SHEMEKIA COPELAND, SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY TO HEADLINE 22ND ANNUAL KALAMAZOO BLUES FESTIVAL JULY 9-11
For the 22nd year, the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association is proud to carry on “keeping the blues alive”, as it presents the 2015 Kalamazoo Blues Festival, July 9, 10, and 11. Featuring an array of well-known artists including Shemekia Copeland, Southern Hospitality, Dawn Tyler Watson & Ben Racine Band, Larry McCray, Scott Holt Band, Ghost Town Blues Band, and The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, this year’s festival will bring a total of 22 local, regional, and national blues acts to the twin stages at downtown Kalamazoo’s Arcadia Festival Site.
This three-day celebration of blues music, culture, and history, first staged in 1994, is one of the longest-running festivals in Kalamazoo. Offering continuous performances on the Firekeepers’ Stage and the Metro Toyota Stage, a variety of free workshops covering topics such as guitar and harmonica techniques, slide guitar secrets, and home-made instruments, a large children’s activity area, a great selection of blues-related merchandise, a shade tent for those hot July days, and a wide variety of food and drink vendors, the Kalamazoo Blues Festival truly offers something for everyone.
As an added bonus, the price of an advance weekend pass includes entrance into the very popular All Star Blues Jam to be held Thursday night after the festival at Shakespeare’s Lower Level. Starting time is 10:30 pm, and it’s not uncommon for local jammers to be joined by performers from the festival for a great party.
The Kalamazoo Blues Festival, a true community event that is staffed entirely by volunteers and supported by local groups, businesses, and arts organizations, has won recognition from performers and attendees alike as “the best blues festival in the Midwest”. In an exciting development this year, each of the two stages that allow for continuing performances throughout the three days is being sponsored by local businesses in support of the Kalamazoo arts and music scene.
Firekeepers’ Casino-Hotel in Battle Creek, which has been a major sponsor of the Kalamazoo Blues Festival for six years, is proud to present the Firekeepers’ Stage, while the blues lovers at Metro Toyota of Kalamazoo are stepping up in their third year of sponsorship to offer the Metro Toyota Stage. Between offering financial support, many hours of volunteer time, promotional activities such as contests to win tickets, and more, Firekeepers’ and Metro Toyota are outstanding examples of the many local businesses who do so much to make the Kalamazoo Blues Fest a reality.
And you won’t want to miss the NEW Imperial Beverage Blues Beer Garden! Experience full-bodied tastes and aromas of craft beers brewed from Arcadia Ales, Boatyard, Gonzo’s BiggDogg , Founders and Short’s. In addition to the familiar beverage pavilion, the Blues Beer Garden will exhibit a relaxing environment to kick back, savor craft brews, and enjoy the music!
Advance sales of weekend passes will begin June 1, online at the new Kalamazoo Blues Festival Website (http://kalamazoobluesfestival.com) and at various retailers around the region, including all ECCU branches, Kalamazoo State Theater, Marshall Music, the Union Bar and Grill, and Green Light Music. An updated list of retailers will be available on the Blues Festival website.
And don’t forget: the Kalamazoo Blues Festival is the best deal in town! The cost of an advance weekend pass will be $20.00, which represents a $12.00 savings over the total price of daily tickets for all events. Daily festival ticket prices will be $5.00 for Thursday night, $10.00 for Friday night, and $12.00 for Saturday; the Thursday night jam will be $5.00 at the door.
Watch the Festival website regularly for the latest updates in Festival developments.
The level of talent among the acts scheduled for the 2015 Kalamazoo Blues Festival will have to be seen (and heard) to be believed. This year’s lineup (in order of appearance) includes:
Groove Platter is a high-energy, funky, blues-rock group from southwest Michigan. Offering up a heaping helping of funk, blues, and rock in an original style aimed at helping you get your GROOVE ON! Our mission is to bring you a fantastic dose of musical entertainment wherever and whenever you may need it!
Gator Blues Band
Gator Blues is three highly experienced and talented musicians with an outstanding approach to rhythm and blues/jazz, with experience and influences ranging from the mid ‘60s until now.
