It might still officially be spring, but the summer fest season has arrived and it's time to slather on the sunscreen and get ready for dancing in the streets. We offer you a look at the best music festivals, local and in greater Northern California, starting with one coming up this weekend.
The Fourth Humboldt Arts Festival. A celebration of local music and the arts on graduation weekend in downtown Arcata. After taking some time off, the festival is back in a new home, the Arcata Creamery District. Visual arts, dancing and music will fill the Arcata Playhouse, Redwood Raks and the surrounding streets with 40-plus local bands and dance troupes. (See this week's calendar for details). Hard to believe, but it's all free. May 17 and 18, the Arcata Creamery District, Eighth and L streets. www.humboldtartsproject.com
The 38th Annual Summer Arts and Music Festival. The Mateel people offer what they describe as "the most comprehensive celebration of art and music on the North Coast" spread over two days. The headliners: Pimps of Joytime, The Brothers Comatose, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Afrolicious, our own Motherlode with special guests DJ Logic and Bill Summers, and psychedelic folk queen Joanne Rand. Local bands and dance troupes keep the action constant. Saturday, May 31 and Sunday, June 1, Benbow Lake Recreation Area south of Garberville on US 101. www.mateel.org.
The Kiwanis 37th Annual Redwood Run. The party for bikers and their friends includes motorcycle games, a mechanical bull, a wet T-shirt contest and "unofficial titty alley" (editor's note: slow eye roll) as well as rock, blues and country, like Marshall Tucker Band, Puddle of Mudd, Moonshine Bandits and, as always, biker faves The Fryed Brothers. Friday, June 13 to Sunday, June 15, Riverview Ranch, Piercy. www.kiwanisrwr.com.
The 24th Annual Arcata Bay Oyster Festival. Bivalves are front and center, but the all-local music lineup touches all the bases including Bayou Swamis, Striped Pig Stringband, the Jim Lahman Band, Motherlode (working the fest circuit this summer) and Best Kept Secret with the ad hoc All Star Rockoystra, whose members are supposedly secret. Saturday, June 14, Arcata Plaza. oysterfestival.net.
The 36th Annual Humboldt Folklife Festival. Shift gears for Dell'Arte's sprawling three-week Mad River Festival and its full week of folky local music, with a kickoff at Mad River Brewery, Americana music for Sunday's Annie and Mary Day, a songwriters' night, a jazz night and a pair of country nights — first "old fashioned" and then "outlaw." There's a barn dance in Arcata on Friday, July 18, leading to Saturday's wrap-up, the All Day Folklife Free Festival with dozens of musicians, bands, dancing, workshops and more, all around Dell'Arte. Saturday, July 12 to Saturday, July 19, Blue Lake and Arcata. www.humboldtfolklife.org.
Northern Nights Music Festival 2.0. Back for year two, the organic dance music festival on the Eel has an all-star line-up including the amazing Beats Antique, Giraffage, The Floozies, Viceroy, EPROM, Fort Know Five and tons of local DJs and producers. Friday, July 18 to Sunday, July 20, Cooks Valley Campground, Piercy. www.northernnights.org.
The Second Annual Blue Lake Music Festival. This one's about the music, morning to night, and puts an emphasis on tributes with The Miracle Show (Grateful Dead), Silver Hammer (Beatles), Jimi Jeff and the Gypsy Band (Hendrix), as well as Motherlode (who know a James Brown tune if required) and half a dozen other acts. Saturday, July 26, Perigot Park in Blue Lake. www.bluelakemusicfest.com.
The 30th Annual Reggae on the River. This is a really, really big one, with the Mateel once again at French's Camp and taking it back to the roots in more ways than one. Among the classics: Jimmy Cliff, Alpha Blondy, Third World, Israel Vibration, Michael Rose, Sly & Robbie with The Taxi Gang and Mutabaruka, neo-classics like Gentleman, Iration and Gyptian, and homegrown favs including Ishi Dube, Winstrong, Thicker Than Thieves and Jade Steel. An irie time is guaranteed. Thursday, July 31 to Sunday, Aug. 3, French's Camp, just south of Richardson's Grove State Park. www.mateel.org.
