As the big commercial music festivals compete for the attention of overly stimulated, mostly exhausted teens and twenty-somethings, nestled in the groovy confines of Live Oak Camp there’s a classic summer music festival that’s exciting, well-programmed, safe, educational, and inexpensive.
Entering its 22nd year, Live Oak offers an eclectic mix of roots, folk, and world music that’s similar to what one would hear on KCBX-FM, the outstanding community public radio station out of San Luis Obispo. Featured artists this year include Rickie Lee Jones, Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band, The Chicago Blues Reunion, and the Dynamites featuring Charles Walker.
In addition to being KCBX’s biggest fundraiser, Live Oak is a tradition, with generations coming back year after year for the many opportunities not only to hear music, but to make it and learn about it, as well. Marisa Waddell has served as classical music director at the radio station and was one of the members of the entertainment selection committee for this year’s event. I spoke with her last week about some of the features that make Live Oak unique.
There’s a wonderful sense of family and community at Live Oak that’s really unusual on the festival circuit. How did you achieve that? Yes, we call that “the Live Oak Way.” I credit the original founders for making it a priority all these years. Frank Lanzone might do a better job for you remembering all the people involved, but I know Chris O’Connell was one, and Chris Anderson, Duane Inglish, and Jim Mueller. I know the Strawberry Music Festivals at Camp Mather, and their idea of the Strawberry Way, influenced them. It’s an attitude that works for everyone, but especially for all the families that come. I’ve been going since the first year that the festival was in the Live Oak Camp, back when it was known as Camp San Marcos.
Which artists are you excited about seeing? All of them! Rickie Lee Jones makes a great headliner because she shares the Live Oak emphasis on diversity in music as the key to staying fresh. She brings so many different styles and influences into her music, and she collaborates with younger artists all the time, and these are things that Live Oak does, as well. We will put someone truly venerable, like Dr. Lonnie Smith, the legendary Hammond B3 player, on stage and then follow him with the Red Skunk Jipzee Swing Band, most of whom are under 20. And on another stage, we’ll go from Väsen, who are this amazing Swedish post-folk thing, into Baka Beyond, who fuse African music from Cameroon with Celtic fiddling.
Do you have any last words about the lineup? Josh Ritter is really hot right now. His new CD is featured in Starbucks this week, and he just did NPR. I love his songwriting, and he’s great live. Also, for those who appreciate the history of rock, the Chicago Blues Reunion features the musicians who were responsible for bringing the blues into mainstream rock back in the mid 1960s.
The Live Oak Music Festival is Friday, June 18-Sunday, June 20, at Live Oak Camp, off Route 154. Camping is encouraged. For tickets and info, visit liveoakfest.org.