Sweet home, 'Chicago'

Posted on March 27, 2014 by Sonoma Valley Sun

There are big screen movies, 3-D movies and movie experiences that jump right off the screen. The 17th Annual Sonoma International Film Festival, April 2-6, features several immersive, big night events including the screening of “Born in Chicago,” a documentary about how white teenage musicians in the early 60’s learned the Blues from masters of the genre, followed by a live concert at the Veterans Building.

The film is a history of music, race, and an era, as young acolytes such as Bob Dylan and Mike Bloomfield soak up the knowledge shared by B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and more legends of the Chicago Blues scene.

“We wanted to learn from these great masters, and they were willing to teach us,” said Barry Goldberg, one of the musical pilgrims. Race, and this was the pre-dawn of the civil rights era, was not an issue. “We crossed those lines out of a love for the music, and met nothing but kindness, patience and generosity,”

Elvin Bishop tells of being invited to the homes of players he admired, like Otis Rush and Sammy Lawhorn, to learn new guitar lines. There would be ham hocks and black-eyed peas cooking on the stove, he remembers, but he couldn’t have any until he got the riff right.

The kids indeed got schooled. Dylan went electric, with Bloomfield on guitar, and Blues began permeating mainstream music, even as pop was morphing into rock. Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Duane Allman, Stevie Ray Vaughan… the circle ever widens. The title of a late Muddy Waters track sums it up: “The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock and Roll.”

With Goldberg, on the Chicago scene and interviewed for the film, are Bishop, Eric Burdon, Elvin Bishop, Harvey Mandel, Charlie Musselwhite and Nick Gravenitas. Film Fesival hinch Kevin McNeely can’t name names, but says “some of these incredible musicians will perform immediately following the film.”

And so, the concert at the Sonoma Veterans Building was in a small way born in Chicago clubs and kitchens 50-plus years ago. It’s a bit of living history – and you can dance to it. The 10 p.m. concert follows the 8 p.m. film. Tickets are $55 for both, or $100 for the VIP treatment.

Full festival info at

More big nights

• “Vintners, Growers & Groovers,” on Thursday, April 3, features the screening of “The Organic Life,” a documentary by local filmmaker Casey Beck, and “The Fourth Noble Truth,” with Harry Hamlin and Kristen Kerr. The after party features a down-home. localvore buffet, wine (of course), and live music.

• On Friday, April 4, the “cinema en español” Vamos al Cine program is celebrated ‘a-la-Latina’ with the rhythms of the Carlos Herrera band, folkloric dances by the Quetzalen group, and Latin flavors. Latino community leaders, directors and actors from Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico, and special guests will be in attendance.

• Sunday, April 6, The event wraps up with the closing night film “Belle,” a period romantic drama starring Tom Wilknson and Miranda Richardson, with attending director Amma Assanté, and the annual Awards Ceremony.

Ticket options range from individual films to all-event passes. For ticket and show information visit

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