Sonoma Blues Festival jumps back on the scene

Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

D’Mar flies over the Sonoma County Blues Festival which returned last weekend after a six-year hiatus.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

A couple of songs after the lightning-quick and powerful drummer shattered one of his sticks, he leaped straight up and over his kit, then hurtled off the 4-foot stage and again soared over a barrier for the photographers’ pit. He proceeded to tap out a solo on delighted concertgoers’ chairs, hats, drinks and anything else he could find.

D’Mar, the stage name for Derrick Martin, was playing in a duo with Hill Country guitarist Lightnin’ Malcolm at SOMO Village in Rohnert Park, California.

Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

One of D’Mar’s sticks shears during a frenzied tune with Lightnin’ Malcolm.
Tim Parsons/ Tahoe Onstage

“I was on my way to being an elite gymnast and I had to choose between that and music and I chose music,” D’Mar said. “Music is my passion but you find ways to use everything.”

Like the multi-talented musician, the Sonoma County Blues Festival has jumped back onto the scene. The Aug. 7 event was Sonoma’s first blues festival in six years. Afterward, the promoter broke the good blues news.

“I thought the vibe was really sweet with a nice, flowing movement,” said Isabelle Garson of Second Octave. “The venue was attended by true blues fans and it was apparent they were there to enjoy the music. We’re looking at hosting the Sonoma County Blues Festival again the weekend of August 12-13 in 2017.”

So the blues festival tradition that began at the 1981 Sonoma County Fair has resumed, albeit at new venue. Located near the Sonoma State University campus, SOMO Village has been the site for numerous concerts this summer. Gov’t Mule headlines a show on Aug. 31, and on Sept. 17 the ninth-annual Earlefest — featuring Lucinda Williams, The Mavericks and The Paladins — will be held there for the first time.

Sonoma County is wine country but in addition to its famed reds and whites, the blues are popular, too. Bill Bowker has been the host of “Blues with Bowker” on Sunday nights on The Krush 95.9 FM Radio since 1979. Bowker’s show is preceded by “Charlie’s Backroom,” hosted by Sonoma’s most famous bluesman, Charlie Musselwhite. (The station is streamed at

Bowker, who emceed the Sonoma County Blues Festival, booked the bands with partner Sheila Groves Tracey and the company Notable Talent. In addition to Lightnin’ Malcolm, the event featured Janiva Magness, HowellDevine, Volker Strifler, Gary & The Crew and headliner Sonny Landreth, the slide guitar hero from Louisiana.

“Sonny was great,” Bowker said. “People come to the festival to dance, but when he plays they migrate to front of stage and just stare. People are just in awe of what Sonny does.”

For the first time this summer, the SOMO Village had two stages.

“I thought it was a good festival,” Petaluma resident Cherie Moses said. “The music was great. Each band on main stage was top notch. And the small stage was a very good idea, as well, because there was always live music playing. The venue was nice, too.”

On Aug. 23, Michael Franti & Spearhead headlines the next concert in the SOMO Village. Here’s the music venue’s website: LINK

SOMO Village is a 175-acre redevelopment site. It’s website states, “The community is being developed consistent with One Planet Community Principles and has been certified at the highest Platinum level by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design.”

For all the blues news, check out the Tahoe Onstage Blues page HERE

Lightnin' Malcolm makes his way into the crowd, too, but all the while keeping his feet on the ground. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Lightnin’ Malcolm makes his way into the crowd, too, but all the while keeping his feet on the ground.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

One comment

  1. That looked like a great event! SOMO village is a great venue- I’ve really enjoyed it everytime I’ve been there. It’s nice to be outdoors in a beautiful setting, and it’s just intimate enough to really make the experience better. And Sally Tomatoes next door has great food & drinks to boot!

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