In a special announcement on Sunday, March 9 at the final show in the popular series of concerts to benefit the Kalamazoo Blues Festival, KVBA Festival Coordinator Dennis Massingill and Board President Ralph Yingling revealed the names of many of the acts scheduled to appear at the upcoming 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Fest. In making the presentation, Massingill and Yingling noted that the complete list of performers, including several local acts, will be announced in the near future.
In the meantime, here’s some information about some of the great music you can expect to hear in July:
The Jimmys, an 8-piece band with US and European touring experience. Influenced by Chicago blues and New Orleans funk, the band and many of its members have been the recipients of numerous music awards, including:
“2012 Best Swing/Big Band Ensemble” (Wisconsin Area Music Industry)
2013 Madison Area Music Awards:
2013 Artist of the Year: The Jimmys
2013 Blues Performer of the Year: The Jimmys
2013 Keyboardist of the Year: Jimmy Voegeli
2013 Brass Instrumentalist: Darren Sterud
2013 Woodwind Instrumentalist: Peterson Ross
“Killer horns, greasy guitars, funky keys, and a rhythm section with the heart and soul the size of Brazil. This is a GREAT band that plays blues and everything else between. I would take them into the studio and record with them anytime. They’re a ‘good-un’. Get ready for The Jimmys!” – The Braille Blues Daddy – Bryan Lee
Brandon Santini, the North Carolina-born/Memphis, Tennessee-based harp player, whose specialty is Piedmont-infused Mississippi hill country blues, has received Blues Music Award nominations for 2014 in two categories: Instrumentalist-Harmonica, and Contemporary Blues Album. He also received a 2014 Blues Blast Music Award in the category of Sean Costello Rising Star, as well as a Seydel harmonica endorsement
Santini, who hits the road on March 20th to begin his spring tour (in Florida), is truly one of the rising stars. Remember Victor Wainwright, who was a big hit at the 2013 Festival? They are former room-mates, band-mates, and still remain great friends…artistry inspires more artistry.
Dana Fuchs, hailing from New Jersey/Florida/New York City, is known as a queen of Pop/Rock Blues, while the Dana Fuchs Band has built up a reputation as one of the best live acts on the city’s blues circuit
Probably best recognized as the character “Sadie” from the Beatles-music-themed movie “Across the Universe”, Fuchs also landed the lead role in the Janis Joplin musical “Love Janis’”, toured with Ray Davies and Dickey Betts, and wrote and performed on the soundtrack of the movie “Sherrybaby”.
Lionel Young. New York born, Colorado based, the blues & boogie-woogie violin master won the 2008 International Blues Challenge (IBC )in the solo-duo performer category, and then went on to win the 2011 IBC band competition, making him the first double champion in the history of the IBC!
Marcia Ball . A lot of folks are looking forward to the return of Marcia Ball, who rocked the Kalamazoo Blues Fest in
Aptly described as “a sensational, saucy singer and superb pianist”, her style is known as “where Texas stomp-rock and Louisiana blues-swamp meet”. Her many awards and recognitions include:
1998: Grammy Award nomination
1998: Blues Music Award for “Best Contemporary Blues Album”
1998: Blues Music Award for “Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year” and “Best Blues Instrumentalist-Keyboards”
2002: BMA Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for her album “Presumed Innocent”
2004: BMA Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for her album “So Many Rivers”
2004: BMA Contemporary Blues Artist of the Year-Female
2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009: BMA “Best Blues Instrumentalist-Keyboards”
Grammy nominations in 2003 for “So Many Rivers,” 2005 for “Live! Down The Road”, and 2008 for “Peace, Love & BBQ”
Tweed Funk. Formed in late 2010, Tweed Funk has garnered national and international acclaim for its horn-driven,
sweat-soaked, soul-blues. This Milwaukee, Wisconsin band is fronted by Joseph “Smokey” Holman, who
recorded under Curtis Mayfield in the early 70′s. Tweed Funk boasts three Wisconsin Area Music Industry
(WAMI) wins in the last two years for the band and its members. Tweed Funk’s two CD releases and performances at blues festivals and top bluesrooms have earned the band praise from press and media around the world.
Big City Rhythm & Blues Magazine’s 2013 Coolest Blues Song of the Year for Dancemaker
2013 WAMI Winner, Male Vocalist of the Year: Joseph “Smokey” Holman
2013 WAMI Winner, Bass Player of the Year: Eric Madunic
2012 WAMI Winner, R&B/Soul Artist of the Year
2012 Competitor at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN
Albert Castiglia. New York born ,Miami raised, Castiglia features modern electric blues and contemporary blues. He has toured with Junior Wells and Sandra Hall, and shared stages and jammed with Aron Burton, Pinetop Perkins, Melvin Taylor, Sugar Blue, Phil Guy, Ronnie Earl, Billy Boy Arnold, Ronnie Baker Brooks, John Primer, Lurrie Bell, Jerry Portnoy, Larry McCray, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater and Otis Clay.
