Eclectic grooves

Eclectic grooves

Aussie Kara Grainger is one of several soulful artists gracing South Pasadena's Eclectic Music Festival stages Saturday

By Bliss Bowen 05/03/2012

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Nightlife in South Pasadena is usually limited, to say the least, but that won’t be the case this weekend. Between 5 and 10 p.m. Saturday, the town’s fourth annual Eclectic Music Festival and Art Walk will present live music on numerous stages around South Pasadena, in addition to art exhibits at several galleries and restaurants.

The diverse lineup of 40 acts is headlined by the Young Dubliners and also includes Grammy-winning jazz pianist (and South Pasadena resident) Billy Childs, electro-rock band Seasons, San Gabriel Valley country-rock stalwart Rick Shea, the Los Angeles Clarinet Choir and Jude Johnstone, whose melodic songs have made her a go-to tunesmith for the likes of Emmylou Harris, Stevie Nicks and Bonnie Raitt.

Festival Music Director Brad Colerick, a respected singer-songwriter who hosts the weekly Wine & Song series at Firefly Bistro, tapped several artists who showcase regularly at Wine & Song to perform at the festival. That includes Aussie soul slinger Kara Grainger, who moved to the States from Sydney seven years ago after fronting blues band Papa Lips (which also included her brother Mitch, who will perform at the festival Saturday with Rosa Pullman).

Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi and Little Feat are obvious points of reference for Grainger’s groove-rooted sound, especially when she breaks out a metal slide. Those impressions are reinforced by the caliber of sidemen in the “soul revue” with which she’s been recently playing around LA, particularly blues guitarist Kirk Fletcher, veteran R&B drummer James Gadson and Little Feat keyboardist Billy Payne. Grainger’s fretwork is not as sophisticated or free as her husky vocals, but she makes that limitation work with her smoldering, less-is-more style.

Her shows strongly favor material from her 2008 “Grand and Green River” album, a rootsy pop confection whose slick production manages not to smother the organic warmth of Grainger’s songs or performance. In concert she also frequently reaches into the classic tunebags of Thomas Dorsey, Etta James, Robert Johnson, Curtis Mayfield, the Neville Brothers and Muddy Waters, further establishing her connection to soul and blues. If you hit the festival Saturday, make a point of giving Grainger a listen.

Eclectic Music Festival & Art Walk takes place on multiple stages around South Pasadena 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday; Kara Grainger performs from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m. on the Gold Line Stage, 913 Meridian Ave., South Pasadena. Other acts scheduled to perform at various venues throughout the evening include the Tapioca & the Flea, Mexica, Susie Glaze & the HiLonesome Band, Anny Celsi, Strange Birds, David Serby, Severin Browne, Torches, Andy Tabb, Dave Morrison, Almanova, Lorin Hart, South Pasadena Transit Authority and the Eclectic Kids Chorus directed by Sally Dworsky. Free admission. For a full schedule and list of stages, go to For more info about Grainger, visit


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