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East Palo Alto Blues Festival returns this weekend

Annual fest features 'good food, good music and good weather'

This weekend, East Palo Alto will be rocking and stomping during two days of music at the annual East Palo Alto Blues Festival.

Now in its ninth year, the festivities on Aug. 3 and 4 will feature 19 musical acts. Among them are Johnny Rawls, R&B/Soul singer Lenny Williams (formerly lead singer of Tower of Power), the West Coast Blues Society Caravan of Allstars, J.C. Smith Band, Tebo, Fillmore Slim, Oakland Blues Divas, Dee Dee Simon (with her five-octave range) and many others. A special "Church in the Park" gospel service courtesy of St. Mark AME Zion Church will take place on Sunday at 11 a.m.

The musical range of the performers swings from the honey-voiced soul of Karl Bracy to the gutsy belter Willie G.

Menlo Park's own R&B/soul/hip-hop/funk artist Tebo will perform, as will big-voiced 2019 Grammy nominee Ladee Chico.

Barbecue from Sue's Good Cooking, Earl's Barbecue and more will be available for sale, alongside plenty of vendor booths, and admission to the festival at Bell Street Park is free. The event is produced by longtime entrepreneur Patrick Brock and Company.

Brock, who was raised in south Palo Alto and attended Terman Middle School and Gunn High School, moved to East Palo Alto at age 18. He's been a mainstay of the city ever since. He's been a community outreach specialist, permit expediter and property manager, event producer and facilities manager. He's helped found and led multiple nonprofit organizations in East Palo Alto, including substance-abuse-recovery center Free at Last, tech-access center Plugged In, and Start-Up, a business training and support center for entrepreneurs, according to his company biography.

As an impresario, he's handled the city's popular Collard Greens and Juneteenth festivals and has been a longtime event coordinator handling many musical acts, including international names such as Buddy Miles, Ronnie Stewart, the O'Jays, the Whispers and others.

Jazz trumpeter Fred Berry took Brock to gigs, where he got his introduction to the music scene, he said. Brock doesn't play any musical instruments, he just emcees. He loves the vibe people get from the East Palo Alto Blues Festival.

"There's no drama; no violence; no alcohol; no weed. People just come together. International Blues Day is the first Saturday in August, so we hold it every year on that day," he said.

Brock is already looking forward to next year: the blues festival's 10th anniversary. He's looking to help to put the city on the map of destination places.

What's his favorite thing about East Palo Alto?

"We still here. We ain't went nowhere. We used to be the 'Murder Capital.' Now it's the 'Best Capital,'" he said.

To wit, Brock said that this year's event has been especially well funded, with more than 25 sponsors from local businesses and nonprofit organizations such as the East Palo Alto-Belle Haven Chamber of Commerce, Computers for Everyone, the YMCA, Drew Center Pharmacy, Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, Recology, Jones Mortuary, Pan African City Alive!, local mom-and-pop grocers Pal Market and Oakwood Market, Sunrise Towing and Transport and A-1 Auto Service and Towing, and heavy hitters such as Facebook, Woodland Park Communities, The City of East Palo Alto, The Sobrato Organization, McDonalds and 2020 Bay Road.

Music and barbecue bring people together, and Brock said he aims to bring the best of both.

"All of the music comes together and there's every kind of people. Everybody comes there and eats. They just kick back and do music, and we just got good food. I feed the bands myself," he said. "It's all just good food, good music and good weather."

What: The East Palo Alto Blues Festival.

Where: Bell Street Park, 550 Bell St., East Palo Alto.

When: Saturday, Aug. 3 and Sunday, Aug. 4, noon-7 p.m.; Sunday gospel church service from 11 a.m. to noon.

Cost: Free

Info: EPA Blues Festival.

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