Tinsley Ellis, from Georgia, plays modern electric blues and blues-rock, best described as a “unique blend of Memphis r & b, southwest blues, and urban funk”. An outstanding performer, also known for writing “A Quitter Never Wins” that was famously covered by Jonny Lang.
He has shared stages with Warren Haynes, Widespread Panic, The Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Thackery, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins and Buddy Guy. He often plays smaller venues that allow the band a more personal contact with the audience.
Coco Montoya, from California, with a style described as modern electric blues and soul, won the 1996 Handy Award for Best New Blues Artist, as well as being
nominated in the same year for Contemporary Blues Male Artist Of The Year, Best Instrumentalist/Guitar, and Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year for “Gotta Mind To Travel.”
An Opinion, by Mike Irelan
I just watched a DVD titled “Blues Story”, the story of the blues told through the eyes of the artists who lived it. I was moved to do some serious thinking. Some of what was said really hit home with me and I would like to share it.
The old blues–what we call now “DELTA BLUES”–was really something special. Pine Top Perkins said, “as a boy of 7 or 8 I can remember people in front of the plantation store on Saturday night dancing, and I said as soon as I am old enough I am going to do me some dancing too, and I did.” These people lived the blues; for them, the music was a release for the human spirit to rise up. B.B. King talks about working from sunup to sundown, what was known as “cain’t to cain’t”, when you “cain’t see in the morning till you cain’t see at night”. This was a point Hubert Sumlin made: “Anyone can play the blues but if you haven’t lived it, it’s not real blues, it has no soul.”
They talked on the DVD about sharecropping and the rigged system, in which “ you almost broke even this year almost”, which kept you where you were unable to pay off your debt. This was the life that blues players lived, and it created a fire inside them that spewed out in music. Koko Taylor spoke of her father getting a barrel of flour, a tin of lard, a pail of molasses and some other foodstuffs for a years’ pay. Today we have no concept of that life, of the burden it put on one’s soul. This is what is meant to live it, not just play it.
Buddy Guy spoke of coming to Chicago. His mother was very sick and told him to leave Louisiana go to Chicago and make a better living. He was just following a movement that had already began. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy, and Little Walter, to name a few, did the same thing. Koko Taylor spoke of arriving in Chicago on a bus with 34 cents and a box of Ritz crackers. And she went on to say that she “thought she had arrived in the promised land”.
Chicago was where Muddy Waters “ invented electricity”. The times were a-changing, and electric instruments were now affordable, so the music of the Delta got plugged in. The plantation store/juke joint became the bars of the south side, and blues was still the release. Even in the north where better jobs and housing could be found, it was pretty much still “you do your business on that side, we do ours on this side”. The blues was still lived and played.
Flash to today, when you go to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, or even to a local blues show. It is not the people who lived it who are there to dance, or rarely even to play it. The blues has become a formula, a business for the most part. There are still people who live it and play it, but they are the minority [no pun intended].
Don’t get me wrong–I am not getting down on the blues, or those who play the music I love. Just being thought-provoking, is all.
I would like to close with the words of Ruth Brown: “Now they are teaching blues in the schools. Don’t teach kids the blues, teach them about the blues, they don’t need the blues. I thought that debt had been paid!”
A huge thanks to The 411 Club for hosting the fundraisers for the Kalamazoo Blues Festival and a huge thanks to the folks who helped pull it all together for so many weeks. And of course thanks to all of you who came out to support this series of fundraisers. We announced them yesterday…here they are for your consideration:
In no particular order…the national/regional touring acts that will be featured at this years Kalamazoo Blues Festival:
More information on ticket availability, artist profiles, and videos will be forthcoming.
This Sunday, March 9 brings the final show in the series of fundraisers we’ve held for the the 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival. Doors open at 3pm and music starts at 4pm with the Steve Hilger Band followed at 6pm with Seventh Son. Admission is $6.
The extra treat for this spring forward show will be our announcement of who will be performing in headliner slots for this years festival…
The 411 Club
411 N. Westnedge Ave (corner of Willard and Westnedge)
The blues festival fundraiser previously scheduled for March 2 has been moved to March 9th…
We moved our fundraiser to accommodate the very popular Gumbo Cook-off. Hope to see you blues lovin, gumbo lovin’ folks jammin to the blues at this years Gumbo Cookoff. KVBA Member Bands Big Boss Blues, Marci Linn Blues Band, 33rd Street Band, and Out of Favor Boys (along with assorted blues friends along the way) will be playing between noon and 7pm (Kalamazoo favorite Small Town Son will also share one of the stages) – all to benefit Ministry with Community at the Entertainment District.
