“Sundays in the Redwoods” brings Oakland music fans to Woodminster
on September 21, 2010
Oaklanders got down to live music this weekend at the first installment of this fall’s “Sundays in the Redwoods” concert series at Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park. The outdoor shows, now in their fifth year, take place on four consecutive Sundays in September and October. Each week’s lineup is scheduled according to a theme, and this Sunday’s world music-themed show was headlined by local Latin music heavyweight Pete Escovedo, a Mexican-American percussionist who has been entertaining for more than 50 years.
Karis Griffin, a recreation supervisor for the Oakland Parks and Recreation Department and the project manager for the “Sundays” concerts, said the series started as a tribute to Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005. “I think at that time, we in Oakland were really sympathizing,” she said. “We had employees with family members who had been affected by the hurricane. So, we got together and had a concert.” The show was so successful that it evolved into an annual series, the size and scope of which grows every year.
A misty, gray afternoon was no deterrent to the 1,100 merrymakers who headed up the hill to Woodminster to move and shake under a canopy of fragrant redwood trees. The crowd socialized, ate barbecue and homemade appetizers, and cut loose in the aisles while enjoying the predominantly upbeat tunes. Families with children also made up a good chunk of the audience; the Parks and Recreation Department even set up a face-painting station to keep the younger attendees happy.
This Sunday’s show started with a short performance by an American Indian dance troupe. Next up was Lava, an all-male ensemble armed with bongos, maracas and guitars, among other instruments, and schooled in a variety of Latin music genres, including cha-cha-cha and salsa. Then Bobi Cespedes took the stage, serenading the crowd with her rich, folkloric vocal stylings, singing in a mix of Spanish and Lucumi, a West African Yoruba dialect spoken in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Finally, the eager crowd welcomed Escovedo, At 75, the silver-haired virtuoso hasn’t lost his touch—he led his band in a lively, ambitious set that the kept up the dance-happy crowd on their feet.
The three remaining concerts—on September 26th, October 3rd and October 10th—will feature acts including soul singer Angie Stone and pianist George Duke. Though in past years the shows have been free, event organizers are charging a $5 admission fee per person this time around—Griffin says the city’s budget crunch made a free show close to impossible. “Even though we have to charge a small fee, we still think it’s worth it,” she says. “It’s worth it to bring the citizens in Oakland together.”
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