Kathleen and the Bridge Street Band
All things blues,soul and R&B…….from Elmore James and Etta James to Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
The Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band has always been strong on authenticity, playing music that blends blues, ragtime, folk, country and other traditional styles with the sleek modern energy of do-it-yourself, homespun, punk-fueled rock, as well as performing tunes plucked from the members’ lives, their community, or from the canonical songbook that fed the Rev. Peyton’s formative creative identity.
Ghost Town Blues Band
Ghost Town Blues Band does blues and more, including writing good originals as well as shining on their totally creative covers. Next time you’re stepping out in Memphis, enter the Beale St. Tap Room, and you may just be transported by the Ghost Town Blues Band.
All Star Blues Jam at Shakespeare’s Lower Level
Marci Linn Band
Marci Linn and her musical colleagues have been serving up a rich blend of blue-eyed soul to audiences across southwest Michigan and beyond for several years, and listeners come up the winners every time.
“Mortals 2” is a power trio and the culmination of many influences. Our songwriting and recording abilities as a band are improving all the time and the songs (and tunes) we write reflect a variety of styles.
24th Street Wailers
Experienced, road-tested and tougher than a two-by-four, the 24th Street Wailers are five musicians who originally met in music school. Their major influence is the sounds from the freewheeling period in the 40’s and 50’s when the blues gave birth to rock n’roll in black communities in major American cities. When showmanship mattered. When the sax player, not the guitarist, got the girls.
As a one-time apprentice to blues legend Buddy Guy, there is no question that Scott Holt has diversified his pure talent over the course of seven records and countless miles on the road. While blues remains at the core of his being, he is evolving as an artist. He reflects, “I am a bluesman through and through, and it is always a part of who I am when recording or performing. If you listen you can always hear the blues in the foundation of my playing.”
If you don’t think Shemekia is Queen of the Blues, then you don’t know she was presented with Koko Taylor’s crown by Koko’s daughter, Cookie, on June 12, 2011 at the Chicago Blues Festival, and given the honor of the new “Queen of the Blues” by official proclamation of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. Copeland’s passion for singing, matched with her huge, blast-furnace voice, gives her music a timeless power and a heart-pounding urgency. Her music comes from deep within her soul and from the streets where she grew up, surrounded by the everyday sounds of the city: street performers, gospel singers, blasting radios, bands in local parks and so much more.
Martila Sanders & Gee-Q
With her breathtaking voice and sparkling personality, Martila Sanders has become one of the most respected vocalists in Michigan. Featuring an expanded repertoire, reaching across multiple genres, including soul, R&B, classic rock, blues and an ever growing list of powerful original material.
Shoestring Blues Jam
Formed in early 2015, the Shoestring Blues Jam is a lively southwest Michigan group influenced by the many shades of blues that have flavored the area.
Hunt & Gator
Dave Hunt and Dave ‘Gator” Allemang are two veteran musicians who have teamed up to create a versatile and entertaining acoustic duo. Winners of the 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Competition, they represented the KVBA at the 2015 International Blues Challenge in the Solo-Duo Category.
With the powerful yet soulful voice of Ms. Donna, we can do a wide range of great old & new funk, r&b, and blues music. The band behind Ms. Donna is made up of top-notch musicians that are second to none!
Stan Budzynski & 3rd Degree
Influenced by Muddy, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Robben Ford, and Sonny Landreth, this band plays Chicago blues, motown, classic rock, and all good music!
Big Boss Blues Band
Award-winning powerhouse blues, soul and R&B. With nearly a century of blues performance history, these musicians pay tribute to the smokin’ hot sound made famous by the blues greats: Albert Collins, Freddie King, Albert King, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter.
Jim Shaneberger Band
The Jim Shaneberger Band brings together adept musicians with backgrounds in blues, rock, gospel and funk for a lively stage performance. Their breathtaking performance at the 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Competition sent them to the 2015 International Blues Challenge in Memphis as the KVBA’s representative in the band category.