Seventh Son will be hosting the blues jam at The Old Dog on Sunday too. Plenty of hot blues this Sunday to beat that polar vortex!
Review by Nick Hatzinikolis
If you are a true fan of the blues, and if you especially like Chicago blues, and if you were at the 411 Club on December 1, 2013 to see Shawn Holt and the Teardrops, you were not disappointed! From the first note of Shawn’s Starburst Gibson guitar, you know you were going to have a fun evening! Shawn is the son of the Great Morris Holt, “Magic Slim”, and it shows. The intense energy and effort from the band made you appreciate all that Magic Slim had passed down to his son, who is the new leader and front man of the legendary Teardrops band.
We lost Magic Slim and mourned his passing in the spring of 2013, just before he was scheduled to play in Kalamazoo. You can easily see that Shawn picked up right where his legendary father left off. The band had that “groove” and “feel” as though they had been playing together for several years, even though they have not been all playing together for that long.
After the show I had a chance to talk to the band members to get their thoughts on how the blues is being received around the country, and to ask them for their views of Kalamazoo. Levis William (guitar, vocals) said openly that, “I hope to keep this going. When people see us play, don’t look at the age of the band but receive the music for what it is. I (we) play like we may not be able to play tomorrow.”
When I asked Shawn about Kalamazoo and the people who came to the 411 Club to see him and the band play, he had a big wide grin and said “It was a fun night tonight! I appreciate everyone that came out to see us. It took a them a little while to get up and dance , but when they did…oh man!”
Vernal Taylor and the rest of the band echoed the same thoughts on Kalamazoo, and wanted to give a special shout-out to the fans that showed up at the show, and a special thank you to everyone at the 411 Club for their exceptional hospitality!
Indeed, the Teardrops have had their share of heartbreak and loss this year. In addition to losing Magic Slim, they recently lost their road manager, and their drummer Brian Jones (BJ) was not with them at that time due to personal reasons. Chris Biedron (bass) mentioned that they were all looking forward to the New Year.
In the words of Vernal Taylor (drums), “Shawn and the band have had the torch passed down to them, and they are here to keep it burning!”
The good folks at the 411 Club are doing their best to keep West Michigan blues audiences from going crazy (or crazier) in this longest, coldest, and snowiest of winters by providing a fantastic lineup of blues shows in the weeks ahead. To quote KVBA president Ralph Yingling, “They are popping out shows like wildfire!”
Just look at the lineup below:
TOMMY CASTRO After Party w/ CROSSROADS BLUES BAND – 2/14/14
Tommy Castro opens the WRKR/Bud Blues Series at the State Theater that night (show starts at 8:00 pm). As anyone who’s heard Tommy knows, it’ll be a great show that’ll leave you wanting more, so head over to the 411 Club when Tommy leaves the stage to keep your blues high going. Crossroads the Resurrection will help you continue that blues high!
KVBA SUNDAY SERIES FUNDRAISER
w/Gee-Daddy’s BIG Blues Review Featuring Martila Sanders and Big Boss Blues Band – 2/16/14
This is the third in the series of shows that benefit the Kalamazoo Blues Festival–all proceeds go to help put on the 2014 Festival. Doors open at 3:00 and music starts at 4:00. A great way to spend a snowy Sunday!
TAB BENOIT After Party w/ THE OUT OF FAVOR BOYS! – 2/21/14
Kalamazoo loves Tab! Any night with Tab is a good night, and the fact that he’s hitting the State Theatre on February 21 to continue the WRKR Blues Series is great news! It’s one of Kalamazoo’s worst-kept secrets that Tab’s fans can expect him to head over to the 411 Club after his show at the State to party with the Out of Favor Boys and all you happy folks. It’s the party of the winter!
JOE LOUIS WALKER CD Release Party – 2/28/14
KVBA SUNDAY SERIES FUNDRAISER w/ The Steve Hilger Band and Seventh Son – 3/9/14
L’IL ED AND THE BLUES IMPERIALS After Party w/ THE JR CLARK BAND – 3/14/14
L’il Ed will bring a bit of Chicago to the State Theater that night, and then carry it over to the 411 Club, where his good friend JR Clark will help him rock the rest of the night–don’t miss it!
