Sonoma Harvest Music Festival provides the ‘Royal’ treatment
In the rarefied world of the touring rock and roll musician, playing a gig at Red Rocks is one of the pinnacles. The beautiful natural amphitheater outside Denver, Colorado hosts the biggest names in the biz during its short Rocky Mountain season.
Seven of the 10 bands playing at BR Cohn Winery this weekend have played at Red Rocks.
The Sonoma Harvest Music Festival is being held at BR Cohn in Glen Ellen. The festival will bring to our little valley some big name Red Rock veterans: The Avett Brothers, the Head and the Heart, Lake Street Dive, and Shovels and Rope to name but a few. You can listen to the music both Saturday and Sunday, starting at 11:30 a.m.
The outdoor amphitheater in Glen Ellen affords gorgeous views toward the west over a little winter creek and BR Cohn’s malbec, cabernet franc, and merlot vineyard.
For nearly 30 years, the stage was the home of the BR Cohn Charity Fall Music Festival. Over the years, music lovers basked in the warm autumn sunshine at the winery enjoying the songs of Willie Nelson, David Crosby and Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis and the News and, of course, the Doobie Brothers, whose manager for many years was winery founder Bruce Cohn.
Cohn eventually moved what would be the final BRC festival to the Field of Dreams in 2015, but the tunes now return to Glen Ellen as the Harvest Music Festival. This weekend’s event is being promoted by the same outfit that puts on Napa’s BottleRock.
“Our dream was to bring music back to the estate in a big way, with world-class artists performing in our beautiful natural amphitheater,” festival officials say on their website.
Cohn began the rock shows 30 years ago as a charity, with proceeds going to many needy local organizations. He was also very good about presenting local bands to the early afternoon crowds. This year, the band opening Saturday is local outfit Royal Jelly Jive. Royal Jelly Jive is not only a successful regional band with two full-length studio albums under its belt, but its members are also Sonoma residents.
Keyboard and guitarist Jesse Adams and vocalist Lauren Bjelde are a couple, in both the relationship sense and the creatively collaborative sense. They have lived on the southside of Sonoma for two years, moving here from Penngrove. The couple fronts Royal Jelly Jive, an irresistible and dynamic sextet.
Adams, from Petaluma, and Bjelde, from Modesto, met while stepping over each other’s cables on stage in San Francisco’s Boom Boom Room. They blended their common influences, added some horns and percussion, and jumped on board as a full-time band in 2014.They describe their sound as “San Francisco Soul.” Their mission statement is simply to “Spread the Jelly.”
The pair both attended San Francisco State University, and their friendship developed over performances with various acts throughout the area. “It’s pretty great to find someone who can create with you so meaningfully,” said Adams.
When asked about their slot at the Sonoma Harvest Festival, Adams described the band as excited. “We know lots of the other musicians on the bill and are happy to be playing to our home town crowd,” said Adams.
He spoke of the other bands at the festival, many of which are not too far into their own careers. “We have all played in a lot of the same clubs, some not so long ago,” said Adams. “We have all faced the same struggles. It’s good to know we are not alone in this crazy little lifestyle.”
While speaking about the earlier days of their band, Adams said, “We had some bizarre gigs, lots of adventures. We’ve slept on the floor above the bar. It all helped us grow as a band and family.”
It is not hard to understand why the Sonoma Harvest Music Festival is so named. But “Royal Jelly Jive”?
Explains Adams: “‘Royal Jelly Jive came from the special juice called ‘royal jelly’ that the worker bees give to the queen bee, making her so powerful and larger than a normal bee. It’s a metaphor for our band: Lauren is our queen bee, and we are jamming around her to make her shine.”
Lauren’s worker bees will make her shine Saturday at 11:30 a.m., when Royal Jelly Jive takes the stage.
Check out tickets, times and bands at sonomaharvestmusicfestival.com.