Celebrating a new era in her career, JUNO Award winning Canadian songstress Crystal Shawanda released her first modern blues album “The Whole World’s Got The Blues” in September 2014. The album is a mark of brilliant storytelling that plumbs the depths of roots, blues and Americana music and brings to mind the sounds of Etta James, Janis Joplin and Lucinda Williams. She is no stranger to the stage, performing at the 2013 US Presidential Inauguration. AS CCMA “Female Artist of the Year”, we can’t wait for this exciting performer take the Kalamazoo Blues Festival stage!
If contemporary blues has a long-term future in the 21st century, it’s very likely that guitarist Larry McCray (who is no stranger to Kalamazoo) will continue to play a recurring role in its ongoing development. Beginning with his 1990 debut album “Ambition”, and continuing into the new millennium, McCray has signaled both a strong commitment to the tradition and the vision to usher the genre in exciting new directions. Welcome back Larry…can’t wait to see your Soul Shine!
Dawn Tyler Watson
Watson’s fiery stage presence has earned her national and international recognition. Her artistic style is an eclectic influence of jazz, soul, folk and rock that pushes the boundaries of traditional blues into a whole new dimension. Playing festivals and concert halls across four continents, recording three albums, and appearing on numerous compilations, she has shared the stage with an array of premier artists, including Oliver Jones, Jeff Healy, Koko Taylor, Susan Tedeschi, and Cyndi Lauper.
It happened three years ago at a post-festival party jam session hosted by a club that sponsored the festival. That was the first time Damon Fowler, J.P. Soars and Victor Wainwright played together. They are now known collectively as blues supergroup “Southern Hospitality”. Several years back JP Soars closed out the Thursday night edition of the Kalamazoo Blues Festival, and a couple nights later Victor Wainwright with his band made the audience swoon. Damon Fowler had folks shaking the money-makers in Grand Rapids (and Muskegon), and now they will appear together in Kalamazoo – don’t miss it!
JR Clark and the All Star Blues Mob
JR Clark, a protege’ of Lil’ Ed Williams, brings all his influences—Lil’ Ed, Luther Allison, Michael Burks, Magic Slim, Larry McCray, to name only a few— and stirs it up in a pot to create a hot dish of his own rockin’ blues!
The fun starts at 5:00 on Thursday! Be sure to note down this schedule; you’re not going to want to miss a single act!
Thursday July 9
5:00 – 5:50 Groove Platter
5:55 – 6:45 Gator Blues Band
6:50 – 7:40 Kathleen and the Bridge Street Band
7:45 – 9:00 The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
9:05 -10:35 Ghost Town Blues Band
10:30 – 11:30 All Star Blues Jam
Friday July 10
5:00 – 5:55 Mortals 2
6:00 – 6:55 Marci Linn Band
7:00 – 8:25 24th St Wailers
8:30 – 9:55 Scott Holt Band
10:00 – 11:30 Shemekia Copeland
11:35 – 12:30 Martila Sanders and Gee Q
Saturday July 11
12:15 – 1:05 Shoestring Blues Jam
1:10 – 2:00 Hunt & Gator
2:05 – 2:55 Barrelhouse Cats
3:00 – 3:50 Stan Budzynski &Third Degree
3:55 – 4:45 Big Boss Blues Band
4:50 – 5:40 Jim Shaneberger Band
5:45 – 6:55 Crystal Shawanda
7:00 – 8:20 Larry McCray
8:25 – 9:55 Dawn Tyler Watson & Ben Racine Band
10:00 – 11:30 Southern Hospitality
11:35-12:30 JR Clark & The All Star Blues Mob
When Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi decided to dispense with their much-loved individual bands and pool their talents, they had no way of knowing what the public reaction might be to the new hybrid. They found out quickly enough when “Revelator” – Tedeschi Trucks Band’s 2011 studio debut – excited their sizable, devoted fan bases and the movers and shakers of the music industry alike, landing TTB both a Best Blues Album Grammy and a Blues Music Award for Album of the Year. Their live followup, “Everybody’s Talkin’” – documenting what many were already regarding as one of the most superb concert acts around, not even two years into the band’s existence – continued that forward momentum and picked up a Blues Music Award for Best Rock Blues Album. Derek, Susan, and the rest of the 11-member band consistently crank out powerful live performances night after night, and this tour is sure to be no different.