BIG BOSS BLUES – 3/21/14
BISCUIT MILLER – 4/18/14
THE KELLY RICHEY BAND Record Release Party – 5/23/14
Want to know more? Go to the articles on this website about the Sunday Series and the State Theater Blues Series, or visit the websites for the 411 Club and the State Theater. There is so much good live music in Kalamazoo–we are so lucky! Support live music–keep the blues alive!
by Sue Weaver, KVBA Newsletter Editor
January 2014 was a month to remember for a lot of reasons, and most of them had to do with the weather. As one “polar vortex” after another barreled down out of the north, much of the country staggered under the twin assaults of brutal cold and blanketing snow, and Kalamazoo was no exception. Schools and businesses closed, plow drivers and tow trucks worked overtime, and most folks hunkered down inside and tried to ignore the mounting piles of white outside their windows. But even as temperatures sank below zero, bringing all normal motion to a halt, there was feverish activity in some corners of the city as the brave members of Seventh Son and assorted KVBA personnel prepared to make the long trek south to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.
Memphis and the IBC! What was inspiring these intrepid souls to drive, fly (or, in one case, take that southbound train) over six hundred miles in the dead of one of the worst winters in decades? Well, first, of course, there was the IBC itself, the largest gathering of blues musicians in the world. For 30 years the Blues Foundation has been mounting the great competition that, this year, brought over 200 acts from around the world (France! The Phillipines!) to compete in the many venues on and near Beale Street in hopes of winning the ultimate prize and being declared the best of the best, at the IBC at least.
Then, of course, there was Memphis, most notably Beale Street itself. Beale Street, which has a long and storied history, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and was officially declared the Home of the Blues by an act of Congress in 1977. It’s less than two miles long, but it’s packed with places to party, from the ironically named “New” Daisy Theater, a fairly decrepit edifice that is nonetheless newer than the “Old” Daisy across the street, to the Rum Boogie Cafe, a favorite with crowds who somehow manage to negotiate its narrow spiral iron staircase even in the fairly inebriated condition that’s normal on Beale Street.
Add all that to the many other attractions in the vicinity, from the Stax Museum of Soul Music to the Ornamental Metal Museum to–lest we forget–Graceland, and our IBC-bound Kalamazoo contingent was eagerly anticipating a week of fun and frolic in the–and this is the last, but oh-so-important, reason we were heading to Memphis–sunny, somewhat warm(er) south. Silly us.
According to a travel site for the city, the average high temperature in Memphis for January is 49 degrees F, while the average low temperature is just below freezing at 31. This may not seem all that great, but when you’re coming from a place where the mercury has regularly been sinking below zero, we’d take it. Past experience had taught many of us to hopefully anticipate the possibility of even warmer days, and nights when we could stroll the streets (a big part of the IBC fun takes place outside the clubs, as you wander along Beale Street, taking in the music and atmosphere and meeting friends old and new) without wearing arctic survival gear. We were going to Memphis to warm our hearts with the blues, to be sure, but we hoped to extend just a bit of that warmth to our external selves.
Oh well. As we found ourselves on Beale Street that first morning (Wednesday, January 22), one travel horror story topped another, as we shared the gruesome details of our trips over the stormy miles. As the Seventh Son band members and friends gathered outside IBC Central at the New Daisy to gather important information about schedules and such, we found that we had arrived in a city gripped in a record-breaking cold snap. At least the sun shone brilliantly upon us as we huddled in our layers of winter clothing, but it was an empty promise. For most of the week daytime temperatures stayed in the teens and twenties, and except for the occasional celebrant like the guy who, presumably numbed by the adult beverages readily available everywhere, was seen frolicking between the clubs in shorts, most folks hurried up and down the famous cobblestones and ducked inside at the first opportunity.
Okay, okay, enough about the weather, what about the music? Let me just say that there is more than enough music being played in Memphis during IBC week to satisfy the most jaded soul. A favorite pastime at the IBC is arguing about what is, and isn’t, the blues, and which bands do, or don’t, meet those criteria. The acts at the IBC run the gamut of blues-related styles, from the most guttural interpretation of the classic delta blues all the way to post-modern guitar-hero rock-infused exuberance, and everyone has a passionate opinion about all of it. Each band has passed a selection process to get to the IBC in the first place, and the level of musical competence and enthusiasm tends to be very high. ”You’re all winners just by being here” is the message at the IBC orientation meeting, and every act is out to prove that true.