The 14th Annual Buddy Brown Blues Festival. This year, the Mad River Fest ends with a weekend full of blues with bands at the Logger Bar, Mad River Brewery and Blue Lake Casino, all centered around the multi-band Buddy Brown fest at Perigot Park. Friday, Aug. 1 to Sunday, Aug. 3, all over Blue Lake. www.humboldtfolklife.org. (Yes, same time as Reggae on the River.)
Humboldt Bay Full of Blues? When the Redwood Coast Music Festival board dropped Blues by the Bay last year, dedicated fans started plans for another blues fest Labor Day weekend and reserved Halvorsen Park. At this point they need to gather likeminded blues fans and land some major sponsors to make it happen. Tentatively Saturday, Aug. 30 and Sunday, Aug. 31. Details on Facebook or at glennmaxon.com
The 41st Annual North Country Fair. The Same Old People are hard at work on organizing a wide array of music, arts and crafts for the weekend around autumnal equinox in Arcata. Figure on Samba da Alegria's parade Saturday, the All Species Parade on Sunday — both at 1 p.m. — with local music and dance on three stages both days. Sept. 20 and 21 on the Arcata Plaza. www.sameoldpeople.org.
Music festivals seem to be popping up everywhere you look. With musicians having a tough time in the recording business and touring costs up, playing the big multi-band shows are one the few ways bands still make money. Here are a few of the best fests within a days' drive from Humboldt.
The Second BottleRock Napa Valley. This music-fest-meets-wine-and-food-expo somehow made through the first year. The insanely eclectic lineup brings together 60 acts on four stages with headliners Outkast, The Cure, Weezer, Heart, Deerhunter, De la Soul, Cracker, Blues Traveler, Matisyahu and Mayer Hawthorne. Friday, May 30 through Sunday, June 1, Napa Expo, downtown Napa. www.bottlerocknapavalley.com.
The 21st Annual Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. It moved from the Sierras years ago, and it's more reggae than "world" music, but it always has a stellar lineup. Jamaican stars like Shaggy, Barrington Levy, Horace Andy, Mykal Rose and Tarrus Riley top the bill with Rebelution out of SoCal, while Fela's son Seun Kuti is about as worldly as you get. Friday, June 20 to Sunday, June 22, Mendocino County Fairgrounds, Boonville. www.snwmf.com.
The 19th Annual Kate Wolf Music Festival. It started as a memorial to folk icon Kate Wolf, but expanded the take on folk. Joan Baez is a headliner, along with Indigo Girls, and Tom Paxton plays all weekend. But the lineup also includes Darleen Love, Jackie Greene, Garth Hudson from The Band, Playing For Change Band with Los Lobos and BeauSoleil spinning things in other directions. Friday, June 27 to Sunday, June 29, at Black Oak Ranch, north of Laytonville. www.katewolfmusicfestival.com.
The 24th Annual High Sierra Music Festival. Formerly focused on jambands, the Independence Day weekend fest now includes the best of bluegrass, jazz and EDM. Top of the bill includes Widespread Panic, STS9, Beats Antique, The Del McCoury Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Bill Frisell, Stanley Jordan Trio, Bombino and The Mother Hips. Thursday, July 3 to Sunday, July 6, Plumas Sierra County Fairgrounds, Quincy. www.highsierramusic.com.
The Seventh Annual Outside Lands. This outside mega-party in SF's Golden Gate Park demonstrates the power of giant stars with Kanye West, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and The Killers for starters, but let's stop right there. Even though the show's not until August, tickets sold out in April. Wow. Good luck with those scalpers. Friday Aug. 8 to Sunday, Aug. 10, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. www.sfoutsidelands.com.