And what better place to enjoy this amazing show than at the Kalamazoo State Theater, the classic entertainment venue that has gone through major renovations in sound, lighting, and physical appearance over the last year. With standout performances by blues greats like Tab Benoit and Gregg Allman under its belt, the new, improved State Theater is continuing to mine the rich veins of classic and modern blues by bringing the Tedeschi Trucks Band to its stage on Wednesday, May 13, at 7:30 pm. The doors will open at 6:30 pm, and reserved seating ticket prices include : Gold Circle $75, Orchestra/Mezzanine and Balcony $49, and Back of Balcony $39.50.
There will be a ticket presage Thursday 3/19, from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm. Visit the State Theater box office, or use the link below to order online.
The Eaton Blues Series at the Franke Center for the Arts in Marshall continues on April 25, 2015 when Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang take to the main stage. Shaw’s award winning band will bring the traditional sound of Chicago electric Blues to Marshall for an evening of “house rocking” music.
Born on a stringtown plantation in Mississippi in 1937, Shaw began playing saxophone at an early age in school. In 1957 he sat in with the Muddy Waters band, and soon moved to Chicago at the invitation of Muddy. Playing in backup bands for many well known blues acts including Magic Sam, Otis Rush, and Freddie King, he was eventually discovered by the great Howlin’ Wolf, and ended up touring with Wolf and his band for many years. A talented songwriter and arranger, Shaw helped produce Howlin’ Wolf’s unique sound. Named after the Howlin’ Wolf band, the Wolf Gang continues these traditions to the present day and brings an authentic Chicago sound and style to the stage. One of the most respected blues musicians alive today, Shaw was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2014, and has received numerous awards including the Blues Music Award for Instrumentalist of the Year in 2006 and 2007.
Festivities on April 25 begin at 7:00 pm in the Lower Level with acoustic blues performer Doug Beckman from Kalamazoo. Beer, wine, and soft drinks will be available. The show on the main stage begins at 8 PM. Tickets for the show are $20 in advance, $22 day of show, and students are half price. Tickets can be purchased from the Franke Center website, on Facebook, or at the box office by calling 269-781-0001.
The Franke Center for the Arts is an intimate, historic 270 seat theater in downtown Marshall, Michigan. Make your plans now to hang out at the Franke for a fun night of blues music!
Series Opener Kev Nichols Thrilled The Crowd On March 13
by Lynn Headapohl
Kevin Nichols and Blue Tuesday opened the new Spring into the Blues Series at downtown Kalamazoo’s Wild Bull on Friday, March 13 with his usual high-energy ride through the blues. Wailing on guitar as he served up his husky,
galvanizing vocals, Kev was a driving force backed by his dynamic band of top-notch players. It was good to hear fellow guitarist Tony Riske, back with the group after an apartment fire kept him from performing at the KVBA Second Sunday series in December. Heather Kulaga’s spirited backing on bass combined with the unflagging energy of Ken Smith on drums to generate the compelling beat that brought folks out to the dance floor. Great show!! Good to see you all there!! Ladies get in FREE, which is a great deal! Can’t beat the half-priced drinks, either.
This Friday, March 20, Ann Arbor’s Chris Canas Band will take the stage. To quote the band’s bio statement: “the Chris Canas Blues Revolution can be seen blazing a trail in the Metro Detroit area and beyond. Front man Chris Canas, self proclaimed soldier for the blues, has put together a who’s who of veteran musicians to help keep the blues alive in the hearts of all music lovers. The C2B Revolution has a well blended set of classic covers and funky smooth originals that keep the audience jumping and the party going. The group is as diverse as they come with interesting backgrounds in music. This band is driven to pump new life into “The Blues” as well as embracing the rich traditional roots of the past. Brace yourselves for the Explosion.