So, you get your schedule, you pick your poison, you pay for your pass or your wristband, you eat some barbecue to fortify yourself, and you head out on Wednesday night for the first night of the quarter-final competitions. The KVBA’s IBC challenger, Seventh Son, was assigned the Hard Rock Cafe as its venue, and was the second act on the stage that night. Kalamazoo family and friends crowded into the club (an apt description, as venues that are normally packed on IBC nights were rendered truly claustrophobic due to the huddled masses yearning to escape the frigid temps outside) to hear our boys deliver an outstanding set of their signature mix of classic and original blues and r & b. It was pretty exciting, thrilling even!
However, an IBC set lasts a (very rigidly-defined) 25 minutes, so all too soon our boys were done, and we spread out looking for additional entertainment. I personally found myself somewhat later seated at a front-row table (snagged with incredible luck and dexterity by KVBA Board member Colleen) at the Rum Boogie with several KVBA folks, happily enjoying the aforementioned wide variety of interpretations of the blues until well into the wee hours. Such a night!
In the days ahead, the Kalamazoo contingent braved the weather (and it did help that the sun continued to shine, if not impart warmth) to spread out around the city and explore. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the original Sun Records Studio offer truly amazing looks back into the history of some of the greatest music to come out of Memphis and the south, while the Ornamental Metal Museum, perched high on the bluffs over the Mississippi, the Memphis Museum of Art, the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art, and other locales display wonderful things to admire, and opportunities to eat great barbecue and soul food, like the Rendezvous and the Four Ways Soul Food Restaurant, abound. Some of us made a special stop at Xanadu Music and Books to visit with John Lowe, master craftsman of the Lowe-bow, a front-runner in the current wave of cigar-box guitars sweeping the blues scene. On the last day a few of us made the 60-mile trip south to Clarksdale, Mississippi, home of the Delta Blues Museum and the Ground Zero Blues Club–more great history, more really heart- (and tummy-) warming food, and may I say, temperatures at long last above fifty–true cause for rejoicing.
Returning to Beale Street, Seventh Son performed late on Thursday evening, again winning over the crowd and pleasing its fans. When the results of the two nights’ competition were announced, as it happened, our boys were among the majority of acts not selected to advance to the semi-finals, but we were so proud of them just the same. IBC judges have a really Herculean task, sorting through and selecting winners from the overwhelming array of performers (and they are widely and regularly abused for their choices, as pretty much everybody has powerfully held opinions on who should and should not have been selected). They make their choices, and the fact remains, there’s truth in the statement that just getting to the IBC makes an act a winner. As other bands have observed in previous years, a huge part of the IBC experience is simply being there, where it’s all happening. Meeting other musicians, hearing all the acts, networking and partying, and taking part in this great gathering of musical performers and fans is a reward in itself. Okay, sure, it would be nice to win. But being there, cold, crowds, and hassles notwithstanding, is at least half the fun. And I can say with confidence that fun was had by all.
As to who actually won, follow the link below. Also, go look up the Blues Foundation to learn more about the organization that puts on all this mayhem, the acts that performed, and upcoming events. And then, keep the blues alive by heading out to your local community to visit clubs in your area and enjoy the acts that appear there. Plan to come to the 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival on July 10-12 to hear this year’s IBC winner, as well as a fantastic lineup of local, regional, and national acts. Watch this website for updates. And above all, no matter what else you do, support live music and keep the blues alive!
by Nancy King, KVBA Volunteer Coordinator
I am in the process of compiling a list of folks who are interested in becoming involved in volunteering at KVBA events. It’s a great way to take part in blues events, meet your fellow music lovers, and help out the KVBA.
There are two main volunteer opportunities coming up: the WRKR/Budweiser Blues Series at the State Theater (see the article about the upcoming Tommy Castro and Tab Benoit shows) and the Sunday Series fundraising shows at the 411 Club (see the article about the show planned for February 16).
The KVBA sets up a table at the State Theatre during the Blues Series shows where raffle tickets, KVBA memberships, and merchandise is sold. We are looking for volunteers to man the tables to greet interested folks and give information about the KVBA and upcoming events and sell KVBA merchandise and memberships.
The dates we need volunteers at the State are February 14 and 21, March 14, and April 21. See the article posted on this website on January 11 for the full lineup of performers on those dates.
The dates for the Sunday Series shows held at the 411 Club are February 16 and March 9, 2014. We need people who want to help with selling merchandise, memberships, raffles, and ticket sales at the door.
If interested, please email me (king-nancy @att.net) or call 269-342-5733. Indicate which venue and the date/s that you would like to volunteer. Please include your contact information. And don’t forget: in just a few short months we’ll be looking for volunteers for the 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Festival–that’s an opportunity not to be missed! Keep your eye on this space for information as the time gets closer.
Thanks for your help!
Nancy J King, Volunteer Coordinator