Fiesta Flavors, New Heights from Hayward

By Steven Libowitz   |   July 2, 2024

The early events of the 100th edition of Old Spanish Days Fiesta fired up in fine fashion last week at Fiesta Ranchera, the annual dine, drink, and dance gathering at the still spectacular Rancho La Patera gardens. There were plenty of appetizers to go around, with all the vendors serving generous pours of both wine and beer from all-local wineries and breweries to lubricate the limbs and loosen inhibitions. Which is why, after a fine set from Latin music guitarist Tony Ybarra and band and a rousing routine from 2024 Spirit of Fiesta Georgey Taupin, guests immediately packed the temporary dance floor as Area 51 took the stage an hour before sunset. If the full 100th Fiesta celebration follows suit, we’re in for a rollicking early August festival.

Then it was off to the Lobero for a surprisingly stirring set from Justin Hayward, the lead vocalist and chief songwriter of the Moody Blues. Hayward’s four-piece band eschewed both drums and bass, leaving the rhythm to come from his acoustic guitar, a second guitarist, a versatile if understated synthesizer player and a flutist-vocalist. The effect was a great focus on the essence of the songs, including the sound of Hayward’s voice, which still soars with yearning over the melodies through its owner’s 77 year. Without the bombastic synth lines and drums and bass dominating, the heart of such Hayward-composed songs as “Nights in White Satin,” “Question,” “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” “Story in Your Eyes,” and even “Your Wildest Dreams” evinced more wistfulness than ever, underscoring the Moody part of his music.  


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