by Anneli Rufus
Live music in bookstores and burger bars?
The Downtown Berkeley MusicFest launches today, with dozens of acts set to perform — usually for free — at Jupiter, Bobby G's, the JazzSchool, Freight & Salvage, the Berkeley Central Library, Amanda's Feel Good Fresh Food, and Half Price Books. Freight & Salvage is producing the nine-day festival, with the help of the Downtown Berkeley Association, City of Berkeley, AT&T California, and KPFA.
Next week's F&S gig will be part of a farewell tour for the local a cappella quartet the Edlos, whose repertoire over a 22-year career ranges from cowboy tunes to show tunes to Gregorian chant. Its members boast intriguing CVs: Eric Morris has soloed with the San Francisco Symphony; Craig Knudsen toured the country as a member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe; Larry Venza has soloed with professional opera and ballet companies in California, Idaho, and Hawaii; and Avi Jacobson served as assistant conductor of the Israel Defense Forces Band and Orchestra, then performed as guest banjoist with the Israeli Philharmonic.
Other MusicFest acts include Maria Muldaur, Peter Case, Eric and Suzy Thompson, Exhausted Pipes, Quinn Deveaux & the Juggy Tubsters, Japanese yodeler Toshio Hirano, Van Morrison's pop/blues-singing daughter Shana Morrison — and KC Jiang, who grew up in Taiwan dreaming of becoming a street musician, but attended Stanford and became a mechanical engineer instead. Nonetheless, he revived his childhood dream by teaching himself to play the Irish whistle after being inspired by the soundtrack to the film Titanic. On this and on the tremolo harmonica, Jiang tours the Bay Area playing classical music, Chinese melodies, Celtic favorites, and American folk songs.
Amanda West, another Stanford alum and the proprietor of Amanda's FGFF, describes herself as being "so excited" about the lineup set to perform at her place. The weirdest part of all is that on Saturday, August 28, these acts include a banjo/djembe/guitar-playing singer-songwriter named ... Amanda West.
They're two entirely different Amanda Wests. The restaurateur describes the singer as "my talented 'name twin.'"