What is it about the beginning of September that makes everyone want to throw a music festival? OK, it's Labor Day, that last gasp of summer when people might be looking for any excuse to head outdoors. That makes sense. But even the weekend after this upcoming long weekend is festival-filled. Here's a quick rundown of what's going down, from this weekend's Planet Arlington Festival to next weekend's reggae-filled One Love Festival.
The best bet of the bunch is the Saturday's second annual Planet Arlington World Music Festival at Netherlands Carillon. The free event made a splash with its debut last year featuring the extra-funky sounds of Zimbabwe's Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi. The ante has been upped -- big time -- for this year's show, as any number of acts could be seen as worthy headliners. The Skatalites kick things off at 4 p.m., Even though just a couple of members remain from the band's original '60s lineup, there are very few groups that are better at delivering the classic rocksteady sounds of Jamaica. Next up is Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista. To get a taste of the weirdness you might be in store for, check out this solo performance on YouTube. Latin Grammy winner Lila Downs (listen) has proven to be an expert interpreter of traditional Mexican sounds and has a rich, powerful voice that stays consistent as she jumps between rock, jazz and older Mexican music. As if all that wasn't enough, the headliner is South African trumpeter Hugh Masakela, who was one of the first to meld world music rhythms with jazz tendencies. To see all these artists on their own would cost a few hundred dollars, but it's completely free on Saturday.
The emergence of the Planet Arlington Festival takes some of the spotlight away from the D.C. Blues Festival, but the 19th annual event boasts a fine lineup featuring Clarence "the Bluesman" Turner, bluesy soul singer Mary Shaver with the Smokin' Polecats, doo wop veterans the Legendary Orioles and guitar slinger Bobby Parker & the Blues Night Band. And what would a blues festival at Carter Barron be without bar-blues mainstays the Nighthawks. The show is free, as always, but the after-party jam session at Chick Hall's Surf Club is $15.
Though it's not free, when you see the lineup for the Metropolitan International Jazz Festival you'll realize why. The festival is held in Upper Marlboro at Show Place Arena and features plenty of big names over three nights. The lineup includes funk legends War, renowned bop-pianist Ramsey Lewis and Black Moses himself, Isaac Hayes. Mindi Abair, Steve Oliver, Jeffrey Osborne and Nick Colionne are also scheduled to perform at the second annual event, which kicks off on Thursday.
Much more low-key is the Herndon Labor Day Wine and Jazz Festival. Jazz flutist and Latin Grammy nominee Dave Valentine headlines, so if you feel like indulging your inner Ron Burgundy on your day off, this could be the place for you. The music serves mostly as an accompaniment for the wine tastings offered by about a dozen local wineries.
There's no slow down next weekend. Cuban trumpeter extraordinaire Arutro Sandoval headlines the Silver Spring Jazz Festival on Saturday, Sept. 8. The fourth annual festival -- free, as always -- also features performances from vocalist Ethel Ennis and a pair of noteworthy locals, smooth jazz master Marcus Johnson and harmonica hotshot Frederic Yonnet.
The Silver Spring festival has some tough competition from the Rosslyn Jazz Festival over in Virginia. Virtuoso violinist Regina Carter headlines the lineup for the 17th annual festival, which is also free. Vocalist Kevin Mahogany and saxophonist Red Holloway will team up for a set paying tribute to legendary blues shouter Big Joe Turner. Bobby Hutcherson, a pioneer of free jazz vibraphone, rounds out the impressive lineup.
If reggae's more your thing, then get to Crossroads on Sunday, Sept. 9 for the One Love Festival. The all-day, indoor/outdoor affair will have plenty of music and vendors to meet your Jamaican needs. Dancehall stars Buju Banton and Beenie Man are the big names on the bill, but don't sleep on S.T.O.R.M., one of the area's strongest reggae bands. And yes, the irony of Banton -- who has run into controversy for some not quite tolerant lyrics of his -- headlining the One Love Festival isn't lost on us.
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