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Sea of Blues and Green at Dana Point Festival


DANA POINT — Ron Underwood, 55, of San Juan Capistrano didn't have to take to the freeway this weekend to listen to his favorite music. It was as close to his doorstep as Doheny State Beach, the setting for the second annual Orange County Blues Festival.

"First there was the blues. Anyone who likes any kind of music likes the blues," Underwood said as he relaxed in his beach chair.

Underwood was among about 10,000 people who came to the festival Saturday to enjoy the combination of an idyllic setting bordered by tall, bearded palm trees and a sailboat-dotted sea and the down-and-out lyrics and soulful music of 11 blues groups.

Underwood said he much preferred the Dana Point blues festival to the one held annually in Long Beach. "There it is hot and overcrowded with no place to stand or sit. Here we have ocean and ocean breeze," he said.

Yet another clear advantage of the Dana Point festival for south Orange County dwellers, Underwood and others in attendance said, is that it has brought two full days and nights of blues each year to their back yard. In South County, blues fans complain, few bars, restaurants or hotels offer their favorite music.

"Orange County is hurting for the blues," said Don Duncan, a vocalist from Dana Point who was working as an emcee for the Lifters. Duncan, who was raised in New Orleans, said people there like what he called "Cajun funk" blues, while Orange County prefers "straight-from-the-soul blues."

Anita Hyshiver, 57, of Laguna Niguel said she had a been a jazz fan all her life and then "got hooked" on blues when she attended the first Dana Point festival last October. She recalled that when the festival last year was held inland at Heritage Park, it brought noise and nuisance complaints from neighbors. Moving the stages to the beach, she said, was a smart idea.

"There's, like, no holding back with this thing," Hyshiver said as she pumped her arms to an energetic rendition of "In the Midnight Hour."

The crowd was much more mellow and older than the throngs that attend rock concerts, which prompted many families to come.

Greg Phillips, 34, said he and his wife, Kary, brought their 8-month-old son, Greg, to the festival because the baby likes to sing to the blues when they play it at their home in Chino Hills.

"I'm totally serious. Big Greg loves the blues and little Greg seems to too," Phillips said. The couple had spent the night at a nearby motel and intended to devote the entire weekend to absorbing the music.

Mary and Victor Stanley of San Clemente similarly said they brought their 8-month-old son, Spencer, along with his stroller and playpen because they wanted to expose him to music.

"And I don't have to worry about his ears being blown away," the mother added, observing that she would be much more reluctant to take the child to a hard-rock concert.

Not everyone was a dyed-in-the-wool blues fanatic.

"I am more into Dixieland jazz," said Martha Bell of Dana Point. But Bell said her husband, Henry, who formerly played clarinet in a band, has a preference for soft blues. She said that since her husband was in the hospital facing surgery, she brought a tape recorder with her and planned to play back some of his favorites for him today.

"I enjoy all music," said Bob Blanks, 44, of San Clemente. Blanks said he had come with his 7-year-old daughter, 4-year-old son and a friend simply for "something to do" on a sunny day.

Blanks said he was wearing a beeper on his belt so his wife could reach him to let him know when she would be joining them for a barbecue on the beach later that evening. "I would not answer it for work today," he said.

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