The East Bay has summer music fests galore, but the Black Diamond is worth seeking out. Now in its sixth year, the city of Pittsburg's Black Diamond Blues Festival digs a little deeper than most for its kicks. It's named for the old African-American neighborhood that sprang up in the post-WWII years, when the Camp Stoneman army base flourished and night spots on the chitlin circuit, like the Paloma, the Colony Club, and Brent's Soul Food Café; presented Earl King, Freddie King, and other blues and R&B acts.
That legacy lives on in the annual downtown outdoor event (Saturday and Sunday, May 25-26, 12:30-7 p.m., on Railroad Avenue between 3rd and 5th streets), organized by city officials Marilyn Lewis and Pat Meadows. "I used to host a blues radio show on KEGR, 97.7 cable FM in Concord," says Meadows, "so I have a rapport with the musicians."
Black Diamond's lineup of talent is impressive. On Saturday, '70s singing sensation Betty Wright ("Clean Up Woman," "Where Is the Love?") makes a rare appearance. Explains Meadows: "After she made several hits, Betty decided to start a family and retired from show business, but now she goes out on the road part-time from her home in Miami." Audience favorite E.C. Scott headlines the Sunday show for the third year in a row. The Oakland-bred former gospel singer, with her band Smoke, injects her blues with a shot of hip-hop. The supporting acts are strong, too. On Saturday: blues and gospel diva Sista Monica, the Bay Area Blues Society with Chocolate Thunder and David Thompson, Raymond Victor, jump-blues fanatics Steve Lucky & the Rhumba Bums with Miss Carmen Getit, and the Black Diamond Blues Band. Sunday performers include Louisiana native Larry Garner, singer-guitarist Phil Guy from Chicago ("the most brittle tone allowed by law"), Shane Dwight Blues band, J.C. Smith Blues Band, and a student group, Pride of Pittsburg. All that and Cajun food, too. 925-252-4842 or www.blackdiamondbluesfestival.com
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