Ten years ago, if you were cruising through the City of San Pablo proper, the small town bordered by Richmond and El Sobrante, you’d miss it if you blinked. Now, if you start at the Alvarado Adobe at San Pablo Avenue and Church Lane — a museum today, but around 1840 the home of then-California-governor Juan Bautista Alvarado — and then continue toward Contra Costa College, you’ll find Los Cenzontles Mexican Traditional Arts Center and Casino San Pablo. It’s a rich strip of California history, culture, and entertainment, in the midst of a diverse racial and ethnic population. The second annual Rancho San Pablo Latino Heritage Day Celebration salutes the area’s Mexican past and Latino present this Saturday (noon to 7 p.m.) with a free fiesta assembled by San Francisco concert producer Kentara Padron. The headline act is powerhouse Bay Area salsa band Avance, co-led by Santana percussionist Karl Perazzo. With a new CD, Seguimos, on Mona Records, Avance has been hitting the clubs and festivals, and Carlos Santana often shows up as a special guest. The band is known for its four-vocalist front line, who sing and dance like Latino Temptations, delivering a fusion of R&B and Afro-Caribbean beats that never fails to capture the hearts of its audiences.
The day-long event also includes Grooveline, a South Bay Latin rock/Tex-Mex combo; Down Town Rhythm, a veteran West Berkeley band that specializes in East Bay Latin funk; the Herrera Sisters, Jaque Lynn and Elena Renee from San Jose, who pay tribute to Selena; Ritmolozano, a new East Bay Venezuelan folk ensemble featuring Jacqueline Rago; Yolanda Tolentino, an SF bilingual cabaret singer; Las Chicas Wow, a Puerto Rican singing and dancing salsa group from Sacramento; magician Alejandro Gonzalez; and the Mexican indigenous dance troupe Huehuecoyotl. Expect a day of family fun to honor the mid-September independence days of Mexico and several Central American countries with a grito (cry) of “¡Viva la Musica!” Saturday at Maple Hall Plaza, 13831 San Pablo Ave. (at Church Lane), San Pablo. Info: 415-973-2394. — Jesse “Chuy” Varela
Like Beachwood Sparks on homemade Oxycontin, or Mazzy Star on an album-length desert sojourn, the nomadic brightblack (formerly rainYwood) makes a kind of somnambulant, psychedelic twang that will lull you into dreams, then nudge you slowly awake, winking at you from a rhinestone suit it’s been sleeping in for a week. The trio of Rachael Hughes, Nathan Shineywater, and Noah Wilson come from Alabama, but now call the road home (though their PO box and sound are straight outta California). Ala.Cali.Tucky, the first album under the band’s new moniker, benefits from the help of a few Brothers Oldham, with Paul playing bass and Will — who took brightblack out on tour with him this past spring — humming a few bars. But the sunrise-covered harmonies of Hughes and Shineywater and Glenn Thompson’s haunted pedal steel make for a creakily sweet ambience that needs no guest star power to make it breathe. The band plays tonight at the Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley), headlining a bill that includes the Express‘ favorite otherworldly harpista, Joanna Newsom (now a Drag City recording artist) and Sean Hayes. The show starts at 9:30 p.m., and cover is a mere $6. Call 510-841-2082 for venue details. — Stefanie Kalem
Last year the Orinda Film Festival had Faye Dunaway. This year, it’s Jonathan Winters (above). Oh well. He is one of those “comedians’ comedians” who cracks up the pros, but who’s too freaky for most audiences unless taken in small, diluted doses. His new movie Swing features the elderly weirdo as someone called Uncle Bill, along with Jacqueline Bisset, Tom Skerritt, and the late Nell Carter, in a showbiz tale of swing music directed by Martin Guigui. Winters appears in person Thursday night to open this year’s fest, where Swing and some fifty other films will be screened over four days in three downtown venues, including the Orinda Theater. Fest director Randy Holleschau pays his usual dues to documentaries (including Johan van der Keuken’s Brass Unbound), and there’s everything from a Pixar animation seminar to something called The Cheese Nun. See our movie listings for complete details, or visit OrindaFilmFestival.org — Kelly Vance
Sing Misty for Me
Feel like a road trip? It’s real cool in Monterey
Too much fun this weekend at one of Northern California’s (hell, the world’s) premier road trips, the 46th annual Monterey Jazz Festival. Clint Eastwood’s documentary Piano Blues — part of PBS’ “Blues” series — debuts at the fest, and veteran Kansas City pianist Jay McShann appears on stage with the Duke Robillard Band. Funk-jazz artists Soulive and Metalwood headline a dance party. Chicago’s ultra-cool vocalist Kurt Elling and his quartet spread the fog around. Pianists Jacky Terrasson, Peter Cincotti, and Jason Moran play separate gigs, and vibraharp master Gary Burton performs, then partakes of a conversation with jazzscribe Andrew Gilbert. Four great singers — Elling, Mark Murphy, Kevin Mahogany, and Jon Hendricks — form a one-time-only super vocal group, the Four Brothers. Then there’s saxman Dave Ellis, guitarist Ralph Towner, his legendary band Oregon, singer Nnenna Freelon, Oakland-based Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, guitarist Calvin Keys … too much fun. Grounds tickets: $25 Friday, $35 Saturday or Sunday, or $80 for all three, from 925-275-9255 or MontereyJazzFestival.org — Kelly Vance