Recommended blues events & websites (2005-2006)
This page, copied from from the www.bluesoterica.com website, lists only the recommended blues events of 2005 along with a few websites to check out. It became a problem to keep the BluEsoterica website updated, which was a primary reason I've switched to blogging. I would still recommend the same festivals for the remainder of 2006. Ed Cabbell phoned to say he has already staged his 34th annual John Henry festival in West Virginia (last weekend) -- still one of most grassroots and least-publicized festivals anywhere, and the second oldest surviving blues festival in the country (beaten to the punch by a matter of months by Tom Mazzolini's San Francisco Blues Festival in 1973).
A new event to add to the 2006 calendar is the GREAT PERFORMERS OF ILLINOIS festival at Millenium Park in Chicago, an event designed to showcase the diversity of talent and culture in the state, especially from outside the Chicago metropolitan area. -- Blues will be featured on Thursday, Sept. 7. I'll post a press release about the event soon.
-- Jim O'Neal, July 30, 2006
Events, Bookings, Reviews & Notices
Feb. 17-19, 2005
BLUES TODAY Symposium (www.livingblues.com) sponsored by Living Blues Magazine (800-390-3527) and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture (662-816-2055) at the University of Mississippi. This is a nice gathering of blues aficionados, scholars, writers and musicians, more down-to-earth than academic. Blues tours in Greenwood and Clarksdale are offered on the days before and after the conference.
April 22-May, 1, 2005
NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & HERITAGE FESTIVAL (www.nojazzfest.com , 504-522-4786). This festival is huge and spread out, with music at tents and stages all over - blues, Cajun, zydeco, jazz, New Orleans R&B, rock, gospel, and more. Some say it's grown too big, but there's plenty of fine music and room to move about the grounds.
April 26-27, 2005
Rock N' Bowl, New Orleans
PONDEROSA STOMP (www.ponderosastomp.com, 504-723-0153) "Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of the Blues, Soul, Rockabilly, Swamp Pop and New Orleans R&B." This amounts to a party thrown in a bowling alley by the estimable "Dr. Ike" for his friends and fellow enthusiasts, bringing together a dream lineup of established legends and guys who might be "famous" for the one obscure record they made in 1952.
June 24-26, 2005
Kansas City, Kansas
KANSAS CITY KANSAS STREET BLUES FESTIVAL (www.kckstreetbluesfest.com, 913-328-0710) A free grassroots community blues event in the heart of the African-American neighborhood, featuring many of the Kansas City area's finest blues performers, as well as special guest headliners. On Third Street between Garfield & Parallel, in front of KCK's favorite blues joint, the Club Paradox.
June 9-12, 2005
Grant Park, Chicago
CHICAGO BLUES FESTIVAL (City of Chicago Web Site , 312-744-3315) The biggest and always one of the best blues festivals, with a variety of national and local blues talent, panels, booths, ethnic food, etc. And it's free! Enjoy the smaller crowds at the Juke Joint and Front Porch stages if the Main Stage masses turn you off. Afterwards, you can find lots of opportunities to catch live music after the fest every night at clubs around town.
July 29-31, 2005
Big Boulder Resort, Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania
POCONOS BLUES SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL (www.big2resorts.com/summer-blues-festival.asp, 800-468-2442): In a resort in the Pocono Mountains, an eclectic assortment of blues talent from around the country gathers every year. This festival always gets positive reviews for its choices in music and for its setting and atmosphere. I haven't made it to this one yet but some day . . .
July through September
Bay Area, California
The BAY AREA BLUES SOCIETY has been presenting annual summer festivals in several cities including Oakland, Hayward-Russell City, Siskiyou, and Vallejo, in recent years. This series looks like just the kind of blues festivals we love, loaded with local acts few people outside the area have ever heard of and not headlined by blonde whiz kids or rock bands. For more details, see website http://bayareabluessociety.net, or contact Ronnie Stewart, BABS, P.O. Box 5471, Mill Valley, CA 94942-5471 (510-836-2227).
August 12-13, 2005
SUNFLOWER RIVER BLUES FESTIVAL (www.sunflowerfest.org): A prime showcase for blues and roots music from the Delta since 1988, featuring an acoustic stage and a main stage next to the Delta Blues Museum. Admission is free, and there's juke joint music after the fest. The Delta Blues Museum (www.deltabluesmuseum.com, 662-627-6820) also sponsors education programs leading up to the festival. The fest is organized by a volunteer group, the Sunflower River Blues Association, which has no office, but you can get festival details from the Delta Blues Museum, or Roger Stolle or Joni Mayberry at Cat Head (662-624-5992), or media contact Panny Mayfield (firstname.lastname@example.org).
