Festival turns 30 with first-rate lineup — beginning to end

THURSDAY, AUG. 2, 2012

One of the best-ever lineups at the Festival at Sandpoint, by sheer crowd appeal, starts tonight with the world-renowned Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Johnny Clegg.

And then it just keeps getting better.

Alison Krauss & Union Station sold out every ticket long ago for its Friday concert, smashing a festival record set by Lyle Lovett in 2007. His sellout came 10 days before the show; Krauss’ came more than a month before.

“It just proves what a true crossover act they are,” said festival director Dyno Wahl.

A lot of things fell into place to turn the festival’s 30th season into its “biggest lineup ever,” Wahl said. The festival was able to land a number of acts it has been pursuing for years, notably Barenaked Ladies (Saturday), Pink Martini (Aug. 9), Counting Crows (Aug. 10) and Kenny Loggins (Aug. 11). Every one of those shows will at least come close to filling the 3,500-capacity Memorial Field.

And it’s a good thing, too, because Wahl had to persuade the festival board to raise the budget to pay for these acts.

“I’m glad we took the gamble,” Wahl said.

Here’s a look at the first week’s shows:

Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Johnny Clegg, today, 7:30 p.m. – Ladysmith Black Mambazo provided the distinctive choral sounds on Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album, and Johnny Clegg is the man South Africans call “the White Zulu.” He is renowned for mixing Zulu influences into other African and Western styles. This concert will close with fireworks (as will the Grand Finale concert on Aug. 12).

Opening night will also be the foamiest night of the festival, because it will be the festival’s annual beer-tasting event, with a different format this year. For an extra $10 over the ticket price, you’ll receive a pilsner glass and six tastes. Expect about 20 different microbrews to choose from. Concert, $30, concert plus brew-tasting, $40.

Alison Krauss & Union Station, featuring Jerry Douglas, Friday, 7:30 p.m. – When this up-and-coming bluegrass act came to the festival in 1995, the crowd was taken by surprise. A reviewer called them “sublime.” This year, the only problem is: Too many Krauss fans and not enough lawn. Sold out.

Barenaked Ladies, with LeRoy Bell and Sugarcane Collins, Saturday, 6 p.m. – The Ladies (all men, of course) are well known for their funny, literate hits such as “If I Had $1,000,000,” “One Week,” “Pinch Me” and “Brian Wilson.” This alt-rock band also has another distinction that helps in Sandpoint. They’re Canadian. “We’ve had good response from our friends over the border,” Wahl said. This will be a “Super Saturday” show, which means the show starts a little earlier to make room for two opening acts. $49.95.

Family Concert: Pinocchio, Sunday, doors open at 4:30 p.m. – The Spokane Youth Orchestra will perform; kids’ activities will abound. $6.

Jim Kershner can be reached at jimkershner@comcast.net.

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