19 Jun 19
The Third Annual Monterey International Blues Festival is just around the corner. With a promise to deliver another rousing set of music like he did at the 2017 Monterey Jazz Festival, Mr. Sipp, the Mississippi Blues Child headlines the Saturday afternoon lineup of the one-day festival set to unfold June 29 at the Monterey Fair and Event Center’s Garden Stage. Also on the Garden Stage bill are Trudy Lynn, Keith Batlin, Terry Hanck, Terri Odabie, Blues at Eleven and Monterey Peninsula Gospel Choir. Appearing at the smaller Education Stage are Nikki McCartney, Howe Cochran, Guitars Not Guns and Nothing Personal.
“I’m coming to pour my heart out on that stage and give the best show I can give,” Mr. Sipp said from his business in Magnolia, Mississippi. “I hope I can make a lot of people happy.”
The Blues Festival offers an afternoon of family-friendly music, food, and artful mercantile selections at the historic fairgrounds where for 27 years the legendary Monterey Bay Blues Festival took place before its bankruptcy filing sent it into history. With a desire to “bring back the blues to Monterey,” the Blues Fest is putting its best foot forward to establish itself as the premier blues event locally. That makes a lot of people happy.
Having been brought up on the blues, music fans here are ecstatic to have another event rallying around one of America’s most treasured roots music traditions. The nonprofit’s goal is to preserve and advance the blues. Proceeds are dedicated to charitable organizations using music and creativity to foster personal development and achievement for at-risk youth. Primary recipients are Guitars Not Guns and the Salvation Army.
Hailing from the heart of the Mississippi Delta, 42-year-old Castro Coleman (aka Mr. Sipp) has an interesting background that has led him to his current focus on the blues. Technically born in McComb, Mississippi where the county hospital was located, he was raised in the neighboring small town of Magnolia. Currently he lives in McComb, which is only five miles from Magnolia, where he operates his latest business venture Sipp’s Place.
“We’re trying to bring Magnolia alive,” he said from his office above the restaurant/venue where he just previously had been helping out during the lunch rush bussing tables. “Highway 55 is like a main highway. Most people can fly to New Orleans and then drive to the Delta, or vice versa, fly into Jackson and do it the other way around. My city is the center point, 85 miles between each city. We decided to put something for travelers here. Besides the venue, we’re thinking about doing hotels.”
His business sense developed over the years he learned the music business. A decision he made some years ago sent him off the gospel touring treadmill and into the blues and a more balanced lifestyle that would provide for his family and keep his health intact. He had observed how musicians who strived for fame and fortune often forfeited their health and security for that elusive goal of stardom. When he made the decision to focus on the blues, he realigned his priorities to fit his vision and now pours his heart into every note he plays, but only on his own terms.
“You hear that in my live show. I’m a spiritual child,” he said. “It comes through in my blues live show. I’m not afraid to tap into who I really am, and where I come from. That is the jewel of what I’m doing. I feel like I was chosen to do it, but not only in the church realm. I had an awesome gospel career. When I quit in 2010 I was ‘top of the food chain,’ top of my game. Been and seen it all. Didn’t want to spend the rest of my life doing the same circuit. I’ve been to Europe, Russia, been a writer and producer, playing guitar on other’s records, so it was like OK, here I am and I’m over it.”
Coleman was raised in the church where both his parents participated in overlapping weekly services and revivals that kept him and his siblings actively involved when they weren’t in school or playing ball. Coleman began playing guitar when he was 6, influenced by his musical parents and an aunt.
Gospel was the name of the game in this family. He first played in his Aunt Grace’s group before starting his own, The True Believers. His gospel career continued for over 20 years and he became a highly successful recording and touring artist, songwriter, producer and eventually learning the business inside and out to take control of his income.
“The year 2000 was when I got my first real break,” Coleman said. “I had a hit song in 1999, but because I didn’t know the business of publishing and all that stuff I never saw anything from that. Learned a lot from that. Came back with a live gospel album in 2000 and landed two hit songs, this time with my publishing together. That’s when it finally started. I became one of the most prolific songwriters and producers in gospel music. I’ve always had a way to record in my house, although I had access to a studio before. I own a studio now, and I own a radio station here, WAZA.”
In our long and wide-reaching conversation he revealed so much about himself, his honesty and earnestness were impressive. Coleman is someone who walks his talk and proves that whatever he puts his mind to doing he does it well. Because he’s been focused on business and building a secure life, he’s free to pursue a less than lucrative side of music. He’d always loved the blues, citing B. B. King as his primary influence, so I wondered if it was an easy transition for him.
“What was easy for me is I’d been on the stage for 26 years of my life,” he replied. “And not just small stages. The stage, the lights, the pressure, the entertainment side of me, the connecting with the crowd, the audience, the building relationships with promoters, doing interviews, all of that was the ABCs in my life. The challenge is the gospel industry and the blues industry, they have different ways that things work. I took a major, major, major pay cut. But I’m not doing this for money. I’m doing this because I love it.”
As his reimagined Mr. Sipp identity he has three albums, the latest a 2017 release “Knock A Hole In It.” He expects to have a new one out later this year titled “Hypnotized.”
