Baja Bash. Roll the words around your tongue; feel the salty taste of freedom and fun in those three syllables. Now mark your calendars for July 24th-27th so you can take part in one of the most exciting yet deliciously laid-back get-togethers on the summer festival circuit.

Baja Bash 2003Also, set your compass north a few degrees. Originally set to take place at the festival’s traditional site in Salsipuedes, Mexico, the Bash has moved north towards Alaska (actually 50 miles northeast of San Diego) to the La Jolla Indian Reservation. Besides doubling their capacity, making this perhaps the roomiest musical gathering around, the organizers also picked up hot showers, a go-cart track and water park, ample bathrooms, a slots arcade and a general store. Very civilized. Their emphasis on a kind and respectful crowd will have a lot of chances to shine. As Mike Kim, guitarist for Baja Bash veterans The Travel Agents, says, one can expect to see loads of “shiny, wet, sunny people everywhere.”

There is of course the matter of the music. The fest tackles a creamy line-up of many of the finest working bands on the jam scene today. From the best damn jazz band going to the sweat drenched grooving of very large poultry, this year’s batch crackles with the promise of genuine musical alchemy. Performers include the angular joys of the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, the monstrous funk of Robert Walter's 20th Congress, the four to the floor rock rightness of Tea Leaf Green, new monsoon and their percussive country spirit, technicolor dynamos The Big Wu, the Zappaesque pyrotechnics of Psychedelic Breakfast, the uncut 21st Century soul of Ten Ton Chicken, and the Dead-fueled good news of Cubensis. Also throwing in some spice will be The McCloskey Brothers Band, Delta Nove and more.

If anything unites this assortment, it’s a consistently high quality to everything they do. This is the kind of selection that prompts a player’s best work and surprises them at every turn. Expect a lot of cross-pollination between this good-natured set of tunesmiths.

Reed Mathis, bass marvel of Jacob Fred, says, “We will hopefully be as close to naked as possible, if that counts as special. I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Russo or Robert Walter ended up on stage at some point.” The sterling guitarist from Ten Ton Chicken, Gary Morrell, tells us, “Jamison [Smeltz] will play sax in a thong. Also, we hope to have Avril Lavigne sit in with us on hammer dulcimer.” Rajiv Parikh, Tabla master of new monsoon, let us know the band will be debut new tunes and their Latin percussionist Brian Carey will perform on a drumkit. He also added, “It would be fun for me personally to sit in with Jacob Fred. Tabla could fit in nicely.” Travel Agents’ drummer, Frank Lazarro, says, “I’ll sit in with whoever begs me!”

Excitement is especially high for Robert Walter's 20th Congress. The band's current configuration, led by the rubber wristed soul-kid himself on keys, includes bassist Mike Fratantuno, known for his work with hip-hopper Black Eyed Peas, guitarist Will Bernard and Joe Russo, whom Reed Mathis calls “the cutest drummer to ever beat the skins.”

Sadly, Tea Leaf Green’s plans to give surfing lessons will have to be shelved given the poor surfing conditions, but there’s plenty of opportunities for them to exercise what they termed athletic domination. The band states, “Whiffle ball, b-ball, soccer, anything. Bring it on.”

A playful spirit infuses everything about Baja Bash. Close your eyes and you can almost see the smiling faces floating by along the San Luis Rey River. Mike Kim states, “Baja Bash is always the highlight of our year. We’ve done the bashes from day one and this is like the 13th time. We plan on having Rosy Dawn Selwitz sing with us. If you haven’t heard Rosy sing, she is a force of nature.” Fellow Travel Agent Dave Chesavage continues, “No special plans at this point but it is Baja Bash. Anything can happen. Something strange undoubtedly will. Well, I wouldn’t bank on a swimsuit contest.”

Webster’s defines a "bash" as a "festive social gathering." When asked their impressions of the word "bash," a few musicians had some other perspectives. “A cello. I want to smash a cello,” responded Reed Mathis. Frank Lazarro offered, “The sound of my head hitting the pillow in my tent at around 4 a.m.” Tablist Rajiv said, “Bash = good music and good friends.” Tea Leaf’s Scott Rager sees a “500 foot homerun.” The final word goes to TTC’s Gary Morrell, who envisions “an orgy of music, fun and sun. It’s going to be a great time.”

Advance tickets are available through Tickets are $65 in advance and $85 at the gate Thursday and Friday, July 24th-25th, and $50 at the gate on Saturday, July 26th. Children under the age of 13 (available at gate only) are $35 Thursday and Friday, July 24th-25th and $25 Saturday, July 26th. Children under five years old are free. There are no day passes. Ticket price includes camping and all shows.

Visit the official festival site for more information on the La Jolla Reservation campgrounds, start times and much more.

Dennis Cook
JamBase | West Coast
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[Published on: 6/21/03]

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