There’s always a feeling of retro fun on any trip to Santa Anita Park, given the track has provided more than 80 years of racing excitement since its opening in 1934. On Saturday, the track will take on an even greater sense of nostalgia, playing host to VintageVibe, a music and lifestyle festival featuring 21st-century bands with a 20th-century sound.
The daylong event features 10 hours of diverse music from 13 bands, ranging from East LA favorites Las Cefeteras and Malibu-based classic-rock throwbacks The Shelters to Philly-based retro rockers Low Cut Connie and swing-rock band Phat Cat Swinger. Soulful Prince protégé Eryn Allen Kane is also on the bill, along with Long Beach-based surf rockers The Junglecats, eclectic Seattle legends The Dip and Beach Boys/Phil Spector-style The Explorers Club.
But one band that’s sure to make a big impression is Austin-based Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, bringing their Howlin’ Wolf/James Brown-inspired mix of funk, blues and soul to the event. Featuring singer/songwriter/guitarist Lewis, backed by a six-piece, horn-driven band, the group is making an all-too-rare California appearance amid a world tour backing their latest album, “The Difference Between Me and You.”
“We just wanted to do an album on our trials and tribulations and we felt we’ve been through a lot of stuff as a band,” says Lewis. “Nobody’s parents backed us with a bunch of money. We’ve been through real stuff and got the real blues. We’re doing better music, but it’s less socially relevant than before. I wanted to write a real blues album. I’ve been there, you haven’t and that’s the difference between me and you.”
The fact that Lewis has made the band a thriving international success (they’re especially popular in Spain) despite not playing a guitar until he was 19 is even more impressive. He bought his first guitar while working a pawn shop job and learned privately for three years before he started playing around Austin as a solo artist. He formed the Honeybears four years later.
“I’m still learning, but it’s totally crazy hearing the growth over the years,” explains Lewis. “I didn’t come from an artistic family, nobody taught me, so it’s crazy I was able to start a band and make a living. It’s worked out.”
There’s more to VintageVibe than the music, however. Ticketholders can visit booths where they can make appointments for pin-up photo shoots, make-up do-overs, and hair styling and barbers. There will also be classic cars used in movies and retro video games available. The event is also raising funds for Casa of Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes community volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children.
“While many festivals are showcasing many genres, we are showcasing multiple eras and the way they have shaped our modern world,” said Jared Mancuso, one of the event’s producers. “We hope to inspire people, after experiencing the art, music and style of yesteryear, to take what was truly great about all of it and create a better future.”
VintageVibe takes place from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, at Santa Anita Park, 285 Huntington Drive, Arcadia. Tickets are $95. Visit vintagevibefest.com.