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Out With the Old, and in With the Blues

Pop music: The annual festival shifts locales and focus with a leaning toward roots-rock acts.


NEWPORT BEACH — The blues will commingle with ocean breezes once again, but little else will be the same when the former Orange County Blues Festival returns next month.

Renamed the Dos Equis Blues Festival and slated for Sept. 28-29, the event moves from Doheny State Beach to the Back Bay golf course at the Hyatt Newporter in Newport Beach, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Other changes as the festival moves into its fourth year include higher ticket prices and a mix of performers that leans more heavily on blues-influenced rock acts.

Blues stalwarts including Etta James and John Hammond will share the lineup with performers who gained fame playing rock 'n' roll, such as Brian Setzer, Rick Derringer and the J. Geils Band. Also on tap are singer Maria Muldaur, the Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute band Texas Flood and several local blues groups to be announced.

"With the new location we wanted to re-educate people about the blues," said festival organizer Eric Jensen. "All of these [rock 'n' roll acts] have deep roots in the blues.

"Next year we'll bring in more rootsy types of blues" acts, he added.

Jensen said the move from Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, a beachfront site that was popular with blues lovers who attended the festival there for the past two years, was made with regret. (The festival was in Dana Point's Heritage Park the first year.)

"I know people will be bummed that we're moving, but the state wanted 10% of the gross, and that was making it tough to survive financially," he said.

Daily admission will jump from $15 to $20; a two-day ticket increases from $30 to $35. For the first time, the blues festival will block off about 200 seats in front of the stage, allow backstage access and charge $70 for the two-day pass. The same policy has been used for years at the Long Beach Blues Festival.

Tickets can be purchased at the Hyatt Newporter or through Ticketmaster in about two weeks, Jensen said. (714) 650-LIVE.

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