The meadow in City Park came alive Saturday when the Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce hosted its fifth annual Mossbrae Music Festival.

A one-hour opener of local favorites Allison Scull and Victor Martin was followed by headliner John Lee Hooker, Jr. and his band, who enthralled a crowd of well over 250 for another two hours.

The sun was low but still hot when Allison and Victor took the stage. Their set began with just the two of them alone, perhaps in homage to their humble beginning, but after their first song Victor called their band up to join them.

John Aviani sat down at the drums, Mike Harris settled behind three congas, Stephane Shittko took the keyboard and Pete Rose picked up a bass guitar. Together, the band filled the spaces between Allison's silver tones of voice and chord, and bridged them to Victor's smooth sax. The result was a breath of cool jazz, cool like a breeze, gently blowing over a grateful crowd this hot afternoon.

They played eight songs, and when it was over Allison's eyes shone with excitement. “It was great, so awesome,” she said. “We don't get an opportunity to go with a full band very often.”

Not far from the stage her sister, Suzanne Scull, sat at a table. There, concert-goers could pick up a t-shirt bearing her artistic design to commemorate the event. They could also buy Allison and Victor CDs. “I designed the covers of all their CDs except the first one,” Scull revealed.

A little further into the meadow, a line of tables beneath a canopy provided ample space for the Brown Trout to build sandwiches to order, mostly tri-tip, which sizzled in a portable barbecue. Across the meadow, stood three more stations.

First was that of the Dunsmuir Brewery Works, pumping beer for a thirsty crowd. A table nearby held a display of photographs showing the town at its best, under a banner reading “Come home to Dunsmuir.” This was a marketing ploy by the Chamber of Commerce to entice people who have lived here and left to return to Dunsmuir and all it has to offer: railroad heritage, clean air, the best water on earth and good townsfolk.

The last fund-raising station in the meadow was an ice cream cooler from Thriftway Market. All proceeds from selling frozen confections would go towards offsetting the cost of painting the Dunsmuir Branch Library, so that some of the $11,000 earmarked by the city council for the paint job could go into the day to day operations of the library.
These stations, in total, represented the efforts of a small community that came together to better its town. Any funds raised by the Chamber of Commerce would be spent to promote Dunsmuir. As Chamber president Barbara Cross would later announce in thanks from the stage, this event was possible because of the combined efforts of a half dozen corporate sponsors and the support of many local businesses, individuals and volunteers.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” Cross would announce during the Hooker band's intermission. “It takes a village to put on a concert too.”

It turned out to be quite a concert this village put on. By the time John Lee Hooker took the stage, the crowd was ready for some big-city blues, and Hooker delivered. The veteran performer dressed for his part as bluesman, with long-sleeves, vest and hat, and without regard for comfort. The temperature still in the 80s, Hooker took on the heat to play it cool.

Behind him played the band that had followed him around the world. Over the keyboard stood Elpher Legaspi, while Mike Rogers manned the drums. Jack Starnes ruled from the bass, and Angelo Santi soared on lead guitar.

Two extras joined the band for this performance, Julius Melendez on trumpet and A.G. Sax on saxophone. They played sharp, they played tight and they played hard. As they played their instruments with effortless precision, so Hooker played his audience.

“We've been here before,” he goaded the crowd in the meadow. “We know how much you love the blues.”

By the time Hooker sang about getting his mojo workin', the dance area was packed with people. He called for them to join him in the refrain. Many sang out. Not getting quite the involvement he wanted, the bluesman announced he was recording them, there and then, collecting tracks for mixing into a live album. The dancers loved it, and they yelled the words as they swayed and shook in the warm summer air until they ran wet from sweat.

Between songs, Hooker kept connecting. “We brought our tents,” he called out. “We brought our fishing poles. Anybody got a boat?”

As the show neared its end, dancers fatigued, people beginning to drift away, Hooker found one last way to inject new life into the show. “We're going to get down and dirty now,” he promised the crowd. “For the first time ever, in Dunsmuir, we're going to have a funky booty contest. Guys can't play.”

A half-dozen daring women took turns doing their best shake-it onstage beside the bluesman. Then there was a shake-off between the top two, one of which was former Dunsmuir mayor Kathay Edmundson. But the prize was taken by an out-of-towner, Debbie McDowell of Mount Shasta. For her chiropractor-enriching performance, she took home a copy of John Lee Hooker, Jr’s latest CD, “Live in Istanbul.”

The rest of the audience got to take something home too, that glow that remains after the concert, the result of exposure to a few hours of really good live music. And all the memories of the dance and the drink, and the just plain fun.

Members of the Chamber took home a bonus, the knowledge that they had, once again, successfully organized a grand musical event for their town, one that paid off with a great deal more than just money.