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Rendezvous S'il Vous Plait 

by Mike Corrigan

It's that time of the year again, when Moscow, Idaho, asserts itself as a community with a deep and abiding love for great music. The annual Rendezvous music festival (now in its 19th season) was started by the Moscow Arts Commission in response to citizens' requests for a summer music festival. Now organized and operated as a private, nonprofit corporation, the festival is recognized as one of the mandatory stops on the regional festival circuit. This year, the festival gets underway on Thursday, July 25, and runs through Saturday, July 27.

Thursday is Family Night and will feature African Roots and the Anzanga Marimba Ensemble -- two Seattle-based acts that specialize in African, Calypso, Reggae, Hi-life and world music. African Roots is a five-piece African pop music dance band that draws on the expertise of all of its members, who were born and bred in four different African nations. Since 1987, the eight-member Anzanga Marimba Ensemble has brought the traditional and contemporary sounds of southern Africa to audiences throughout North America.

Friday night is dedicated to the blues -- and blues done proper. On tap, beginning at 6:15 pm, is guitar queen Del Rey, a master of the Piedmont and Delta styles who freely mixes country blues, stride piano, classic jazz and hillbilly boogie into her raucous live performances. There's a dash of wisdom and sly humor in there as well. Next up are the Pole Cats, a modern blues quartet from Lewiston-Clarkston that is a favorite on the Northwest blues and festival circuit. Headlining rhythm and blues night will be the Northwest's premier purveyor of tough, blue-eyed soul, Curtis Salgado. Salgado's style is a reflection of his many influences, a smooth blend of jazz, blues, soul, country-western and gospel. "I like everything from George Jones to George Clinton," says Salgado. "And that's the truth. My music is a hybrid of all the stuff that I admire. I just play whatever's in my head and for whatever reason, it usually comes out as hard-ass rhythm and blues."

To wrap up Rendezvous 2002, organizers are dedicating Saturday night to the singer/songwriter by featuring three talented guitar-packing troubadours sporting an amazingly diverse range of personalities and sonic textures. It takes a lot of "something" for a Moscow native to make an impression on the jaded American music press. But an impression Josh Ritter has made (he's received glowing praise from the New York Times, the Boston Globe and Details magazine, to name a few). So what's this 24-year-old drifter (who now calls Boston home) have that everyone seems to want? Well, you could pick up his CD, Golden Age of Radio. Or better yet, check him out live.

Second on the bill is Hugh Moffatt, long recognized as one of Nashville's most gifted songwriters. Though his tunes have translated into hits for other artists such as Patti Page, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Alabama, he is a fine performing and recording artist in his own right.

Since first emerging as a Dylan-styled singer/songwriter in the late '60s, Saturday's headliner, Loudon Wainwright III, has enjoyed a fruitful career that in addition to music has included stints on television (notably M*A*S*H, The David Letterman Show and Fox's recent hit sitcom, Undeclared) and in film (Jacknife, 28 Days). In spite of all of his good fortune, fame and acclaim, Wainwright remains a crafty, witty and brutally honest songwriter who infuses his work with the intimacy of personal experience.

In deference to the festival's stated mission to "provide a summer festival that is entertaining, educational and affordable," tickets for each day's music are $10 in advance and $15 on the day of the show. Discount tickets for Thursday's Family Night may be purchased by July 24 at U.S. Bank branches in Moscow, Potlatch and Pullman.
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