So take yourself to downtown Kalamazoo this Friday night to enjoy one of our newest blues venues! Doors open at 8:00 pm and music starts at 9:00, and yes, it’s still Ladies’
Kev Nichols, Chris Canas, and Jim Shaneberger Bands to Appear Consecutive Fridays in March
Once again, the Wild Bull is offering local blues fans a chance to indulge themselves with some of the best of regional talent. Each of the three bands featured in the Wild Bull’s Spring Into The Blues Series has competed at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, as well as appearing multiple times on local stages. The Jim Shaneberger Band represented the KVBA at the 2015 IBC, and Kev Nichols and Chris Canas have each performed on the IBC stages more than once. This is a great opportunity to head out on these late-winter Friday nights and warm your soul with some hot blues–you don’t want to miss it!
Series To Conclude Sunday, March 8, With Kathleen and the Bridge Street Band and the Marci Linn Band
by Lynn Headapohl
Ahh, February!! Month of love and winter sunshine. February 2015 gave us new challenges with arctic winds and crazy snowfall, but that didn’t stop the blues fans from coming out on a relatively bright Sunday afternoon for the Second Sunday Blues series. Fans and KVBA members filled Shakespeare’s lower level to witness a great afternoon of jazz-tinged rocking blues.
Stan Budzynski and 3rd Degree, a four-piece unit hailing from the Lansing area opened the festivities. Performing two original tunes at the onset, “Jackson County Blues” and “Crystal Ball”, the group demonstrated its bluesy rock roots with Stan making his guitar sing while laying down Texas-style Stevie Ray licks. The band’s perfectly meshed vocals shifted to Motown. The group performed “Signed Sealed and Delivered” with keyboardist Gregg Hodge on Yamaha piano and HammondXK3C banging out a crazy keyboard solo on both instruments. Bassist Bretz then sang “All the Time in the World”, while Stan beautifully crafted his signature sound, feeding the hunger for fine slide guitar work. His sensitive rendering of the Boz Scaggs love song “It All Went Down the Drain” gave way to the raucous vocals of Greg Hodge serving up a Texas/Delta version of “Looking Back at Her” in his gravelly Joe Cocker style, accompanied by his wild keyboard antics. Ron Bretz then performed “Livin’ in the Country Blues”, an original about a city boy experiencing his first move to the country. To close the set, Stan performed Little Feat’s “Let It Roll” and took us down “that long cool stretch of highway” that brought back the days of riding around in that automobile without a care in the world.
The second set was even hotter. Transitioning with ease as drummer, Dan Mead moved easily from rock to swing to jazz, all in the blues vein, supporting the many facets of the band’s eclectic performance. Beginning with “Sweet Goddess of Love and Beer”, the band then moved from “Somebody Tell the Truth” to a stunning version of “Mardi Gras”, where Stan pitted his articulate slide work on his Parker Fly guitar against the dancing bass line laid down by Ron Bretz on his 5-stringed bass, creating a fresh rendition akin to rock in the bayou. After thrilling us with “Unchain My Heart”, the group pushed the beat to a metal blues collection, performing the music of the Johnny Winter blues standard “Life Is Hard,” that gave way to the inspired Jeff Beck song, “Because We Ended as Lovers,” written by Stevie Wonder. Here Stan’s stirring guitar played to all the passion in our hearts. The band rounded out the show with Muddy Waters’ “Diamonds At Her Feet” before firing up the dance floor with, “Shake A Tail Feather”, ending with a lively romp through Taj Mahal’s “Cheating On You”. This surely left the crowd in a party mode!!
And the day’s festivities were only the beginning!!
What an amazing day of blues! Thanks to all the blues fans that helped to make this show a success. If you missed it, fear not. There is one more in the second Sunday Series on Sunday March 8th at 4:00 in Shakespeare’s lower level. We would love to see you there!
