Tuesday, 16 April 2024

CyberSoulMan: West Fest (What a trip)

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Howard Scott of the Original Lowrider Band with actor Danny Glover at West Fest on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009, in San Francisco. Photo by T. Watts.

 

 

Some of you may have noticed that I produce a radio show entitled “In The Free Zone” on Lake County Community Radio’s KPFZ 88.1 FM. The emphasis is on music with heavy doses of Gospel, R&B, funk, jazz, blues and occasional sprinklings of rock & roll as well as reggae.


As a music journalist I also have interviewed a number of prominent artists from those genres for our listenership and radio wave archives which, I’m told, extend into eternity. My earthly remuneration pales in comparison. Well said, if I do say so myself.


My co-host D.J. Stearn and I do a weekly music calendar which entails music events locally and beyond. We are plugged into a diverse informational network of musicians and others affiliated with the music.


About two months ago, some information came to the KPFZ studio that foretold the 40th anniversary celebration of the Mother of all Rock Festivals, Woodstock. The celebration, dubbed “West Fest,” was to be held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on Oct. 25. It was expected to attract upwards of 100,000 ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, cats and kitties, hippies and squares, yeah!


The list of performers and speakers was a large one. It included Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Starship, Country Joe McDonald, Cynthia Robinson of the Family Stone, David and Linda La Flamme of It’s A Beautiful Day, David Denny of the Steve Miller Band, Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers, Jerry Harrison from the Talking Heads, the Nick Gravenites Band, Sons of Champlin, Ray Manzarek of the Doors, the original cast of “Hair,” the new Edwin Hawkins Singers, El Chicano, Narada Michael Walden and my friends the Original Lowrider Band. Those were some of the musicians and bands represented.


There were also to be speakers from different spiritual paths – a Native American blessing from Gentlehawk and Blue Thunder, as well as Yogi Raj Siddhanath. David Hilliard spoke on behalf of the Black Panther Party. Ben Fong-Torres of Rolling Stone Magazine was there along with many, many more acts and speakers.


Many of the music programmers at KPFZ announced the event. Since it was a free event, I gave deep consideration to attending. When the original Woodstock happened I was on the wrong coast and though I almost attended Altamont, thankfully I didn’t (RIP Meredith Hunter).


I had already decided to go and cover the event when I got a call from Howard Scott about a week before Oct. 25. Howard Scott is the guitarist for the Original Lowrider Band, four of whose members were founding members of the multi-platinum selling Southern California Latin funk band known as War. I have written in a prior column about why they no longer use the name. An additional famous link to their legacy is the fact that Jimi Hendrix sat in with them the last two nights of his life.


Howard wanted to know if I was coming to West Fest as he insisted he had my name on the guest list.


I resisted his lure. “Howard, it’s a free event. I don’t need to be on a list.”


“You do if you want to be backstage,” he countered.


That sealed the deal. I hadn’t thought of that …


On Saturday night, Oct. 24, I interviewed Howard Scott In The Free Zone. We purposely by prior discussion didn’t mention that I would be covering the event for Lake County News.


One of the main attractions of the event was the attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records record for the largest number of guitarists assembled to play at once. The plan was for 3,000 guitarists in Golden Gate Park to play the Jimi Hendrix song “Purple Haze,” at the same time another 1,000 were playing in London. That was scheduled for 10 a.m. just a tad too early for your CyberSoulMan reporter from Lake County.

 

 

 

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Lowrider Band members Howard Scott, Lee Oskar and Lance Ellis at West Fest on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009, in San Francisco. Photo by T. Watts.
 

 

 


As it was, I left Lake County at about that time. My plan was to drive to the North Berkeley Bart Station and take public transportation to Golden Gate Park. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden Bart and was shell shocked that the round trip fare from Berkeley to Montgomery Station was now $7. The bus ride from downtown San Francisco to Golden Gate Park was $2 – not too bad – considering you get a transfer that I believe is good for the return trip if you use it before it expires.


I boarded the Bart train at about 2 p.m. and had to transfer at Macarthur Station as there is no direct San Francisco service on Sunday. Long story short, I arrived at Golden Gate Park at about 3:30 p.m. The Lowrider Band was scheduled to play at 4:20 p.m.


Somehow, I skirted the periphery of the huge (between 80,000 and 100,000) crowd to the closest stage entrance, which of course was the wrong one. I finally got to the correct one and I suppose the determination and presentation I showed the security guard was good enough. He waved me through without checking my ID or credentials.


It was intense, good-natured high energy that permeated the crowd. Oh, sure, there was evidence of all the trappings of 1960s psychedelia. Plenty of patchouli essence, clouds of ganja smoke, tie dye, face painting and other forms of body art, vendors and artisans selling all sorts of God knows what. Every earthly nation seemed to be represented and seemingly realms beyond also. There were giant leprechauns, tiny gypsies, motorcyclists of all sizes and gender, and occasional fairies and pixies.


