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Kenny Neal Band (Delta Blues Festival)

ANTIOCH -- Those in the know have already marked off Saturday for Antioch's annual Delta Blues Festival, where they will be moving to the beat and soaking in the sounds of six musical acts on the banks of the San Joaquin Delta.

Located in the Rivertown District's Waldie Plaza, a natural theater of grass with plenty of shade trees, the free, alcohol-free festival is family-oriented and packed with music, arts and craft vendors and enough food choices that no one will go hungry.

"This has been called one of Antioch's nicest events. People are very receptive, and everybody gets along because it's alcohol-free," said Frank Giovanni, the festival producer. "So it's a perfect stage, and what could be better than to have the San Joaquin Delta as a setting for the blues?"

The lineup for the festival, now in its 14th year, is a balanced ticket, one focused on bringing different music styles to the area. Sam-One starts the music rolling at noon, playing a type of blues guitar in the styling of T-Bone Walker.

Hailing from Pittsburg, Sam-One represents the local, chitlin'-circuit in blues history. "We're proud to have him open our event," Giovanni said. "Sam-One lays it down real."

Next on stage is another local act, the Marshall Law Band, described by Giovanni as a wonderful entertainer and supporter of the blues. "He's high energy and just does not stop, one of the hardest-working acts around," he said.

BigCat Tolfree plays classic to modern-day blues that are danceable. "BigCat Tolfree is going to get your butt moving," Giovanni said.

When MoFo Party Band plugs in at 3 p.m., everything takes off with West Coast swing hinging on rockabilly. From Central California, the band plays true American blues based on real living and playing for keeps.

"They're playing each other's guitars and harmonicas, really high-energy and playing the real deal," Giovanni said.

As afternoon moves toward evening, Gino Matteo's soulful songs will keep the crowd moving. Described as an old soul with a voice smooth as velvet and tough as nails, Matteo's music reflects the love, pain and joy in his life.

Though sated with a day full of sound, the festival lastly welcomes its national headliner act from Louisiana, the modern swamp-blues master of soulful guitar playing, the Kenny Neal Band.

"He's high-energy, lovable, extremely talented and extremely charming," Giovanni said. "He's bringing the Delta to the Delta."

While the music fest goes on, festivalgoers can visit craft and food vendors and informational booths set up right near the stage, so as not to miss a note, as well as meet the artists and get their autographs on festival posters, available for $1.

Much planning has gone into the festival, and producer Giovanni wants to emphasize that it couldn't take place without the support of its sponsors and the dedicated crew of volunteers that make it work. As a nonprofit event, its future depends on contributions from pleased festivalgoers who recognize the value of the day.

Along with donations and festival T-shirt purchases, another way to give support is with donations to a scholarship set up in the name of David Williamson, who put together the first Delta Blues Festival. The scholarship goes to support an Antioch High School student who wants an education in music.

With its large indigenous population of Blues fans, Antioch and Delta residents, some 5,000 strong, will fill the Rivertown District on Saturday, and Giovanni looks forward to watching the crowd, both old and young, move to the blues.

"I look forward to pleasing the people. One thing that's really nice is having someone come up and say thank you," he said. "Blues is not feel-down music; blues is a feel-good music, it gets your pulse up."

IF YOU GO
What: 14th annual Delta Blues Festival
When: Noon to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Off Second Street between G and I streets in Antioch's Rivertown District
Details: No alcohol, no pets, free admission and free parking. People are welcome to bring lawn chairs and picnics. For more information or to make a donation for the festival or scholarship visit www.DeltaBluesFestival.net or call 209-601-9785.