Wrightwood Mountain Music Festival

Written by on July 26, 2012 in July 26, 2012, Live Reviews - Comments Off on Wrightwood Mountain Music Festival

SoCal High Desert Gets the Blues (And Good!) at “Wrightwood Mountain Music Festival”

Renowned L.A. jazz/blues chanteuse Barbara Morrison (front) came up to the beautiful Wrightwood Mountains and performed a spirited set of originals and classics, while also sitting with the Bernie Pearl Band for a few songs. Kellys Lot and Taryn Donath also played stand-out sets. Wrightwood Mountain Music Festival

(Photo by Doug Deutsch) By Doug Deutsch

I read – a lot, actually – but don’t always get to view my local newspapers on a regular basis.  So – were it not for a certain blues society email newsletter – I might not have found out about the best music event that has taken place for me up in Southern California’s High Desert since I moved here in 2009.      I’m referring to the recent Wrightwood Mountains Music Festival, which featured a terrific blues-intensive lineup headlined by the one and only Barbara Morrison and that also included sets by Bernie Pearl, Taryn Donath, Kellys Lot, and others. The weather that day topped out in the low eighties, and was picture-perfect after dodging an earlier threat of thunderstorms.

The location: Vivian Null Park in Wrightwood, which, to the uninitiated, is a tucked-away little scenic mountain enclave that is also home to the popular Mountain High ski resort. I live about five miles from Wrightwood; my girlfriend and I often go there for a variety of activities ranging from entertainment to relaxing by the lake, and we even camped there once (but we digress :)). Like something straight out of a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover, Wrightwood is Mammoth Mountain without the crass commercialism of Mammoth, and yet located only sixty or so miles from Los Angeles. Whats’ not to like?

Wrightwood Mountain Music Festival

The joint was jumpin’ when boogie-woogie blues pianist  Taryn Donath took the stage. (Photo By Doug Deutsch)

We got there a little late due to my friend coming up from L.A.  getting stuck in traffic (stuff happens), but fortunately caught the tail end of a great set by Kellys Lot, who feature one of the more talented (and classy) front ladies in the blues, Kelly Zirbes. Then came a set by boogie woogie pianist, Taryn Donath, who made the trip all the way from Carlsbad (now that’s a music trooper!). I had handled Taryn’s music publicity back when she was around 13-14 (she’s now in her early twenties). Even back then, she was talented enough to regularly be playing the House of Blues, and aqs I recall, one memorable casino festival with both Buddy Guy and the great John Lee Hooker on the bill.

Having not seen or heard Taryn in about six-seven years, give or take a few, I was anxious to see her development over time…and I wasn’t disappointed, as she performed a tight, rockin’ set from her self-titled CD. She performed until the moniker “The Duo” – just herself on keyboards and vocals, and solid-as-a-rock drummer, Marcus Bashore. For my money, Taryn is as exciting and talented as any young female front person on the scene. Why a record label hasn’t snapped her up yet, is as mystery to me.

Next up was veteran acoustic/electric blues man, Bernie Pearl, who I had last seen when he put on the yearly Big Time Blues Festival with the late Betty Miller in Long Beach (which I also once reviewed for Blues Revue magazine). Bernie is like the Southern California weather – day in, day out, you know what to expect when he plays – which is, an informed, experienced set of traditional down-home blues, backed by an experienced group of veteran blues men. When the evening’s headliner, Ms. Morrison, sat in with Pearl’s band for several spirited numbers, the place really came alive – that is to say, may of the predominantly laid-back locals got off their duffs and did some Blues dancing!

Special thanks and props must go out to Dan Campbell of the Wrightwood Musicians Guild, who, along with his wife, put on this event as a benefit for MS. As it turns out, lucky me – I’ll be able to see live music at least three more times in Wrightwood this Summer, as Campbell presents a “Music In The Pines” bi-weekly series with upcoming shows on July 26, August 9, and August 23. For more info visit www.musicinthepines.com. (Reach Doug Deutsch at: dougdeutschpr@gmail.com).