AT A GLANCE
What: 32nd annual Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival
When: Friday–Sunday (July 19–21)
Where: The Blues Ranch, 1 mi. west of Winthrop (19190 Highway 20)
Cost: Advance tickets $120 for-3 days ($130 at gate), $20 Friday ($25 at gate), $80 Saturday ($90 at gate), $50 Sunday ($60 at gate), at winthropbluesfestival.com or The Wine Shed in Winthrop
Through hustle and hard work, Los Lobos have outrun their success.
Those old enough to remember “La Bamba” know the East Los Angeles band became a victim of the success of that No. 1 hit song from 1987 — at least among mainstream audiences. For too many listeners, “La Bamba” — a Mexican folk song first popularized by Ritchie Valens in 1958 — was the one and only Los Lobos song they knew.
That was 32 years ago. Dozens of records and thousands of shows later, Los Lobos aren’t known for one thing; they’re known for everything.
And now, the Winthrop Music Association is bringing Los Lobos to the Methow Valley for its 32nd annual Rhythm & Blues Festival, happening Friday through Sunday (July 19 – 21) at the Blues Ranch, one mile west of Winthrop.
“Whatever you want with Los Lobos, you’re going to get it,” the legendary accordionist Flaco Jiménez once said.
From Chicano music to American rock ‘n’ roll, “they do a little bit of everything,” said Jimmy Smith, still a major part of the festival after helping to launch it in 1988. “They’re one of the bigger names we’ve had.”
Los Lobos take the stage Saturday at 10 p.m.
Perhaps a festival hidden gem for those who aren’t steeped in the latest blues music is Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, a 20-year-old guitar prodigy from Clarksdale, Mississippi — the birthplace of delta blues.
Then again, festival regulars might remember Ingram’s appearance in 2016, when he was still a child.
“Now everyone knows him,” said Erika Olsen, festival coordinator. “He is absolutely phenomenal.”
Onstage, Ingram holds the guitar as if it were a toy, and he plays as if he never put it down after getting his first guitar at age 11. In his hands, the guitar cries, screams and sings.
Ingram is slated to play 3:45 p.m. on Sunday.
The Winthrop festival hews close to the roots again with vocalist Shemekia Copeland, the reigning Queen of the Blues. Her wailing voice strikes the same plaintive chords as Ingram’s guitar. Those coming to the festival wanting to hear someone belt out the blues can catch Copeland at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Copeland is billed as the Sunday headliner, but true to tradition the final act that day will be Too Slim and the Taildraggers, who will have performed at 31 of the 32 festivals.
Playing their first Winthrop festival, the sister duo Larkin Poe will change things up a little bit. One critic described their roots rock as “a beguiling mix of Gothic soul and outlaw country” –Gothic, perhaps, because their family tree includes Edgar Allen Poe.
Look for Larkin Poe at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Familiar and friendly
The festival also includes the familiar food and craft vendors, and the beer garden, where various performers will jam at the end of the night on Saturday and Sunday.
“That’s where the magic happens,” Olsen said of the after-hours beer garden.
Three-day passes are $120 in advance and $130 at the gate. Parking costs extra and supports the Methow Valley fifth-grade AAU basketball team. On-site camping is sold out.
A ticket to the festival’s beer garden show on Friday can be had for $20 in advance and features The Greyhounds, Billy Joe & The Dusty 45s, and J.P. Soars’ Gypsy Blue Revue with Anne Harris and Jason Ricci. Proceeds from Friday’s ticket benefit The Cove food bank in Twisp and other local nonprofits.
For those making just a day trip to the Blues Ranch, and who love the Saturday lineup, the festival for the first time is offering Saturday-only tickets for $80 in advance and $90 at the gate.
On the other hand, if three nights of music aren’t enough, the festival has partnered with Sun Mountain Lodge to offer a show by The Dusty 45s, 7 – 10 p.m. Thursday (July 18), on the lodge’s lawn. Tickets are $15. Dinner — a pig roast with all the trimmings — can be had at the Sun Mountain show for another $17. Go to sunmountainlodge.com/events.
The full festival schedule and other details can be found at winthropbluesfestival.com.