If you’ve had the good fortune to attend the previous three episodes of the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association’s Second Sunday Series of fundraising concerts for the 2015 Kalamazoo Blues Festival, you know what a good time is to be had at Shakepeare’s Lower Level in Kalamazoo. You know about the great music, good food and drink, companionship of other blues fans, and just plain fun, and you’re already looking forward to this Sunday’s final show, when Lansing’s Kathleen and the Bridge Street Band and Kalamazoo’s Marci Linn Band will fill a double bill with an outstanding helping of enjoyment. And if you haven’t been to one of these great shows, now’s your chance! Be sure to be there when the doors open at 3:00 pm, and stay for the full four hours of music. Kathleen and the Bridge Street Band will play from 4:00 to 6:00, and Marci Linn from 6:00 to 8:00. The door charge is only $6.00, and it all goes to help fund the upcoming 22nd Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival! It doesn’t get any better than this!
Hailing from Lansing, Bridge Street Band members Kathleen Walters (vocals), Doug Fritch (guitar), Angelo Santelli (guitar), Tim Brouhard (bass), Eric Payne (drums), and Jon Gerwitz (sax) put on a great show consisting of all things blues, soul and R&B…….from Elmore James and Etta James to Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. They’ll open the afternoon in fine style at 4:00.
The Marci Linn Band will pick it up at 6:00, with vocalist Marci Linn, guitar master Jim Beebe, bassist Greg Orr, guitarist Geoff Stockton and drummer Mike Curtis filling the room with their outstanding brand of blue-eyed soul. A long-time presence on the Kalamazoo blues scene, the Marci Linn Band is a perennial favorite that will close out the 2014-15 KVBA Second Sunday Series in fine fashion, leaving audience members with a wealth of good memories.
Come on down to Shakespeare’s this Sunday at 3:00 for an afternoon and evening not to be forgotten! See you there!
by Katrina Allemang
From a spectator perspective…….
Ah….Memphis. Back again. This time was slightly different though.
We arrived on Tuesday, January 20th. First stop…Rendezvous….second stop…Beale Street. We strolled down Beale Street taking in the familiar sights, sounds, and smells. Not sure what to expect from the competition or where the guys will be playing. It was still Memphis, just the way I remembered, with the exception of the new Hard Rock Café. The new Hard Rock Café is absolutely gorgeous. We imagined the sound would be equally as impressive.
What was different this time? For me it was the first time supporting a solo/duo act. It also meant different venues to sit and enjoy the competition from. Hunt –N– Gator played Wednesday and Thursday evenings at Club 152, 3rd floor. In order to get to there, you had to walk through the main floor where the band competition was going on, up the nifty “party” elevator to the 3rd floor. The feeling was much different than a typical “bar”. The guys performed on a small stage while seated and the crowd watched from their chairs that were set up in neat rows. Seemed more like watching a recital and less like a bar show. Not to worry though, drinks were still enjoyed, as there was a bar on the 3rdfloor, but it was off to the side and did not impede the enjoyment of the acts. We were able to take in other solo/duo competitors, as they performed at other smaller venues. All in all, the solo/duo venues seemed more intimate.
Unfortunately, this was the last stop for our favorite guys for the competition.
Another new for me was sharing an apartment. We’ve decided this is the way to go when staying in Memphis. We shared a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment with Dave Hunt and Debbie Brokus. The price was better than a hotel and it was private. We had a beautiful view of the bridge and Mississippi River from our bedroom. The view from the living room was that of a cute little park with a nice fountain in the middle. It was a gathering place for school kids who would sing a capella. Horse drawn carriages adorned with colored lights would pass through regularly. At night it was almost eerie because all you could see was a floating ball of light.
What else was new? I introduced Hunt and Debbie to the Memphis Zoo. Being that it was cold for Memphis, the zoo was nearly empty. It felt as if we were touring our own private zoo. It is not a huge zoo but still decently sized. We were able to see most everything in about 3 hours. I would certainly recommend a zoo trip for anyone who goes to Memphis. They have panda bears!
