Saturday, August 24th, Noon to Six, on First Street, Downtown Napa
Last year, Blues Brews & BBQ returned to First Street, after a one-year change of venue. The feedback was loud and clear – people like BB&BBQ being on First Street, so that’s where it will be again August 24. Part of the appeal of First Street is shade – if it gets too hot, half of the event is always out of the sun, and people can also duck into an air conditioned business to do a little shopping, get something to eat or drink, or just cool down.
Also returning by popular demand will be a stage dedicated to Zydeco music. “We featured Zydeco last year, and everybody loves it,” said Julie Morales, who has been managing Blues, Brews & BBQ, and all Downtown Napa Association (DNA) hosted events with Team Morales Events. The Randolph stage kicks off with I*KO YAYA, a group that, according to the Akenaz website, “dishes out steaming New Orleans-drenched ‘swamp and roll’ for dancing.” To close the day on a high note, they’re followed by the Mark St. Mary Louisiana Blues & Zydeco Band. The hardworking band has been a favorite of Cajun/Zydeco festival crowds for years. St. Mary began playing accordion when he was 12, and now leads his band through dance floor favorites.
The Beer Garden stage also got some needed love last year. “That stage there has used to be eighteen inches high, to create an intimate, street level setting, but Coombs Street (where the beer garden is located) gets so crowded that only the people in the front can see the band,” said Morales. Last year, organizers brought in a mobile stage, elevating the musicians for better visibility. “The sound is also much better,” said Morales. The Beer Garden opens with AC Myles. “Blues-rocking guitarist AC Myles is an artist whose musical stock seems to be an arrow pointing straight up. The real deal folks! Dig it!” said Brent Black of CriticalJazz.com. Following AC is Shane Dwight. A critically acclaimed blues maverick, Shane’s songwriting has evolved so far that he may be untouchable for a while, and fans won’t be able to get it out of their heads, critics won’t know what to do with him. But one thing’s for sure; he’s here to stay,” stated Black.
Organizers also moved the Main Stage last year, which historically was in front of the County Building on the south side of First Street, back to Dwight Murray Plaza. “It makes so much sense,” said Morales. “The Plaza is a small, natural amphitheater, and people can dance without being in the sun all day. We used it for Chefs Market back in the day, and people liked it a lot.” The first act there is Billy Watson, who fans of the local blues scene know well, either as sideman for various artists or as a front man of his own band, singing and playing harp with a group of A-list players from other local blues bands.
If the crowd has any dance left in them, it will be released when Alvon Johnson hits the stage. One fan said, “This is one man that can send any woman out of her mind with his soulful voice and moving guitar music. If you have ever seen and heard Alvon, then you know his singing and playing can send you into ecstasy with his soft, soothing sexy voice, and then turn you into a wild woman with his magnificent guitar playing and body movements.” Does anything have to be added to that?
What won’t change are the Beer and BBQ aspects of the event. Fifteen BBQ vendors will be on-hand, grilling everything you can think of, slathered in secret sauces the recipes of which none will ever reveal. It is a true feast for the palate. And to wash it down? The Beer Garden will feature forty micro-brewed beers, some being released for the first time. Twenty-five dollars gets people a five ounce commemorative beer stein and seven tasting tickets, as well as a ticket to use to vote for their favorite beer. The winner of that category will be announced near the end of the show.
Sponsored by Blue Moon, Lagunitas, Coors Light, Jimmy Vasser Toyota/Chevrolet, Bank of Marin, Upstage Productions, the City of Napa and Napa Valley Marketplace. Without their generous support, the show would not be possible. Admission and parking are free. Ride your bicycle, and take advantage of free valet parking courtesy of Napa Valley Bicycle Coalition. For all information, visit