Sarasota music fest Giving Hunger the Blues moving to Lakewood Ranch, adding Woodstock theme

Giving Hunger the Blues music festival and fundraiser will move to Polo Club for its 23rd annual event

SARASOTA — As Woodstock nostalgia hits a new high thanks to its 50th anniversary, a local music festival has announced a headliner with direct ties to the historic happening’s top performer. In addition, the annual event that dates back more than two decades in Sarasota will be relocating to a larger venue in Lakewood Ranch.

The 23rd annual Giving Hunger the Blues festival and fundraiser for the Mayors’ Feed the Hungry Program will leave the city of Sarasota for the first time when it returns Nov. 15-16, moving to Sarasota Polo Club, which is actually in Lakewood Ranch. This year will also have a Woodstock-themed lineup headlined by Hendrix by Hendrix, featuring Gerardo Velez, a Sarasota resident who closed out Woodstock with Jimi Hendrix.

Velez is also a seven-time Grammy nominee for his work with jazz fusion group Spyro Gyra and has worked with such big-name musicians as David Bowie and Chic. It’s a fitting addition to the lineage of a festival that other nationally known, locally based musicians have lent their talents to over the years, including AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson, “American Idol” finalist Syesha Mercado and Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dan Toler.

Gerardo himself being local and being a big supporter of the festival has been a big help in promoting not only his act, but the event in general,” said Peter Anderson, Giving Hunger the Blues’ event chair and producer.

Along with Hendrix by Hendrix, which also features the iconic guitarist’s cousin Regi Hendrix, the lineup for the main Nov. 16 event includes some of the most popular Sarasota-based rock acts paying tribute to Woodstock performers. Formerly nationally signed singer Twinkle and her group Rock Soul Radio will perform the music of Janis Joplin, while bluesman R.J. Howson and guests will play music Santana and The Allman Brothers Band. (The Allman Brothers, which formed in March 1969, didn’t play Woodstock, but are certainly contemporaries of many rock musicians who did).

Sarasota groups Kettle of Fish and Ship of Fools will play the music of The Band and The Grateful Dead, respectively, which they also have for their own annual event Summer Jam, a tribute to the 1973 Summer Jam at Watkins Glen concert that drew a Woodstock-esque crowd of around 600,000 to see the Dead, The Band and Allman Brothers.

There will also be a free concert on Nov. 15 featuring popular Sarasota reggae group Jah Movement. Tickets to the Nov. 16 show will cost $10 advance and $20 the day of, with VIP tickets including three adult beverages, Sonny’s BBQ and premium seating costing $65. Tickets will go on sale around the start of September, Anderson said.

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Story by Jimmy Geurts, Entertainment reporter for the Herald-Tribune, Aug. 15, 2019