We tried some new food joints and were highly impressed. We stopped at the Four Way for fantastic soul food. Not fancy but oh so delicious. This restaurant was featured on the Food Network, and its claim to fame is that it was a regular hangout for Dr. Martin Luther King. I would not mind making it a regular hangout for myself. Another must-go-to-again place.
As fabulous as the Rendezvous was, we found someplace we liked better…..Central BBQ. We heard about it from the Jim Shaneberger Band, and we were so glad we listened. When you walk in, you are greeted with a huge smile. The menu is listed on the wall next to you. You walk up to a small counter and the cashier takes your order and you pay for your meal, take a number and sit. You don’t have to wait long before your mouth-watering meal arrives. The conversation after that is nothing more than a bunch of “mmmm” noises. Central BBQ is located behind the famed Lorraine Hotel. We were able to get our barbeque fix and see the Civil Rights Museum at the same time.
On Friday evening, Dave Allemang and I decided to take a break from the competition and take a drive down to the Crossroads. That was an unusual experience. The drive was a short 1 hour and 20 minutes through the delta. We arrived in Clarksdale, Mississippi around 8PM and there was no one around. This had us scratching our heads. Friday night and desolate. We found the Ground Zero Blues Club which is owned by Morgan Freeman. Very cool vibe and food was decent. The only thing missing was a band. You could tell this would be the place to be when a band is on stage. There was writing all over the walls, tables, and mismatched chairs. It was great!!
The last new thing for us was the finals. This was the first time we got to experience the newer format for the finals. We were able to watch the entire finals, both solo/duo and bands. The newer format consists of alternating between the solo/duo and band acts. The energy was high the entire time.
The highlight for Hunt –N– Gator came Saturday evening. We had finished watching the finals and were strolling down Beale Street for the last time when the guys were approached by a lady who had nothing but praise to give them. She was a Memphis local and had caught their act earlier in the week at Club 152. She remembered them and recognized them on the street a few days later. Their performance made a lasting impression….a good impression. The guys were delighted and humbled.
The semi-finals are still elusive but a goal to continue to strive for. I’m looking forward to visiting Memphis again.
Dave Thomas of the KVBA; Terry “Hoot” Gibson of Bosco-Gee
It’s been a sad week for music lovers and fans of the blues, who have recently received the news of the passing of Dave Thomas, one of the founding members of the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association, and Terry “Hoot” Gibson, long-time bassist for well-known blues band Bosco-Gee.
Dave, a local business owner, was one of a dedicated group of musicians and community members who came together in 1993 to create the KVBA for the express purpose of putting on a festival. That first festival took place in the summer of 1994 and was such a huge success that it continues today, with the 22nd Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival scheduled for July 2015. Interviewed for an article reviewing the history of the festival shortly before the 20th Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival in 2013, Dave said, “It’s amazing that we did it. Kalamazoo had (and still has) so much great music and such great talent, and we wanted to bring the community together to celebrate it. Everyone worked together, out of the love for the blues.”
Dave, who passed away on February 7, 2015, had coped with several years of a serious health condition with bravery and humor. He’s remembered by all of us who knew him as not only a lover of music and founding father of Kalamazoo’s blues community, but a warm, kind man who always had a smile and a good word for everyone he met.
Terry Gibson, known affectionately as “Hoot”, died unexpectedly on February 9, saddening family and friends, including the members of his former band, Bosco-Gee. Hoot, who had played bass for 6 years with the well-known group, and who was there when Bosco-Gee competed at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2012, leaves behind warm memories and fond thoughts.
It’s Going To Be A Night To Remember: Tab Benoit, Samantha Fish, and Mike Zito at the State Theater, Friday, March 6
Kalamazoo’s Out Of Favor Boys To Open at 7:30 pm
As anyone who’s been around the Kalamazoo music scene in the last dozen years or so knows, Tab Benoit’s is a name to conjure with. Born in the deepest bayous of southern Louisiana, steeped in the local Cajun culture, raised on the blues from his youth, and pulling it all together with a guitar since his teens, Tab Benoit began bringing his unique, high-intensity sound to the State Theater as part of the Budweiser/WRKR Blues Series in the early days. He quickly became a local favorite, drawing a loyal fan base who eagerly awaited his next arrival, looking forward to the next chance to spend an evening with Tab as he poured out the intense, Cajun-flavored blues that’s become his trademark sound.
