Last week, the mainstage lineup for the 2018 Bakersfield Jazz Festival was released. Not through an official news release but a Facebook post from CSUB music educator and festival director Jim Scully.

According to the post, this year’s lineup will include drummer Carl Allen, pianist Lao Tizer, soul jazz outfit The Funky Knuckles, guitarist Dave Stryker, pianist Amina Figarova and Latin jazz icon Poncho Sanchez. Local and second stage acts are to be announced in the near future.

This morning I visited the festival's official website at bakersfieldjazz.com to find a few more lineup updates, which included saxophonist Eric Marienthal, who will be performing with Lao Tizer, plus the CSUB Jazz Collective and Kern County Honor Jazz Band. The online link to ticket sales was also active.

Why such a dull, soft roll out for Bakersfield's beloved rite of spring and longest running, locally produced music festival?

The Bakersfield Jazz Festival is an important annual fundraiser for CSUB music programs and student scholarships. It has the potential for raising thousands in much-needed funds for music programs through generous sponsors and ticket sales. And while the efforts of the organizers are to be applauded, there's still much to be done on the marketing end.

That's not hard to do. Take a cue from seasoned promoters such as Goldenvoice, which for months — and sometimes a full year — prior to an annual event will build anticipation and excitement before the big artist lineup is announced.

Not through months of fits and starts on organizers’ personal Facebook pages, teasing big names that ultimately say no (yes, that has happened) or showing cards that should be held close to the chest.

The Bakersfield Jazz Festival may not be everybody's idea of a Playboy Jazz Festival, Coachella or Bonnaroo, but it's our festival. The entertainment value of enjoying major music artists without a two- to three-hour drive to the next major city alone should be a selling point, but that's just the beginning. During last year's Bakersfield festival, a promoter from the SLO Jazz Festival approached me with a promotional postcard, hyping up his festival. What a concept.

The Bakersfield Jazz Festival gives students and local acts a chance to shine in front of their hometown for two days in the beautiful Bako springtime, the best time of the year. It’s a festival very dear to my heart, and for many of my fellow musicians who’ve also graced its stages as a student and featured performer.

To say I'm concerned for the future of the festival is an understatement, since along with performing, I've also previewed the festival every year since becoming an entertainment writer. What used to be Bakersfield's music and social event of the year is slowly fading into obscurity.

Where's the heart, the excitement after 30 years of the Bakersfield Jazz Festival?

In a time when budget cuts in the arts are already being felt, it's more important now than ever to boost efforts to ensure these types of fundraisers are successful. Our students and community deserve better.

Please join me in supporting the festival and mark your calendars for April 27 and 28 at the CSUB Amphitheater. Start by checking out the acts for this year at the official websites or YouTube to get yourself prepped. It will be here sooner than you think. For information and updates visit bakersfieldjazz.com, or follow them on Instagram (@bakojazzfest), and facebook.com/bakojazzfest.

Wet Robot ready to rock

We’re just into mid-February and the new local releases keep coming.

This Friday, Bakersfield alt-blues-rock trio Wet Robot will celebrate the arrival of its new full-length self-titled CD with an evening of downtown music party sounds at Sandrini’s Public House.

On board for the shindig will be brothers in blues jammin’ arms Gadfly and Crooked Folk, two groups who’ve been working hard to build a faithful following. Between all three groups, the grooves will be deep.

“We feel very lucky because the crowds that we play to always seem to clap and hoot in a positive way after our songs and set,” said Wet Robot bassist Medka Thompson. “We usually get asked what our name is and people love to hear we are called Wet Robot. Then inevitably we are asked where our music can be found. Now we will have a better answer for them with the release of our debut album.”

Ah yes, that name. I was a little hesitant to ask if it had any personal significance as sometimes it’s best to leave it to a listener’s imagination. Thankfully, guitarist and vocalist Matt Jacobs’ big reveal did not disappoint.

“A nice lady that I work with is a sufferer of schizophrenia and thinks all humans are wet robots. So, I just borrowed that idea for the band name.”

Formed five years ago for the love of music and as an outlet to keep the trio on the straight and narrow (all three admit to be in recovery mode from drugs and alcohol), drummer Doug Woodcook says the group’s supportive journey together has made all the difference.

“Playing in Wet Robot helps keeps the demons away,” he said.

Bassist Thompson wholeheartedly agrees.

“Since about 2015 we have been playing and writing music and doing shows here in Bakersfield and some on the Central Coast. We really are a bunch of dads and have day jobs, so this is definitely our musical outlet.”

But even with a few years under their collective belt, the band remains relatively unknown outside of the underground downtown music scene. That should all change following the release of the new collection. Recorded at AUM Studios last year, attendees at Friday’s party will get a free copy of the 10-song CD, released on the Phantom Stranger Inc. imprint with cover art by Bakersfield artist Carlos Fierros, and all for an easy $5 admission into the show.

Filled with nods to Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and other heavyweights from the blues rockin’ experimental high time of the 1960s and early '70s, Wet Robot’s debut is a long overdue primer.

“We have a lot of energy and sound for a three-piece band. We like to use lights and create an almost psychedelic vibe. This is all with the hope people will absorb the energy and dance and rock out."

Friday’s show starts at 9 p.m. at Sandrini’s Public House, 1918 Eye St. For more information visit facebook.com/wetrobot.

Matt’s pick

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, 8 p.m. Sunday, Fox Theater, 2001 H St. $30 to $45 plus service fees. 324-1369.

When rap quintet Bone Thugs-N-Harmony came onto the scene in the mid-'90s, hip-hop music was in one of its many transitional periods. Gangster rap was still the ruling force among fans, filled with lyrics reflecting street life as seen through the eyes of young lyricists. After grabbing the attention of rapper/producer Eric "Eazy-E" Wright, who helped nurture their introduction into the majors, they immediately hit with a series of singles and albums that helped further the genre's acceptance in the mainstream. Today, after 27 years in the business and 50 million records sold, they've established themselves as rap icons from the golden age of hip-hop with new fans picking up on their classic singles "Tha Crossroads," "1st of Tha Month," Thuggish Ruggish Bone" and all the deep cuts that go with it. Lately, I've been checking in with Bizzy Bone's YouTube channel to see his latest entertaining rants and musings, including his views on rappers Migos and more. Classic. Also appearing is Ashe Blanco, D-Loc, Riddy K and Yancmob. For more information on the show, visit thebakersfieldfox.com.

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