When I finally made it to the Lowrider Band’s tent, I had enough time to drink a bottle of water and banter with Lee Oskar, B.B. Dickerson, Howard Scott and Harold Brown.


Harold Brown is the drummer. He is a history buff and always enjoys talking African history. He had a Franz Fanon tomb in his knapsack. We actually had time to discuss Fanon, J.A. Rogers, Aesop and Shaka Zulu in the 10 minutes we had before we bum rushed the stage. I say “we” because I went on stage with them and shot some cool video.


Meanwhile, as Harold and I talked, saxophonist Lance Ellis was running scales like they were going out of style. B.B. Dickerson was getting his eat on. Lee Oskar wasn’t. I learned the last time I was backstage with them that Lee never eats before the gig. And you best not mess with him after the gig until he has satisfied that hunger.


The “newer” members of the Lowrider Band – Lance Ellis, Chuk Barber and Keith Vinet – all hail from the Crescent City, New Orleans, and add a cool gumbo mix to the patented War/Lowrider sound.


Howard Scott walked coolly around the tent like an expectant dad in a waiting room. When the band got the call, we all moved out like a military unit. The band’s sound man, Andre, delicately carried Lee Oskar’s assortment of harmonicas and sound gear to the stage. As the prior band exited the stage Andre went to work like a mad scientist plugging folks in. Fernando, who is kind of like a road manager, handling CD and t-shirt sales for the band, was helping Andre along with Fernando’s son. I joined in and helped where I could.


The band was only allotted 15 minutes in their slot. There were so many acts and speakers that everyone’s time was limited.


From the stage-eye view there were people for as far as the eye could see. The energy was incredible. Andre had had a heated exchange with the West Fest stage crew for slighting Chuk Barber’s percussion tools. No anger, just high energy taking care of business.


The band ran through a dynamic set of familiar hits – “Cisco Kid,” “Lowrider,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends.” The crowd was grooving. Of course the 15 minutes went too quickly. They had to cut it short. Then it was break everything down and get the hell offstage for the next act. We got everything off in less than 10 minutes. I carried B.B.’s bass off stage.


The guys then milled around their performer’s tent and signed autographs. Danny Glover the actor came over as did Cynthia Robinson. Plenty of accolades. After about an hour, I was privileged to ride back to the hotel with the band and crew. I hung out with Chuk and some family members awhile at the hotel. Eventually, I bade the brother’s goodbye and headed back to Lake County for a 7 a.m. radio call. I think the adrenalin carried me all the way home.


By the way, the guitar record wasn’t broken for the Guinness Book Of World Records. It was too early. Any guitar player who is up before 10 a.m. is in the wrong line of work.


Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


*****


RIP: On Friday afternoon, Oct. 30, our beloved friend, Norton Buffalo, passed away.


This very talented, sharp minded, loving person is already talking up a whirlwind of ideas in the next world, I am sure.


A benefit concert for Norton Buffalo to be held on Sunday, Nov. 22, in Paradise at the Performing Arts Center. The concert will feature Roy Rogers and Delta Rhythm Kings, Tom Rigney and Flambeau,

and more.


Tickets are $40. Doors open at 5 p.m., the show starts at 6:30 p.m. Call 877-397-3363, between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Mail checks for tickets to Bill Anderson, 6848 U, Skyway, Paradise CA 95969. Tickets are selling well!


If you are unable to make the concert, donations for medical bills may be made out to Lisa Flores or Norton Buffalo, 5905 D Clark Road, Paradise CA 95969.


The benefit concert will be quite an emotional affair.


Send thoughts and remembrances to Norton's wife Lisa Flores, 5905 D Clark Road, Paradise CA 95969.


*****


Upcoming cool events:


Monday, Nov. 2


Blues Monday at the Blue Wing featuring the Fargo Brothers with Mike Adams and Larry “Mojo” Platz. 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233 or www.bluewingsaloon.com .


Sunday, Nov. 8


Sunday brunch at the Blue Wing Saloon & Café from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mike Wilhelm performs on guitar with vocalist Neon from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233 or www.bluewingsaloon.com .


Friday, Nov. 27, and Saturday, Nov. 28


Fifteenth annual Holiday Jazz Festival at Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino. The festival kicks off on Nov. 27 with the top-selling American jazz artist, trumpeter Chris Botti, who boasts four No. 1 jazz albums, as well as multiple gold and platinum albums and Grammy Awards. He has performed and recorded with artists such as Sting, Josh Groban, Paul Simon, John Mayer, Andrea Boccelli and Jill Scott. Nov. 28 features funky horn man Boney James. A saxophonist, producer and songwriter, James' success with contemporary jazz and R&B have made him one of the most respected and best-selling instrumental artists of our time. Doors open each evening at 7 p.m. with live entertainment beginning at 8 p.m. For tickets call Omega Events Box Office at 949-360-7800 or visit www.omegaevents.com.


T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at www.teewatts.biz.

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