“I’m grateful,” he said. “As for coming to (the Blues Fest), I’m overwhelmed and excited. I’m bringing all that excitement with me and I plan to leave it all there on that stage. I’m going to spread it out among the crowd and have the time of my life. I know if I’m having the time of my life people there will have the time of their life. That’s the mission.”
The festival takes place between 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $40 and are available in advance through Eventbrite.com, $45 at the door. Children under 10 years old are free when accompanied by a ticket holding adult. Deluxe VIP packages are also available for $125 through Eventbrite up till end of day Friday. A group rate for 20 or more tickets is $35 per ticket up till June 24. Visit http://www.montereyinternationalbluesfestival.com for more details.
Lily Yu presents “Buyer Beware! Six Ways to Avoid Risky Art”: Thursday, 5:30-7 p.m., Monterey Museum of Art, 559 Pacific St., Monterey, MMA members free, non-members $10 for museum admission, 831-372-5477. Lily Yu is a certified art appraiser, advisor and curator and well qualified to speak on the many dangerous market pitfalls facing collectors today. Using both well publicized examples and the most commonly found risks, this frank discussion will leave participants with a better understanding of how to protect themselves, how to recognize red flags and when to call in an expert to advise when purchasing fine art. Wine will be served at a reception after the talk and the museum will remain open for mingling, art discovery, and more discussion. Yu’s last museum lecture “How to Spot a Fake” was sold-out, so although admission is free to members, RSVP is recommended. Yu offers over 20 years experience working in the fine art world. As owner of AGENT ART she is a highly sought-after advisor to private collectors, institutions and corporate clientele.
Greg Kihn at Monterey Rock & Rod Festival 13: Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Custom House Plaza, Monterey State Historic Park, featuring over 150 pre-1975 custom & classic cars and trucks along with food, souvenirs, awards and live music all day. Free public admission. Supporting acts: Yard Dogs, Jeremy “Elvis” Pearce and the Memphis Sons, Los High Tops, Jagged Relics and DJ AL-B! Visit http://www.montereyrockrod.com for the Friday part of the event. Greg Kihn will be fondly remembered as an 80s-music icon for his two catchy, chart-topping hits, “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)” in 1981 and the 1983 smash single, “Jeopardy,” which charted #2 on the Billboard Top 100. His groundbreaking video for “Jeopardy” became one of the first concept videos and was played extensively on MTV during the early days of the then fledging video channel. The Greg Kihn Band also spent much of the 80s touring with the likes of Journey, The Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead and appearing on popular TV shows including Solid Gold, American Bandstand and Saturday Night Live. He and his band still tour extensively throughout North America.
Carmel Valley Art & Wine Celebration: Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Center Street Marketplace, Carmel Valley Village, free admission. Wine tasting $30 adv/$40 at event. Local artists will showcase their original works to include glass blowing, wood sculptures, jewelry, clothing, painting, photography and more. In a block party atmosphere with the warmth of Carmel Valley you will taste wines from our local tasting rooms, enjoy listening to live music on the AT&T Stage and eat delicious food from CV Chophouse, ROUX, Jerome’s Carmel Valley Market, Waypoint @ Quail Lodge & Golf Club and Percy’s Pies. Admission to the event is free and complimentary service to Carmel Valley Village and back to the Peninsula is provided by the MST Grapevine Express
Live in the Vines with Brett Dennen: Monday, 6 – 10 p.m., Folktale Winery & Vineyards, 8940 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel, open seating $30, VIP $40. For the past 10 years, Brett Dennen – with his poet’s perspective, off-kilter vocals, insane sense of humor, and limitless musical freedom – has turned dancing like no one’s watching into a lifestyle. As a songwriter, performer, watercolor artist, and environmental conservationist and outdoorsman, the shows he performs and the events he hosts generate more than good vibes. His impact has been to gather like-minded music fans to consistently try to make the world a better place. Dennen recently wrapped up a summer tour with Jason Mraz followed by a fall headlining tour. Previous tours include John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Pete Murray, Michael Franti, and others. Opening for Brett Dennen is local artist Ace de la Vergne! Hailing from New Orleans, Ace de la Vergne’s voice and music reflect her Southern roots with a soulful, emotionally charged, clear toned yet raspy sound.
David Grey: Wednesday, 8 p.m., Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey, $77-$110 at http://www.goldenstatetheatre.com or 831-649-1070. Gray’s first album, “A Century Ends,” was released in 1993, followed by “Flesh” in 1994. After touring with the likes of Radiohead and the Dave Matthews Band in support of his third album “Sell, Sell, Sell,” Grey decided to self-finance his fourth album, “White Ladder” and release it on his own label. “A New Day at Midnight” followed up his successful international breakthrough in the fall of 2002, and 2005’s “Life in Slow Motion” debuted at the top of the charts in both Ireland and the U.K. In 2007 he released “Shine: The Best of the Early Years,” followed by “Greatest Hits.” Four more albums have followed. During the span of his career thus far he has had 12 million album sales, the best selling album in Ireland ever with “White Ladder,” a BAFTA nomination for his soundtrack work on Amma Assante’s 2004 film “A Way Of Life,” two Ivor Novellos, a Q award, two Brit nominations, and a Grammy nomination.