August 17, 2005
Morgantown, West Virginia
JOHN HENRY FESTIVAL, Hazel Ruby-McQuain Riverfront Park: This is a hard one to find out about – director Ed Cabbell doesn’t advertise, doesn’t do internet, and the festival has no website – but ever since 1973 this event has celebrated the heritage of legendary folk hero John Henry by presenting the black music of Appalachia, both secular and sacred, along with an eclectic mix of other American folk forms and world music. The full name of the festival is actually the John Henry Memorial Authentic Blues and Gospel Jubilee. Sparky Rucker is a regular here. Events are held in Morgantown over a period of days; this year it begins August 17 with a concert in an amphitheater on the Monongahela River. Contact Ed Cabbell, P.O. Box 1172, Morgantown, WV 26507 (304-292-8016). For general info, the local Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners (304-296-8356) does have e-mail if you’re phone- or snail mail-challenged: email@example.com.
Sept. 17, 2005
The MISSISSIPPI DELTA BLUES FESTIVAL (www.deltablues.org/gen-info.html), the oldest blues festival in Mississippi and the largest one anywhere sponsored by an African-American organization, began presenting blues from the juke joints, the chittlin' circuit, and the national blues scene in 1978 amidst the cottonfields south of Greenville. The event was almost cancelled in 2004, however, until other local sponsors stepped in to offer a substitute festival in downtown Greenville. To find out what's going on this year, contact M.A.C.E. at (888) 81-BLUES or (662) 335-3523, or check with the Greenville Greenville/Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau (www.thedelta.org, 662-334-2711 or 800-467-3582).
Great Meadow, Fort Mason, San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO BLUES FESTIVAL (www.sfblues.com, (415) 979-5588 The oldest surviving blues festival in the world, presented every year since 1973, featuring national and Bay Area acts. The fest is large and it isn't free or privately funded, so in order to sell tickets, some mainstream blues or blues-based acts are booked, but it's one of the better festivals of this kind. (Too often, committees who book other blues festivals end up with a "lowest common denominator" roster loaded with rock bands or big names from other fields with not much of a blues connection.) Many great national and Bay Area bluesmen and women have appeared here, and there is a free kickoff concert the day before the festival.
Oct. 6-8, 2005
KING BISCUIT BLUES FESTIVAL (www.kingbiscuitfest.org, 870-338-8798): A favorite event of the blues festival crowd, King Biscuit offers multiple stages and always books talent worth seeing. Like the Sunflower festival across the river in Clarksdale, it draws a mix of fans who travel from afar to "the Biscuit" every year and a large local black audience. The free festivities are in downtown Helena, where the King Biscuit phenomenon began as a radio show in 1941 - still broadcast today on KFFA radio (1360 AM), hosted by Sonny Payne at the Delta Cultural Center.
Oct. 14-15, 2005
Blue Heaven Studios, Salina, Kansas
BLUES MASTERS AT THE CROSSROADS (www.blueheavenstudios.com, 800-716-3553, 785-825-8609) This intimate festival, in the converted First Christian Church, 201 South 8th Street, in Salina, gives Blue Heaven Studios owner Chad Kassem a chance to bring little-known blues acts from the bayous, backwoods, and big city ghettos of America to the middle of Kansas. Artists are typically overwhelmed by the warm reception they receive. The atmosphere is more like what might be expected from a respectful European or Japanese audience.
www.bluesworld.com- BluesWorld.com has the best selection of information and links we've found. Check out all the bibliographical and discographical links, essays, interviews, histories, record labels, and lots more. Bluesworld's Joel Slotnikoff also holds regular auctions of rare 78s.
For fans who want to know more about one of the little-recognized esoteric genres of blues, the Chicago jump/jazz/lounge blues of the '40s and '50s, there is an excellent, well-researched site from the Red Saunders Research Foundation at http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/rsrf.html.
KOKO TAYLOR CELEBRITY AID FOUNDATION: firstname.lastname@example.org, PO Box 2545, Country Hills, IL 60478, phone 708-612-1978 or 206-6554, phone/fax 708-206-9900. Koko has tried her hand at two blues clubs and a banquet hall in recent years but none of the business ventures succeeded; now she and her family have started a foundation to provide social services, counseling (on topics such as insurance, health care, and alcohol/drug problems), and music business education to musicians and their families. Among the speakers on the foundation's schedule has been former soul singer Joe Simon, now Bishop Joe Simon. Koko is addressing some vital issues and deserves thanks and support for her efforts.
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