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Britt 2009 opens

With the Celebrate Britt event behind them — it happened in downtown Jacksonville Sunday — Britt officials now would like to celebrate some ticket sales.

Early this week, with Los Lonely Boys and India.Arie set to perform this weekend, only about half the tickets for the shows had been sold.

"I guess there are a lot of factors," Britt Marketing Manager Sarah King Cole says. "Sales are down a little overall. It's a rough year for a lot of people. We're hoping to see a lot of walk-up sales."

Los Lonely Boys will kick off the season with Frobeck opening at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 12, at the Britt Festivals Pavillion, Jacksonville. India.Arie will visit Saturday, with Chris Mann opening at 7:30 p.m.

Los Lonely Boys formed when the Garza brothers were in their teens in San Angelo, Texas. After a side trip to Nashville, they cut their first album, 2003's "Los Lonely Boys," at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio. It went multi-platinum, and their sophomore effort, "Sacred," arrived on the Billboard charts at number two.

They count among their influences Nelson, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carlos Santana, The Beatles — and their dad, Enrique "Ringo" Garza, who had the group the Falcones, which toured the Texas conjunto circuit in the 1970s and '80s playing tunes derived from a wide range of Mexican music.

"We came from a town with nothing," Ringo Garcia Jr. says in a statement.

Frobeck is a Bay Area band that mixes pop, funk and soul.

India.Arie is known as a poet, a songwriter, a producer and a philanthropist and an advocate. Her fans can be forgiven for reminding you she's also a singer and guitarist.

She's been compared to Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack, and thanked by Oprah for writing the lyric, "I may not be built like a supermodel/But I've learned to love myself unconditionally."

Arie's third album, "Testimony: Vol. 1, Love and Relationship," was played at rallies and talks in President Obama's election campaign. As a U.S. ambassador for UNICEF, she traveled to Africa repeatedly and filmed the documentary "Tracking the Monster: Ashley Judd and India.Arie Confront AIDS in Africa."

Her music ranges from the jazz-flavored, bubbling "Chocolate High" to the romantic "Therapy." She has sold 8 million albums and won two Grammy awards. She launched her own label, Soulbird Music, a year ago.

Chris Mann mixes romantic lyrics with a strong singing voice.

Comic Howie Mandel will perform in a show starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 16. John Mendoza, a sometime Mandel fellow road warrior, will open.

"We're doing a lot of promotions for Howie," Cole says. "We're running TV ads and doing some ticket give-aways. They're trying to get the word out on all the local radio groups, and KOBI-TV. If people want to win a ticket, just listen to the radio."

Howie Mandell started his career as a comic on a dare. At the Comedy Store in Los Angeles one night in 1979, his friends urged him onto the stage. A producer for the comedy show "Make Me Laugh" booked him after seeing him, and that led to a stint as Dianna Ross's opening act and the TV series "St. Elsewhere."

His kiddie show, "Bobby's World," ran eight seasons on Fox and was syndicated. A long-time Jay Leno favorite, he does some 200 shows a year.

Singer-bassist Les Claypool, who is perhaps best know for his work in Primus, will perform Sunday, June 21. The Yard Dogs Road Show, described as a hobo cabaret doing rock and roll inspired by the saloon vaudeville of the 1800s, will open for Claypool at 6:30 p.m.

"Les Claypool has a cult following," Cole says. "We've seen them and Wilco (June 30) take off. We're expecting those audiences to be young and last-minute buyers."

Claypool is an alt-rock personality and much-in-demand sideman whose label, Prawn Song, released his "Of Fungi and Foe," which has been described as a chamber group playing in real time to silent movies. Claypool's bass work includes finger-tapping, strumming, a slap-bass technique and other styles. When he's not playing music he can be found producing, acting and working on a novel.

Cole says lagging sales have Britt officials concerned but not alarmed.

"We've seen some energy once sales started. We hope it continues."

See Brittfest.org or call 773-6077.

Singer and songwriter India.Arie will perform June 13 at Britt Festivals. - Britt Festivals