Press Telegram on Western Mini Festival

It’s all about going back to the roots for two Long Beach venues this weekend, with a bluegrass country show in a punk setting and an Americana-inspired theatrical/concert piece in an edgy downtown event space.

On Saturday, punk-rock haven Alex’s Bar goes a little country with the Western Mini Festival, a concert that includes a lineup of seven bands performing what organizers describe as underground roots music.

And while the roots of American music are celebrated there, spoken word and music will be used to explore the experience of being North American with Americana, a show that mixes theater, poetry and live music by the Long Beach-based theater company Riot Stage.

The latter event is Friday and Saturday at MADhaus and a vacant lot adjacent to the venue. The main show will culminate with a DJ and an after-party tonight and an acoustic music concert Saturday night.

“I think it’s going to be something people haven’t really seen before and it’s also very emotional and very personal,” said Long Beach resident Joshua Fischel, founder of Riot Stage.

Over at Alex’s Bar, the Western Mini Festival is being presented by Hillgrass Bluebilly Southern California, the local chapter of Texas-based record label and events producer Hillgrass Bluebilly Records & Entertainment.

Concert headliners include western-psychedelic rockers Spindrift, which mixes film projections with live music, country-folk band the Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, and the electro-punk-blues duo Restavrant. Joining them on the bill will be the Sumner Brothers, RT N’ the 44’s, Sam Outlaw and Cal King.

“People here in Long Beach are really open to this music,” said Anthony Arechiga, founder of the local Hillgrass Bluebilly chapter. “Long Beach has always had their own different vibe, it’s always been an alternative scene into underground stuff.”

Spindrift, a Los Angeles-based band that formed in 1992, is led by singer-songwriter Kirpatrick Thomas. During performances, the band projects films onto the stage, mostly things like spaghetti Westerns or grindhouse films. At the Long Beach show, the band will perform to pieces of its own film called “Spindrift: Ghost of the West,” a musical documentary created during a five-week tour through Western ghost towns.

“I’m excited for the other acts that are coming out and performing. This really helps people get more familiar with our style of genre, the younger acts doing this kind of folk-country-western music. It’s really exciting to be part of it,” Thomas said.

The Western Mini Festival is preceding the larger Long Beach Folk Revival festival, which last week announced its return on Sept. 27 at Rainbow Lagoon Park with about 25 acts on the bill.

Coincidentally, the Americana event at MADhaus is being presented by Long Beach Folk Revival, and while it will include some Americana music, it also will touch on many other musical genres, as well as poetry and even food to tell the North American story.

“We’re trying to make people feel really; we want people to get emotional with this. We have a history in this country of good and bad. But we also want them to be entertained,” said Fischel, who is not only the theater company’s founder but is also a singer, actor and director.

The piece will include Fischel as one of three main characters, along with Jonelle Thais Holden and Andrew Predoza. A cast of nearly 20 other singers and musicians also will take part in the show.

Americana will be made up of several segments that span different time periods in North American history, from the 1800s through the present. The segments will deal with things like guns, slavery, sexual identity, food and the importance of the dinner table in modern culture.

Food will take a leading role at the Saturday night version of the show; things will start off with a 5:30 p.m. dinner prepared by Long Beach chef Paul Buchanan, who will serve a seven-course meal inspired by the show for dinner-ticket holders.