playgrounds, and ceremonial areas, so it is not debatable that beginning man and beginning woman had a sense of fun and maybe a sense of humor, too.

So it's Blues Music for San Felipe. Three guitar chords can whip up so much energy that the stadium dust can fly on its own power around here! No matter that the songs can be loud, vague, sexual, or even depressing...you gotta jump up and dance and pay homage to an age old tradition of entertainment. And pay for it. Sound like the makings of a good time...right?
 
The San Felipe Lions Club spent a lot of energy this year selecting successful blues bands that would agree to a small fee and be willing to truck on down here to show us just what this music is all about.

It truly is a great line up of talent! If Blues music is part of your DNA then you will be satisfied to a level of boozy comfort. A never ending movement of stage hands and bands who understand fund raisers will dazzle you into the night.

But...how did the music take up the front seat of a car that was originally for art? In other words, the art historian that I am, uncovered a secret. The Blues and Art Fiesta was initially seeped in canvassed art, and painted effects, shown in a storage facility made up to look like a gallery for one day. I got this truth. But it was not easy.

Rumor has several stories about the Fiesta. B. B King traveled to San Felipe looking to have his guitar repaired by a master that retired down here. He played at Al's Back Street Bar. The locals didn't know who he was. But B.B. saw the potential. "I could play here a long time."  He didn't. But he sent a lot of musician down here to apply "the remedy" to cure their ills. Or was it John Wayne who stayed in what is now the Rockadile Bar but once was a hotel. Didn't he comment on how nice the place was but it could use a little blues music? Or was it Harrison Ford who at Fandango's Bar replied "I'd love to land my plane here more often but hey, enough of this Mexican music. Where are the blues bands?" I'm not sure. Did Carlos Santana play a few songs with Vatos Locos? Or was it the Beach Boys at the Beachcomber? I needed the truth. But the truth would take me to unchartered waters. Turns out that that was exactly where I was heading.

"Who knows the history of the Blues and Arts Fiesta? Who started it? No one talked. Or if they did they would tell you that feelings got hurt and yes, but, now it is no big deal. What?....
So....let's back up a minute here. Dig a little deeper. Oh. OK....I need some names.
A First Annual tee shirt surfaced with a colorful logo....SFBAS...this is the group that started this adventure! SFBAS stood for San Felipe Blues and Arts Society. Now I just needed to find them. Would they talk to me? You bet.

Diane Grubb, one of the classiest characters you would ever want to meet, agreed to talk to me if two other people could be interviewed as well. The other two people turned out to be Rick Rudd and Heather Penrod. Bingo. They were SFBAS. I would meet them for lunch at San Felipe Storage.
  
Diane met Rick when she and a girl friend were "terrorizing" the town and downing a few at Al's Backstreet Bar, a place where they hung out waiting for Diane's house to be completed. While her friend was busy chatting up some bar flies, Diane noticed what she thought was an interesting looking man. It was Rick and Diane took off to get next to him to see what made him tick. Diane was not lonely. Her husband couldn't leave his work in the states. She volunteered to stay in San Felipe!  This was no pick up Diane explains but a nice conversation with this man revealed that he was a musician and an artist. Really? And would she like to see his etchings, I mean his work? Well, yes she would. Rick realized then that Diane would eventually earn the name "the crazy broad".

Diane knew what good art was. Since 1982 she had organized art shows and festivals in the States. Rick's paintings proved to her that he was a "real" artist and one that should be seen.
Rick Rudd, at that time, was a self-described "lone wolf". In 1991 he got laid off from his job, panicked, and with no wife, no debts, and no problems, decided Mexico looked good. To subsidize his income he played summers in Reno with his band. His love of art continued as he painted his way through blissful days in San Felipe. It was music and art all the time for him, no matter what country he was in.

Nine years earlier Heather Penrod was honing her skills as a music promoter in Reno at a roadhouse bar. She would schedule and broker musicians and bands to perform in the area. Heather was on the board of the Reno Blues Society and was responsible for creating a blues band directory with photos and bios of the bands for referencing and booking bands. She would meet Rick and, and after fifteen years of friendship, agreed to go down to Mexico for a visit. They have lived together here for three years now.

This is the pack. The Three Music-Art-teers. The first art show was in San Felipe Storage Facility owned by the Grubbs. Rick thought a little music would be nice while people were looking at the art. No problem. He had friends that could play. Diane was making fast friends with some of the local artists like Rosario. They were interested in exhibiting.

For the next three years this group of three would prevail turning a simple idea into a future fundraising giant.  A two day event, billed as the First Annual Blues and Arts Fiesta on March 31 and April 1st, 2007 was the result of their need to expand. It was held at the Beachcomber Courtyard and was sponsored, in part, by the Shriners. Money would be donated to the children of San Felipe. The musicians featured were 3rd Generation, Vatos Locos, Full Moon Blues Band, Michele Lundeen and Blues Streak.

Heather had the ability to bring these bands together with little or no money. The day of the show the sound man failed to show up. Arturo and Tavo came to their rescue.

Of course there were others who helped, and things pulled together as they usually do when you want to bring a community together.

Dianne, Rick and Heather wanted to showcase the marvelous art talent that was hidden in the living spaces of local artists, of which there are many. They wanted Mexican and Americans to come together for an event.

In 2008, The Lions Club of San Felipe, along with the help of Mexico Living began producing The Blues and Arts Fiesta. As this concept, this dream, continues to grow, I think that there could be better ways for our diverse cultures to connect through music......maybe with an attempt to embrace the music of the Mexican people.....at least for a set or two.
 
So....Diane, Rick and Heather.....here's to you. We are grateful for your original enthusiasm and ideas. You birthed the Blues and Arts in our town! Let this history go on record.
Thanks!