The annual Rogue Performance Festival celebrates its ninth year with more than 100 performances in less than two weeks. The festival will take place from March 4 through March 13, 2010 at more than a dozen Fresno venues.
Ashtree Gallery, The Starline and Severance Fresno Ballet School will serve as hosts to some of the performances. This year’s festivities feature performances from new and returning acts as well as acts from Fresno State.
For local musician Blake Jones, the festival is a great way to see Fresno in a whole new light.
“The Rogue Festival shows Fresno what could be,” Jones said. “It’s an amazing show of optimism. This may sound schmaltzy or overstated, but for those two weeks it makes the world a wonderful place to be. That’s how highly I rate the experience.”
Jones, who fronts the band Blake Jones and The Trike Shop, said his music has been described as “whip-smart art-pop.” For the last few years, they have played all over the state. For a previous Rogue Festival performance, they held a benefit show, which led to a tour of Northern England.
This year, Jones will team up with Tom Magill for a show called “The Underground Garden: Scenesters, Tall-tales and Fresno Rock ‘n’ Roll.” They are inviting musicians, DJs, writers, and club owners to speak on Fresno’s music history.
“They range from band members of groups from the 1960s all the way to folks still playing around today,” Jones said.
This year, the festival will also feature those who are not as familiar with the “Rogue” experience.
Tommy Nugent, of Detroit, will be making his first trip to the Fresno Rogue Festival. His performance, entitled “Burning Man and the Reverend Nuge,” is one of the new out of town acts to be featured this year. The show focuses on what Nugent calls a “preacher turned bartender turned motivational speaker turned comedic storyteller.”
Nugent, who has been performing his show since 2002, has found that his unusual story relates to more than he would have imagined.
“I was surprised by how many people told me how much they related to it since I always thought my story was so unusual,” Nugent said. “But I guess it touches on a lot of stuff that is universal to everyone even if the specific narrative is unique.”
While Nugent has performed in cities from Cincinnati to Orlando, his job as a campus speaker has taken him to more than 31 states in the last decade.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much college students have taken to this incarnation of the show since the last third of it deals with mid-life issues,” Nugent said. “That response has been so strong that I started touring colleges with a version of the show called ‘The Journey.’ Here’s hoping some student-activities-type folk will check out the Rogue show and give me a call.”
Many students will also get the opportunity to see Fresno State staff perform; such as, music theory and composition professor Benjamin Boone who will play saxophone alongside Grammy award-winning drummer Steve Mitchell —who produced music for “Charlie Brown,” “Garfield the Cat” and “Sesame Street” TV specials for 25 years.
The Rogue Festival was the perfect opportunity for him to perform with Mitchell.
“I never really thought he was a real drummer,” Boone said. “I asked ‘does he ever play professionally?’ He also won a special Grammy for his work in the studio.”
Boone described The Rogue Festival as the perfect place to play because no one is ever turned away.
“The whole idea behind the festival is there is not a jury that says this group can do it and this group can’t,” Boone said. “It’s a really neat festival because it’s a great opportunity for people to try things out.”
Boone was chosen by The Fresno Bee as a Rogue Festival “Best Bet” three years in a row, will be joined by different performers on each night. He will be joined by Eva Scow, David Aus, and Mike Dana. On the final night, which will be the CD release of his last Rogue performance, he will be joined by local violinist Patrick Contrares.
All performance schedules can be found online at roguefestival.org. With many performances playing simultaneously, Boone says it’s a great opportunity to check out all different types of performances.
“I think it’s one of the best offerings from Fresno,” Boone said. “It’s a very hip festival and everyone has been glad that they checked it out.”