By Justin Lichtenstein
During the final weekend of April, a horde of musical acts will “unplug” for one of the region’s largest acoustic festivals, Adams Avenue Unplugged. Here are a few acts to get your banjo atwangin’ this year.
Saturday, April 25:
The Rabbit Hole stage from 1 – 2 p.m.
Perhaps cut from the same cloth as Pete Seeger and a young Bob Zimmerman (that’s Bob Dylan for all you youngsters), Ruelas exudes a certain self-confidence that only the greatest troubadours seem to possess. Making a name for himself around town with his ferocious performances of Robert Johnson-esque blues, Americana and protest folk, the singer-songwriter’s never content to stay situated playing one style for long — so expect the unexpected at The Rabbit Hole on Saturday.
Java Joe’s stage from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
The always sharply dressed Page has long been considered one of the finest songwriters in San Diego — if not anywhere. Every record he’s released over the last couple decades (there’s about three dozen of ’em) seems somehow better than the last. A master at crafting instantly familiar melody, the crooner sounds just as comfortable playing turn-of-the-century lounge jazz and big band as he does folk, blues and pop. Whether he’s turning heads with his velvety voice or his impeccable guitar playing, his shows are must-see events.
G Burns Jug Band
Kensington Library Park stage from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
This group is old school. As the name suggests, G Burns Jug Band delivers hillbilly romps that’d sound right at home at Southern shindigs around the time Sherman demolished his way to Savannah. With instruments ranging from banjo and fiddle to washboard and, you guessed it, jug — look no further if you got a thing for authentic and vibrant takes on a classic American style.
Sunday, April 26:
Adams Park at 35th stage from 6 – 7 p.m.
Thirsty for some booze-soaked Americana with a melodic pop twist? This trio featuring guitarist/vocalist Drew Thams, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Fisher and drummer Clayton Payne has a tall, cool drink for you. The Liquorsmiths have been a near-constant presence on San Diego stages over the last year or so, with a recent headlining show at House of Blues and an ongoing monthly residence at Normal Heights’ Sycamore Den under their belts. If you’re not familiar with the band already, you will be. Check ’em out.
Locally Brewed Stage at Blind Lady Ale House from 4 – 5 p.m.
Out of the ashes of the San Diego Music Award-nominated alt-country outfit El Monte Slim, comes Ypsitucky. Three-fourths of Slim (guitarist/vocalist Ian Trumbull, bassist Ruben Ramos and drummer Paul Brewin) joined forces with fiddler Heather Vorwerck for a more traditional country sound that’s altogether more upbeat and a bit more kickin’ than their former band’s lower-key material. I can’t wait for them to release some recordings already.
Euphoria Brass Band
Twiggs stage from 4-5 p.m.
This fun brass collective have been bringing an authentic New Orleans swing to San Diego stages for the past couple years. It’s hard not to love this seven-piece group filled out with tubas, saxophones, clarinets, trombones, trumpets and marching drums — they’ve long cemented their status as the group in town to catch if you want to be dancing around like it’s Fat Tuesday every day of the week. Simply contagious.
The Rabbit Hole stage from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. and the Church Stage from 6 – 7 p.m.
Adams Avenue Unplugged headliner David J is set to take on two different stages on Sunday. You may recognize him from his previous work with beloved goth-rock bands Love and Rockets, and Bauhaus. He’ll be offering a decidedly different tone than most of the other artists at the festival, eschewing folk musings and country barnbusters for his own brand of acoustic rainy-day pop.