Giving Hunger the Blues adds Woodstock theme, moves to Lakewood Ranch

The music festival and fundraiser celebrates Woodstock’s 50th anniversary and takes place at Sarasota Polo Club

Giving Hunger the Blues: 5:30-9 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Saturday; Sarasota Polo Club, 8201 Polo Club Lane, Sarasota; $10 advance, $20 day of, $65 VIP, free 12 and under (Saturday), free (Friday); givinghungertheblues.org

A long-running local music festival will celebrate the historic 50th anniversary of Woodstock this year, and make its own historic move after two decades in the city of Sarasota.

The 23rd annual Giving Hunger the Blues festival and fundraiser for the Mayors’ Feed the Hungry Program takes place Friday and Saturday at Sarasota Polo Club in Lakewood Ranch. Founded by former Five O’Clock Club owner George Generoso as a block party on Hillview Street, the festival moved to Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall’s grounds in 2016.

Peter Anderson, who became event chair in 2015, said the move to Polo Club was due to potential weather issues, with Van Wezel’s only availability being earlier in hurricane season. However, he thinks the change in venue ended up being fortuitous.

“The Sarasota Polo grounds is an 138-acre blank canvas with lots of room for expansion,” Anderson said. “The other thing that makes the Sarasota Polo grounds so attractive is that it’s private property, so the amount of city permitting that I had to do at the Van Wezel in large part goes away.”

The Woodstock concept came from last year’s event, where Anderson watched a “crazy tambourine player” performing in one of the bands. The percussionist turned out to be Gerardo Velez, a Sarasota resident who actually played onstage with Jimi Hendrix during his headlining Woodstock set.

Hendrix by Hendrix, a group featuring Velez and Hendrix’s second cousin and guitarist Regi Hendrix, will headline the main event Saturday. The concert will also feature other locally based artists performing the music of Woodstock acts, such as Twinkle and Rock Soul Radio playing Janis Joplin and Kettle of Fish playing The Band.

Anderson was 12 years old during Woodstock, but he grew up with the movie’s soundtrack album. And based on the number of Sarasota-Manatee residents he’s met who also grew up with or even went to Woodstock, including at this month’s Music on Main in Lakewood Ranch, he thinks this year’s festival could have wide appeal.

“It was remarkable, the number of people that stopped and told us their story about when they attended Woodstock,” Anderson said. “After the second or third of those, I just started giving them a general admission ticket.”

The event will also feature vintage Volkswagen buses, tie-dying and jewelry vendors for more Woodstock flavor. There will be area food trucks and a Mayors’ Feed the Hungry tent offering hamburgers, hot dogs and Rico’s Pizza.

Drinking vendors will include a Polo Club bar and three beer locations, two traditional and one craft. VIP tickets include cocktails from Lakewood Ranch’s Loaded Cannon Distillery and Boston’s Nautical American Gin, dinner from Sonny’s BBQ and dessert from Nothing Bundt Cakes.

Blankets and chairs are welcome, but outside coolers and pets are prohibited. There will also be a free event Friday headlined by popular Sarasota reggae group Jah Movement, who Anderson hopes will also throw in a little Sly & The Family Stone for “the funkier side of Woodstock.”

And Anderson’s hopeful the new Polo Club location will support his desire to expand Giving Hunger the Blues further, like in 2017 when he added a second, jazz-centric stage.

“Having this new venue absolutely gives me the opportunity to start thinking about expanding the event again,” Anderson said. “I certainly have the space to be able to do multiple stages, and that’s part of what I’m looking forward to doing.”

Here’s the schedule for this year’s main Giving Hunger the Blues:

FRIDAY

5:30-9 p.m.: Popular Sarasota reggae act Jah Movement headlines this free kickoff concert, which also features the jazz band Panama Drive and Music Compound group The Electric Church.

SATURDAY

12:15 p.m.: Fogt’s Music All-Stars
The group traditionally opens Giving Hunger the Blues.

1:30 p.m.: Ship of Fools
The local group pays tribute to the Grateful Dead, who performed a lengthy set on the second night of Woodstock.

2:45 p.m.: Trey Wanvig
The 17-year-old guitar prodigy will perform songs by Woodstock performer Johnny Winter, as well as Cream.

4 p.m.: R.J. Howson and Friends
Locally based bluesman R.J. Howson and musician friends perform the music of Santana, as well as The Allman Brothers Band (who didn’t play Woodstock, but were peers with those who did, and did play Woodstock ’94.)

5:15 p.m.: Twinkle and Rock Soul Radio
The rock band fronted by Schascle “Twinkle” Yochim plays the music of Janis Joplin, a singer who Yochim is frequently compared to. Yochim was signed to Warner Bros. in the ’90s, releasing the album “Haunted by Real Life” under the name Schascle.

6:30 p.m.: Kettle of Fish
The group performs music by The Band, who not only played Woodstock, but also lived near the site. Kettle of Fish also performs as them for their annual tribute to the 1973 Summer Jam at Watkins Glen concert, where The Dead, The Allman Brothers and The Band played to an estimated crowd of 600,000.

8 p.m.: Hendrix by Hendrix
The group paying tribute to Woodstock headliner Jimi Hendrix features his second cousin and guitarist Regi Hendrix as well as percussionist and Sarasota resident Gerardo Velez, who actually played on stage with Jimi at Woodstock as his part of his band. Velez also played in the Grammy-nominated jazz fusion group Spyro Gyra, and worked with artists including David Bowie and Chic.

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