By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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Besides the eight singer-songwriters, two comedians, two dance companies and 30 bands in the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, there will a human-powered squid, part of the Tears of Joy Theatre show.
The Juan de Fuca Festival runs on twin engines: variety and surprise. There’s a world of music and dance converging here, and much of it will be new to festival-goers.
So taste a few songs from this band or that one, says festival board president Nancy Vivolo.
Try something new; “it might grow on you. You might fall in love,” she said.
The 20th annual festival, to take place on six stages in and around the Vern Burton Community Center at Fourth and Peabody streets, starts this afternoon at 4:30 with California-based singer Julia Maguire; Denver hip-hop artist Mane Rok at 5:30; the Americana band Coyote Grace at 7 p.m. and, headlining at 8:30 p.m., the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars.
Saturday brings another 23 acts, including the seven-singer group Groove for Thought, the Balance Dance Company from Boise and the world-fusion band Delhi 2 Dublin.
Sunday is the day when the Tears of Joy Theatre brings the squid, along with Capt. Nemo and other seagoing creatures, onto the main stage in its rendition of Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” The Portland, Ore., troupe will also haul a 12-foot submarine in for its 1:15 p.m. show.
Looking across the lineup of performers from Oregon, California, Idaho, Washington, Hawaii, British Columbia, Alberta and Africa, festival Executive Director Dan Maguire calls it “ridiculous,” in a good way.
There’s music, dance and comedy. There’s the Slide Brothers’ gospel set at noon Sunday. There’s Groove for Thought, a young ensemble doing Stevie Wonder in a jazzy style. Maguire booked the group after seeing them at Seattle’s Jazz Alley.
And while the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars came from West Africa, there are popular hometown acts: Tangoheart, with bandoneon player Bertram Levy of Port Townsend; the Shula Azhar dancers from Port Angeles and the Therapy Session band from Forks, among many others.
“It’s extraordinary,” Maguire said, “to have this much talent together in this town.”
The best way to navigate the festival is with a copy of the Peninsula Daily News’ pullout schedule, available at all festival venues:
■■ The Vern Burton Community Center and Chamber Stage, 308 W. Fourth St.;
■■ The Elks Naval Lodge, 131 E. First. St.;
■■ The After Hours clubs including Bella Italia, 118 E. First St.; Bar N9ne, 229 W. First St.; and the Next Door Gastropub, 113 W. First St. Information about the shows, the workshops and the street fair — which opens at noon today — can also be found at www.JFFA.org.
After Hours shows will cap the festivities tonight, Saturday and Sunday, bringing main-stage acts into Bella Italia, Next Door and Bar N9ne at 10:30 p.m. Admission is included with a festival pass.
Tickets to the entire festival, today through Monday, are $60 at the Vern Burton center, while children age 12 and younger get in free. Single-day passes are $20 for today or Monday and $25 for Saturday or Sunday.
Singer-songwriter Scott Cook of Edmonton, Alberta, is back at the festival for the second consecutive year.
“A lot of festivals are in a big field somewhere,” said Cook, who travels in his van 10 months out of the year. “It’s neat to see this one take over a town.”
Ingrid Elizabeth of Coyote Grace has strong feelings about music festivals, and about the discoveries they offer.
“I have been introduced to some of my favorite bands,” she said, “by simply sticking around a stage and giving these unknowns a chance,” unknowns that turned out to be Ray LaMontagne, the Civil Wars and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
As for Coyote Grace, “I believe that the entertainment value of the show is just as important as the quality of the music,” Elizabeth added. “We all pride ourselves on putting on a really great, engaging, fun, and heartfelt show.”
Groove for Thought’s Jeff Horenstein is all about that, too.
“We love to perform a variety of styles: jazz, gospel, R&B,” he said. “We’ll mix in some classic Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind, and Fire tunes with some jazz standards, all with our Groove for Thought spin.
“We love all kinds of music, from classical to rock, jazz to pop. That’s what makes a festival like this so great.”