Taxi, Gumbo help draw record Party in Park crowd

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Two great bands. One big party. The billing said it all and Friday’s 10th annual Party in the Park lived up to expectations – and then some. The late-spring Party in the Park at Regional Park drew what organizers estimate was a record crowd and kept the good times rolling long after sunset. “When the sun goes down, it gets weird – in a good way,” said Mumbo Gumbo vocalist Chris Webster, as the natural bowl in front of the stage filled with dancers and spectators. With her arm being painted with a henna tattoo during a break from the music, Mumbo Gumbo vocalist-guitar player Tracy Walton could look back on several past performances by the band at Party in the Park. “This one is the best ever,” Walton said. “I feel like I’m at a wedding. It’s so loving.” After Mumbo Gumbo’s well-received opening set, Boulder, Colorado-based Great American Taxi performed a blazing series of tunes that blended bluegrass, alt country and Americana. Sitting in with Taxi was Auburn’s own Pete Grant, a pedal-steel guitar player who has recorded with the Grateful Dead and toured with Hoyt Axton. Taxi guitar player-singer Vince Herman was also able to co-mingle some of his sounds – stepping onstage for the Mumbo Gumbo encore to play zydeco music with spoons and a wearable washboard. Herman said Encore Music owner Larry Gosch was a lifesaver when he experienced problems with his guitar. Gosch was just closing his Downtown Auburn shop when Herman placed the emergency call. “I called him at five to five and he spent an hour on my Santa Cruz DPW guitar,” Herman said. “It turns out he has one too.” Chad Staehly, keyboard player and vocalist with Taxi, said the Auburn stop – the first in a 10-day swing for the band through Northern California – was one they had been looking forward to. “It’s our favorite part of the country,” Staehly said. “Very similar to the Southeast, where people are willing to get rowdy.” Members of both band praised the work of Auburn Recreation District Director Scott Holbrook in organizing Party in the Park. “I think it’s really cool that a town gives value to music,” Herman said. “As jobs get fewer, places are looking more at their quality of life.” Holbrook was an ebullient host, throwing strands of Mardi Gras beads to the audience and encouraging them to stand up and dance. At an estimated 3,000 people or more, Holbrook said he believed the crowd was the biggest ever for Party in the Park. Playing his own blues harp to the music, Auburn’s Sheldon Reid enthused over the music and its ability to draw a diverse audience. “This has brought out all ages – from 10 to 65,” Reid said. “It brings everybody together.”