Camping, beer and music at Seven Sisters Fest

Mingo Fishtrap
Mingo Fishtrap

It was a seemingly sedate folk song that awoke Roger Blevins Jr. to the innate magic of music. 

While singing “Shenandoah” with his sixth-grade choir, “I remember the moment … when the sections sang their notes right and this beautiful chord came out,” Blevins recalled, comparing the experience to his first sugar rush. “It was like ‘I need to have this. This is now an addiction that needs to be fulfilled.’ ”

Blevins has managed to feed that need as the lead singer and guitarist of Mingo Fishtrap, an Austin, Texas-based band serving up a groovy stew of Memphis soul, New Orleans funk and Motown pop. 

Mingo Fishtrap performs at 7 p.m. Saturday at Seven Sisters Fest, returning to El Chorro Regional Park and Campground just north of San Luis Obispo for a second year of concerts, camping and craft beer and wine. 

In addition to children’s activities, guided hikes, yoga sessions and a craft beer tasting showcase hosted by Tap It Brewing Co., the three-day festival features performances by the likes of British blues rocker Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown, and pop bluegrass band The Infamous Stringdusters. Proceeds benefit Woods Humane Society and the Infinite Music Foundation.

Blevins promises an evening of head-bobbing, booty-shaking tunes guaranteed to coax listeners out onto the dance floor. 

“You’re going to dance. You’re going to sweat a little bit, hopefully. You might cry a little bit,” he said. 

Blevins got his first taste of show business at age 5, playing tambourine with his father’s band. (His dad, Roger Blevins Sr., has served as Mingo Fishtrap’s bassist for several years.) 

“I grew up listening to soul music because that’s what Pops was playing,” said Blevins Jr., whose inspirations include Otis Redding and James Brown. “That’s where the heart of it comes from for me.” 

The Mississippi native credits his travels around the United States with his mother and stepfather, a U.S. Air Force pilot, with further broadening his cultural horizons. Through stints in California, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and Texas, “I was always making very purposeful decisions to have music in my life,” he said. 

While studying music at the University of North Texas in Denton, nearly 40 miles north of Dallas, Blevins convinced a few of his fellow students to scrape together a set list for the Bruce Jam — an once-a-semester concert by the residents of the campus’ Bruce Hall dormitory. 

The band performed soul standards for a packed house of 500 or so students. 

“It went over huge,” he said. 

Mingo Fishtrap, which takes its name from a street intersection in Denton, eventually moved south to Austin. The octet has spent its time in its adopted hometown — considered a musical mecca for folks who are serious about their craft — building a fan base and performing alongside acts including Trombone Shorty, Sting, Parliament and Earth, Wind & Fire.

With the release of Mingo Fishtrap’s fourth studio album, “On Time,” on June 3, Blevins said the band is shifting into a higher gear. 

“I feel like we go closer to our mark on this one than we’ve ever gotten before, in terms of getting down on tape what (we) had in (our) head(s),” he said of the album, which was recorded during breaks in the band’s busy touring schedule.

According to Blevins, “On Time” also shows how much he and his band mates — who include keyboardist Dane Farnsworth, drummer Chip Vayenas, percussionist Mikel Urdy, trumpeter Steve Butts, saxophonist Dan Bechdolt and trombonist Zol Waterhouse — have matured as musicians. 

While their earlier recordings focused on instrumental firepower, these songs rely on finesse.

“For us … the reward you get from serving the song is far more interesting than the reward of trying to play something that’s impressive or difficult,” Blevins said. “It takes some time to learn that lesson and really appreciate moments that are simple when they need to be simple.” 

But the biggest lesson the band has learned over the years, Blevins said, is the importance of establishing a human connection with one’s audience: “The moment we realized that, it opened a lot of doors.

“You’re not up there for yourself,” he said. “You’re trying to get everybody engaged and involved and have that conversation.”

Blevins acknowledged that the bond between musicians and audience members can be bittersweet.

“It’s a love affair that lasts 90 minutes,” he said. “You get to share all these experiences and then you have to let go.”


Seven Sisters Fest

4 to 9 p.m. Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday 

El Chorro Regional Park and Campground, Highway 1, San Luis Obispo

$28 to $70 single-day passes, $45 to $119 three-day passes 

888-992-7397 or www.sevensistersfest.com

Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907. Stay updated by following @shelikestowatch on Twitter.