Among those early fans was Danny Ouellette, a local guitar player who was playing with Crossroads Blues Band when he first met Tab. Crossroads was hosting the popular Thursday night blues jam at Wonderful’s Funky Basement, the legendary Kalamazoo club that closed its doors in 2007. Danny remembers a night at Wonderful’s, “probably the second or third time I’d met Tab, when he had shared a bill at the State with EC Scott. We all sat downstairs until very late….3-3:30 am—while they told stories about each other at various festivals and events through the years. It was a really great opportunity for the young players we were at the time to spend the time with these amazing musicians.”
Danny, who with Tony Sproul (also an alumnus of Crossroads), Joel Krauss, and Tim Brouhard went on to create the Out of Favor Boys, has a storehouse of such memories, recounting the way that he and the other band members interacted with Tab over the years and developed a solid friendship. After Wonderful’s left the scene, to be replaced eventually by Marty Spaulding’s 411 Club (which opened Labor Day weekend, 2008, and closed Halloween weekend 2014), Tab and members of his band would head over to the 411 after the show at the State for a late-night wrap-up of jamming with local musicians, including the guys from Crossroads and the OFB. Danny says, “I remember another night, maybe a year or two ago, when we stood outside the 411 with Tab, again until very late, talking about his hero Evel Knievel, his time doing stand-up, his time as a place kicker for the LSU football team….just total nonsense….just stories of our lives.”
As the relationship developed, it became a done deal for the Out of Favor Boys to play before Tab’s performances at the State, something they’ll be doing again this year, when Tab shares the bill on March 6 with Samantha Fish and Mike Zito. One of Danny’s more special memories is of one of the most recent times the OFB opened the night at the State. “Tab had finished his sound check before ours, and he handed me his guitar and asked me to play while he went out and walked around in the house. THAT was pretty thrilling.”
It’s also become tradition for Tab to jam with the OFB after the show, and rumor has it that we can hope for that to happen this year at the Old Dog Tavern, where the OFB will be performing after their opening set at the State. The Old Dog is a short hop from the State (one of the beauties of the Kalamazoo music scene is the proximity of so many great venues for live music), and music-lovers who aren’t ready to let the good times go will be heading on over to the Old Dog to let them roll instead!
It’s that quality of personal commitment to his music and the people he connects with, as well as the music itself, that makes Tab Benoit one of the most popular acts to perform at the State Theater. Tab plays the music that he inherited from his roots and developed as his own, and there really is nothing like it. He carries on the commitment to his homeland in his environmental activism, having made the preservation of the endangered delta wetlands his personal crusade, something he speaks about to his audiences as he performs. It’s a multilayered experience to come to a Tab Benoit show, and something truly not to be missed.
AND: as if getting to hear the Out of Favor Boys and Tab Benoit on the same night weren’t enough, the State Theater is offering further incentive to come down the night of March 8 by featuring Samantha Fish, the youthful guitar sensation whose 2011 album Runaway earned her the Blues Music Award (BMA) for “Best New Artist Debut” in 2012, and Mike Zito, the multiple BMA winner and co-founder (with Devon Allman and Cyril Neville) of the blues and rock supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood. It’s going to be an incredible evening of some of the absolute best blues music you’re going to hear in a long, long time, so do not wait to reserve your tickets now!
The show starts at 7:30 pm (the tickets say 8:00, but the OFB open up at 7:30), with doors opening at 7:00. Ticket prices range from $25 to $30, and are available through Ticketmaster and in person at the State Theater box office. The State Theater is under new management and amazing things are happening to this beautiful venue, including renovations and upgrades to the stage and backstage area, seating accommodations, and sound and lighting system. That’s just one more reason for you to put this unique night of blues on your entertainment calendar now.