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Locals, fresh faces part of fair music lineup

Don Swanson, guider of the Retro Rocketts, has song selection tips that play especially well for bands new to street fairs.

n_STREETFAIR_2013_web_small“You don’t want to play songs in the same key back to back. Let’s say the song is in the key of C. You don’t want to do four songs in a row in the key of C. You want to always split it up. Do an A song, a B song, a C song and so on,” he said.

What else?

“You don’t want to play 10 upbeat rock ’n’ roll songs in a row, then play four ballads in a row. We try to mix up really nicely,” Swanson said.

And watch those words.

“The audience at the street fair – you’ve got families, you’ve got kids. The last thing you want to do is pull out some song where you’re dropping F bombs everywhere,” said Swanson, whose Rocketts hit the Beer Garden Stage the second day of the Encinitas April Street Fair – April 27 and 28 downtown. “We don’t do any of that kind of music at all. Everything we do is three-, four-part harmonies and singalong-type songs.”

Tunes by the Beatles, Beach Boys and Eagles are Retro Rocketts staples. The four-stage bill includes area fixtures such as bluesman Bill Magee,  jazz vet Peter Sprague and rockabilly-and-more guitarist Jerry “Hot Rod” DeMink. Youthful musical acts and dance groups will entertain, as well.

“We generally hire local entertainment, but this year we have gone with a popular reggae band, Stranger (based in the South Bay), and up-and-coming sensation Elaine Faye and the Big Bang (of Los Angeles). Reggae bands are a big draw to our Beer Garden Stage. Elaine Faye’s vocals parallel that of Lauryn Hill. She is very soulful, and she and the Big Bang will be a nice addition to the Lumberyard Courtyard Stage,” said Olivia Paccione, program assistant with the Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association, which presents the fair.

They won’t come much more local than guitarist Sprague, who lives and creates in Encinitas – his recording space is called SpragueLand, naturally.

“It’s a great vibe there. We love it,” Sprague said of the fair.

Joining him onstage will be brother Tripp Sprague on saxophone and flute and Leonard Patton on vocals and percussion.

“We’ve got a nice sort of mix of jazz, but we also play Brazilian music. We do Beatles songs but in our own way; we play Jimi Hendrix in our own way,” Sprague said.

As two fresh releases show, the prolific music maker and performer always seems to arrange a different mix of personnel to suit a particular project.

“This is one of my favorites. The band, because it’s small, is really able to improvise a lot. It’s a really dynamic group,” he said.

Whatever the setting, Sprague said, his approach stays about the same: “Play great music, try to touch people, make a connection.”
Swanson’s Cardiff days are in the past, but he said the Retro Rocketts’ signature song is an original devoted to the home of Swami’s and Moonlight Beach.

“Whenever we play any event in Encinitas, we always make sure we play the ‘Encinitas 101’ song,” Swanson said. “It’s fun to look out in the audience and see the people tapping their feet and singing along.”

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Locals, fresh faces part of fair music lineup