Spring music festivals abound in Los Angeles from folk music to indie, jazz, and reggae. Some have been going on for 50 years or more. The Coachella Festival and the Stagecoach Festival are the obvious big festivals to attend in Southern California, but here are some less obvious choices for less money and closer to home. Kid-friendly festivals are marked by two asterisks. **
Playboy Jazz Festival, Saturday and Sunday June 16-17, 3-11 pm.
Technically it’s still Spring until June 21st, so this festival is on the list. This year’s lineup includes Bill Cosby as Master of Ceremonies, Robin Thicke, Sheila E., Ozomatli, Kep Mo, Chico Trujillo, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and some local high school jazz bands. The festival has been around since 1959 and often features great music. Tickets start at $20 with steep handling fees. More expensive tickets are certainly available. The festival takes places at the Hollywood Bowl which often has shuttle service from remote areas and public transportation access. For more information, please check www.ThePlayboyJazzFestival.com. It’s not necessarily kid-friendly, but you can repent at church in the morning since the festival doesn’t start until 3pm.
Make Music Pasadena. Saturday, June 16 11am-11pm.
This free festival consists of stages around the city of Pasadena. A section of Colorado Blvd. in downtown Pasadena is closed off. Large stages appear on the street and makeshift stages in rooftop cafes. There is everything at this festival from leading Indie rock acts who also appear at The Coachella Festival to classical music. Past mainstage performers have included Kinky, Nortec Collective, Matt & Kim, Ra Ra Riot, Best Coast, New Villager, The Morning Benders, and Saint Motel. Parking near the venues varies in price. Street parking is available if you don’t mind hoofing it. This year’s lineup has not been announced on www.MakeMusicPasadena.com at press time. Check there for updates.
Jazz Reggae Festival. Sunday and Monday May 27-28.
The festival takes place at UCLA during Memorial Day Weekend on the UCLA Intramural Field. Directional signs are sure to be placed all around the campus. UCLA has generous amounts of parking for $10. Street parking is available if you don’t mind a slightly longer walk. The lineup this year includes The Roots, Bobby Womack, Shaggy, Don Carlons, and Collie Buddz. Past lineups have included a wide variety of artists from the hip-hop of Lupe Fiasco, Q-Tip, and De La Soul to reggae superstars Steel Pulse. A list includes locals like Poncho Sanchez, Rebelution, UCLA Jazz ensembles and quartets, and The Dirty Heads. They’ve had Raphal Saddiq, Nas & Damian Marley(Distant Relatives), too. More artists will be announced in the near future. The website includes a list of bus lines which stop in and around Westwood Village or the UCLA campus. If you are coming from out of town, there are hotels in the nearby area. The days are distinct with Jam Day on Sunday and Reggae Day on Monday. Ticketing information and more are available at www.JazzReggaeFest.com.
**Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival. May 26-27 10:30-8 pm Saturday and Sunday
Angelenos and those in the surrounding areas celebrate all kinds of music. Those who are truly into Cajun, Creole, Zydeco, and Blues know about this fun festival even if you didn’t. These are also Grammy Award categories that took a huge hit with several categories being stripped out of even getting a pre-telecast award. Ignore that for the day and get your Southern-hearted self to see the likes of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Candye Kane with Laura Chavez, Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble, The Bayou Brothers, The Mighty Mojo Prophets, Billy Lee & The Swamp Critters, and a band called Gator Beat. There are two stages, the Blues Stage and the Cajun-Zydeco Stage. There will also be a Muddy Waters Tribute. The other stars at this festival are the various food vendors who will sell Cajun-Creole food made in their soul kitchens. For fun there is a Mardi Gras parade daily. The festival is kid-friendly with special activities for them such as specialty acts, talent shows, and crafts. They even get their own Kids Stage. The festival website includes directions to Santa Susanna Park in Simi Valley. There are several hotels in the area where out-of-towners can stay. Visit www.simicajun.org for more information.
**Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival. Sunday, May 20 9-6pm.
With tickets going for a scant 11 dollars for adults, it’s amazing that the festival is in it’s 52nd year in Southern California. There are contests, performances, and clinics galore. It’s a kid-friendly festival in that children under 10 are free and you won’t have to worry about what they’re listening to. They also have crafts and contests for the kids. Contestants on banjo or fiddle, and singers perform in between professional acts. Sing-alongs, Hawaiian song workshops, and folk dancing mean there is always something to do. In addition to the music, there are many vendors with folk crafts available for purchase. For more information visit www.TopangaBanjoFiddle.org.