The Six String Society’s annual Mardi Gras cruise
by BART MENDOZA
Published - 03/12/20 - 09:00 AM | 2348 views | 6 6 comments | 72 72 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Swedish trombonist Gunhild Carling.
Swedish trombonist Gunhild Carling.
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San Diego has several options to celebrate Mardi Gras this year, but nothing beats The Six String Society’s annual cruise around Mission Bay. Taking place on March 14 aboard the sternwheeler boat, William D Evans, docked at the Bahia Resort, the fourth annual event will take the party on the water, with three levels of entertainment. The bottom and middle sections of the boat will have large dance floors, while solo performers will play on the top level with a beautiful view of the San Diego skyline from the vantage point of Mission Bay at night. Performing will be Swedish trombonist Gunhild Carling, acoustic blues guitarists Robin Henkel and Ben Powell, New Orleans styled jazz combo Euphoria Brass Band, singer Whitney Shay, and bluesman Lenny "Fuzzy" Rankins, for a full evening of fun and dancing.

Promoter Ken Rexrode considers the venue to be perfect for bring the sounds and feel of New Orleans to his floating celebration. “I had always wanted to put on a Mardi Gras event and found the perfect home on the WD Evans down at the Bahia,” he said. “I wanted to put on something that really felt authentic and when you think about it, what could feel more authentic than boarding this beautiful vessel and being able to cruise Mission Bay. It's as close to being on the Mississippi as you could get on the entire West Coast.”

Rexrode is particularly happy to feature Carling, a multi-instrumentalist whose over the top showmanship includes playing three trumpets at the same time. “I really wanted to bring in an international act and she is an amazing performer,” he said. “I feel it's always really important to change the lineups on these events to keep it fresh, while still giving some of our great San Diego musicians a chance to participate.” For him variety is important. “We always strive to have lots of different styles of music aboard including zydeco, Cajun, jazz, blues and even something funky. There's truly something for just about everyone and it’s hard to beat the changing city skyline as a backdrop to this great music.”

Guitarist Henkel has attended the cruise previously. “What I look forward to the most for this night is the high spirited nature of all the attendees,” he said good-naturedly. “Since it is a Mardi Gras event people dress up in some pretty wild costumes.” He’s also looking forward to working with the night’s other performers. “Whenever there’s an event where several performers are playing I really enjoy visiting with fellow musicians and enjoying the camaraderie that exists between the performers.” Saxophonist Balmat of the Euphoria Brass Band agrees. “There is always some great spontaneous collaboration at these things,” he said. “We always have two or three musicians from other bands sit in with us and vice versa. I look forward to this the most.”

For Rexrode, the event is a labor of love, with just a small crew involved. “These types of events certainly take more planning than the typical show,” he said. “But it’s always well worth it. We basically have three separate stage areas on the riverboat and I usually have a staff of about four people to help out, with the Bahia Resort staffing the rest of it.” While there is a lot of work involved staging the Mardi Gras tour, Rexrode also considers it to be a lot of fun as a music aficionado. “Honestly, I just love being on board and watching people simply enjoying themselves,” he mused. “And having this much talent all performing in one place is kind of like a dream for any music fan.”

Six String Society Mardi Gras Tour: Saturday, March 14 at the Bahia Resort 998 West Mission Bay Drive. 5 p.m. 21 and up. $30 -90. thesixstringsociety.com.

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