Rarely can we dance the day away to great music while partying for a vital cause. This Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Alameda's unique Heartland Music Festival presents the opportunity via a full day of roots music from America's heartland. A collaboration between Peter Barnato -- proprietor of McGrath's Pub -- and Rosenblum Winery, the outdoor festival benefits music programs in Alameda schools. It takes place at Rosenblum Cellars next to the Alameda Point Ferry Terminal on Main Street, where an audience of 2,500 is expected to show up. "Everyone's budget is being cut," Barnato says. "Music is so important to kids in their formative years; it's essential to their development. I want to wake up the city of Alameda and give the money to the Alameda Education Foundation, a nonprofit that funds school programs. All profits go specifically to music programs and development. I don't care if they go to classical or folk, but they have to go to musical development." He has wanted to put on a big acoustic music festival in Alameda for many years. McGrath's is one of the West Coast's premier venues for bluegrass, country, swing, and other forms of roots music; many of the performers are his friends. Heartland Music Festival presents the dual opportunity to let a younger generation hear how great roots-Americana music can be while ensuring that music will continue to play an important role in education. Performers are giving presenters special deals, with even rental money for restaurants and vendors going to the schools.
The day begins with the Donner Mountain Bluegrass Band, a Bay Area group making considerable waves. Next come the Polka Cowboys, featuring prize-winning accordionist Art Peterson. After a stint from the Alhambra Valley Band, the much-heralded Tom Rigney and Flambeau, voted Best Cajun/Zydeco Band of 2004 by the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame, will knock people out. For folks still standing, Ron Thompson and the Resistors play West Coast blues and boogie with a depth that comes from performing with everyone from Sonny Rhodes to Bonnie Raitt. Things settle down a bit with Matt Kinman and the Old Time Serenaders, whose traditional music of the South has won followers at the Grand Ole Opry and Tennessee Fall Homecoming. For a rousing sendoff, hang tight for Houston Jones, a high-octane rockin' band Barnato considers "awesome." Tickets are $25 adult, $12 minors, children under twelve free. Check it out at HeartlandMusicFestival.org -- Jason Victor Serinus
It's to Laugh
Comic legend reborn onstage
When he's in character, actor Herbert Sigüenza bears a pretty good resemblance to the late Mario Moreno, aka Cantinflas -- subject of a new bilingual stage bio of the Mexican comic Everyman movie star. Sigüenza, from the performance trio Culture Clash, wrote the one-actor play as a tribute to Cantinflas, Mexico's all-time most popular movie personality. Two performances only, Friday and Saturday (8 p.m.) at La Peña (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) as part of the cultural center's thirtieth anniversary celebrations. www.lapena.org -- Kelly Vance
My Fair Opera Co.
In 1889, John S. Thurman invented the gas-powered vacuum cleaner, and ex-Bostonite Walter Bartlett founded the first opera company in California. Sadly, the Martinez Opera retired in 1921 when Bartlett did; but in 2002, community members and musicians resurrected the MTZO, injecting the largely blue-collar town with some blueblood culture. Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., they present The Lovely Galatea, Franz Von Suppe's late-19th-century telling of Pygmalion, and the kind of rare opera that has become the company's calling card. They'll also present a "Behind the Scenes" look at the MTZO of 1898 -- vacuum cleaner not included. Alhambra H.S. Performing Arts Center. MTZO.com, 925-798-1300. -- Stefanie Kalem
In the Whirl
Dance fans can feast for three straight weekends on the Oakland Dance Festival's lineup of performances and workshops. The second annual event, presented by Company C Contemporary Ballet -- who performs this Friday and Saturday (8 p.m.) alongside Robert Moses' Kin and the Savage Jazz Dance Company -- also features the AXIS Dance Company. A free master class for advanced dance students is scheduled this Saturday, 5:30-7 p.m. All events take place at Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts (formerly the Alice Arts Center), 1428 Alice St., Oakland. For more info and to register, phone 925-708-0752. -- Kelly Vance
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