Kera Washington of the Boston-based Zili Misik brings Haitian

Kera Washington of the Boston-based Zili Misik brings Haitian

Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts prompts cheers from artists

PORT ANGELES — Bill Baccus’ voice nearly bursts through the phone when asked about his 19th time at the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts.

“It’s just really exciting, to see these bands from San Francisco, bands from Boston . . . these bands are playing multiple gigs, and then you’re hanging out with the artists you just saw,” Baccus said of this past Memorial Day weekend’s event, which spread out over seven venues around downtown.

The 2012 festival sold more tickets than ever, added Executive Director Dan Maguire: At about 3,000 passes paid for, the 19th annual Juan de Fuca beat last year by about 150.

That figure is far from the whole tale, though, since volunteers, vendors, sponsors and children 12 and younger enjoy free tickets, as do the art workshop leaders and performers, who ranged from locals such as Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys to Boston’s Zili Misik, San Francisco’s Blame Sally and the United Kingdom’s Baka Beyond.

On Friday, Maguire was working on a Seattle Foundation grant application for the 20th annual Juan de Fuca Festival in May 2013. He took time out to marvel, though, at the caliber of musicians who came to Port Angeles.

“You could go to Seattle to see one of these artists,” he said, while at the Juan de Fuca, there about 40 world-class acts.

They wowed Paul Chasman, too. Chasman, a singer-songwriter and guitarist who moved from Portland, Ore., to Joyce some years ago, performed on the festival’s Chamber Stage, which is the City Council chambers the rest of the year.

Others who stepped onto that stage were jazz songstress Halie Loren, whose repertoire ranged from “La Vie en Rose” to “Ode to Billy Joe” to “Waiting in Vain,” and Trio Voronezh, three Russian men with an enormous balalaika double bass, a mandolin-like domra and a bajan accordion played with such soul it seemed like an internal organ.

“The vibe was just really good. Everyone seemed to be digging it. The festival is really a wonderful situation for Port Angeles,” Chasman said.

But the festival got off to a rough start Friday evening, May 25.

Thomas Mapfumo of Zimbabwe and his band, the Blacks Unlimited, were about an hour and a half late for their show set for 7 p.m.; coming from Seattle, they had told Maguire they were just minutes from town, so he didn’t change the schedule to have Blame Sally, the band slated for 8:30 p.m., come on first.

Mapfumo and band eventually got started — after a lengthy sound check — and then Blame Sally, an all-woman outfit known for their sassy brand of folk rock, dished it out until about 11:30 p.m. — even as the festival’s After Hours performances started at 10 p.m. at Bella Italia, the CrabHouse, the Elks Naval Lodge and Bar N9ne.

Port Angeles band

Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys, the Port Angeles folk-gospel-bluegrass band that came to prominence at the 2010 Juan de Fuca Festival, did an evening set on the Chamber Stage and an After Hours show at the CrabHouse.

These were two of the foursome’s final performances before disbanding this summer, and “we tried pretty hard not to think about that. We’d get emotional,” said singer Abby Latson.

Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys’ hometown farewell will be the group’s July 21 CD-release party at Olympic Cellars winery east of Port Angeles. Details are at www.AbbyMaeandtheHomeschoolBoys.com.

Baccus and his wife, Jessica, meantime, relished the festival feeling indoors and out.

“We stumbled upon the very first one [in 1994]. We’d been backpacking that weekend,” Baccus said.

“We were there before kids, and then we had the kids,” now 14 and 10.

“One of the great things about it was it’s so kid-friendly. Everyone’s very accepting . . . and now our kids are running around calling us on their cellphones.”

Tom Landa of the Paperboys — a headliner last year — brought his newer Latin band, Locarno, to play the festival’s final show at 4 p.m. Monday.

Locarno, named after a beach in the band’s hometown of Vancouver, B.C., and a Spanish sailor, stirred up horns, percussion, fiddle and high-flying vocals for a cheering crowd.

“I absolutely loved it,” Landa wrote in an email to the Peninsula Daily News.

“I must admit I was a bit nervous the first couple songs, but then settled in and had a great gig. I think I was nervous because I know The Paperboys did well last year, and I wanted to do well with the new band as well.

“The audience listens, they sing along, they dance and they cheered loudly for you. What else could a performer want? Can’t wait to come back.”

In fact, the Paperboys will be at Olympic Cellars on Aug. 11 for a concert that’s part of the new season of Juan de Fuca Festival-sponsored events. More details are at the festival website, www.JFFA.org, and office, 360-457-5411.

Maguire, for his part, expressed gratitude to the volunteers and other supporters of the nonprofit festival.

Ticket prices low

The sponsors who give thousands and those who write small checks keep ticket prices down — one-third the price of other music and arts festivals around the country, he said.

And then there are the volunteers, who set up and take down the festival swiftly and as efficient as “a Swiss clock,” Maguire said.

“It really is a community-based event . . . I find it incredibly moving that people give so much of themselves,” he added.

Yet there’s another way Maguire wants to “break through,” as he puts it.

He wants the crowd to encompass more young people, as in teens and 20- and 30-somethings. Unabashedly, Maguire says he wants Port Angeles to have its own Woodstock — only four days, not just three, of “peace, love and music.”

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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