Nikita walking on sunshine

With a new band in tow, Penticton's Nikita Afonso will play at Peach Fest and Sunshine Cabaret.

Nikita and the Bluffs

Nikita and the Bluffs

Like many college students, Nikita Afonso will spend her summer heading to music festivals, except this Penticton songstress will be on the other side of the stage.

Together with her new band, Nikita and the Bluffs, she won’t have to travel far to provide ear candy to the live music crowds. On Saturday the band will perform their first big Penticton gig (they also played at Relay For Life) at the free concert series, The Sunshine Cabaret, at 7 p.m. at Gyro Park. They will follow that up with a performance on the opening night of the Penticton Peach Festival on Aug. 7 at 8 p.m., it will be Afonso’s second crack on stage at the annual event she grew up with.

“Peachfest was always something I wanted to be a part of and last year was a dream come true,” she said. “It was really neat to be on the other side of the stage for that and performing. We have been working really hard this summer so I hope I will be a little less nervous because I didn’t get to do as many rehearsals last summer. It will be great to get up there again.”

After wrapping up a successful first year at Selkirk College, Afonso joined with a couple of other locals students in Johnny Ciardullo, Josh Visser and Branko Bevanda to form their current band. Not able to come to an agreement on what they should call themselves, Afonso turned to Facebook to ask for suggestions. An acquaintance Afonso knows from Miss Penticton suggested the Bluffs, drawing from the local reference the Skaha Bluffs they thought it was a great fit.

It has been a big year for Afonso, who opened for Canadian country superstar Paul Brandt at the South Okanagan Events Centre in 2012. Since attending Selkirk she also has been involved in several showcases and learned a lot about performing, leading a band and music theory. Afonso has also grown to appreciate new genres of music.

“I’m veering a little bit away from country with this band. Country is still my favourite, but I found that in my year in Nelson that I grew to like singing different genres as well. People will hear things from us like Moondance by Van Morrison, but we still will be doing country songs like Ain’t Nothing About You by Brooks and Dunn and some of my original music,” she said.

Opening for Nikita and the Bluffs on Saturday at Gyro Park is Penticton’s Jolene Hayter, a former Miss Penticton.

Sunshine Cabaret schedule: All concerts are free and start at 7 p.m.

July 12 – Hi Bandwidth, July 19 – Bobby Bovenzi, July 20 — Aidan Mayes and Mandy Cole, July 26 — Out of Eden , July 27 — Flashback, Aug. 2 — Steve Jones Band, Aug. 3 — Great White North, Aug. 16 — Papa Wheely, Aug. 17 — Cynthia and Band, Aug. 30 — Fluxx and Aug. 21 — ABBATribute.