“It takes a village” is a common phrase describing the group effort needed for difficult and worthwhile efforts. It’s also an accurate description of the process that led to the development of the design work that can be seen on the 2015 Kalamazoo Blues Festival poster, t-shirts, entrance passes, billboards, and everything else that defines the “look and feel” of the Festival. The vibrant, eye-catching images that make this year’s festival instantly identifiable are the result of a collaboration between the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association, Portage Printing, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Center for New Media. The three community organizations have come together to create the Blues Festival designs for several years now, a process that “has no downside to it”, according to Mark DeYoung, who teaches Advanced Graphic Design at KVCC. “It benefits the KVBA, raises the profile of the Graphic Design program, and helps the students and the community.”
“It was a lot of fun,” says KVCC student Ross Fuller, of creating the artwork in DeYoung’s Advanced Graphic Design course last winter. Ross was in the process of adding a Certificate in Graphic Design to his degree in Art Education when he accepted the challenge of creating an image that would combine elements of the blues, the Kalamazoo community, and the excitement of the Festival, now in its 22nd year. “I pulled together some ideas from old music posters and new-age festival designs, and fit everything together like a puzzle.” Ross, who has been living in Kalamazoo since 2007, was also influenced by the classic car and motorcycle shows he’d attended with his father while growing up in Allegan. “Blues is a big part of that scene,” says Ross. His design was selected by the KVBA from three submitted by DeYoung’s class to represent the Festival, at which point the work began with Portage Printing to turn the basic design into a signature look that would anchor a successful marketing campaign.
Portage Printing, which is just entering its third decade as a locally created and owned business, prides itself on being a full-service print shop that not only creates a variety of products for businesses and organizations, but is unique in also being able to offer design and marketing services to its clients. “There used to be a lot of print shops 30 years ago,” says Craig Vestal, owner of Portage Printing. “No one had computers then, and it was kind of a ‘fast food’ approach to printing: simple, quick, and basic. Nowadays everyone can do that stuff for themselves, so we specialize in going beyond that and doing much more.”
Craig Vestal, whose grandfather was a mandolin player who came to Kalamazoo to work at the Gibson Guitar Factory, is a musician himself, having played the bass since the age of 14, and his friendship with Annette Taborn and other well-known figures in the Kalamazoo blues community made the collaboration between Portage Printing and the KVBA an easy one. “We began working with the KVBA within a year or two of its organization, and produced a lot of the early posters. There were a few years where we got away from that, and then 4 or 5 years ago they asked me to come back in and help develop a more effective marketing strategy to promote the Festival. We involved the design students at KVCC to create a cohesive “look and feel” for the Festival that would help emphasize and promote the main points of the Festival—and of course, bring in more folks and sell more tickets. It’s worked pretty darn well.”
Vestal and Portage Printing share a philosophy of service to and support for the local community that has lead to involvement with organizations like WMUK, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU, as well as the KVBA. “Certain organizations in the community just seem to resonate with the mission of our shop,” says Vestal. “This is why I’m in business, to help people like this.” He cites long-time local business Sarkozy’s Bakery as the model for developing Portage Printing’s operating structure. “I modeled my shop after Judy’s operation. I wanted to emphasize quality over quantity, and I wanted to make a difference.”
“I want to see the KVBA and the Blues Festival be successful,” says Craig. “We bring the experience, skill and creativity to the project, and that’s what makes it effective. Anybody can throw together a poster on a computer, but here’s the thing: having a computer is like having a guitar. You may be able to play it, but if you want quality entertainment, you’re going to hire a professional musician for your party.”
There’s universal agreement among everyone involved in the KVBA design project that it’s been a “win-win” across the board. KVCC’s DeYoung, who’s initiating a new program at the Center for New Media that will allow design students to work directly with clients in the nonprofit sector as a way to gain hands-on experience, cites the KVBA project as “a nice test run” for the new class. “The KVBA was one of the best organizations I’ve ever worked with,” he says. “Ross was able to get additional production experience working with Craig at Portage Printing—it was almost like an internship for him.” Ross himself describes his experience with the KVBA and Portage Printing as “excellent”, and both Mark and Ross are looking forward to attending this year’s Festival.
The KVBA considers itself the real winner in the long run, having had the rewarding experience of working with the great folks at Portage Printing and the Center for New Media, not to mention ending up with an outstanding design and marketing plan for the Kalamazoo Blues Festival. Thanks to Ross Fuller, Craig Vestal, Mark DeYoung, and everyone else who had a hand in getting this done. It’s been great—hope to do it again next year!
“You’ve Got To Follow Your Dreams”: Shelby Lentz of Plainwell High School Wins 2015 Boogie Woogie Bob Peters Music Scholarship
“Music has always been part of my life,” says Shelby Lentz, the third winner of the award jointly created in 2013 by the family of well-known local musician “Boogie-Woogie” Bob Peters and the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association. Shelby, who will enter the Music Business Administration program at Belmont University in Nashville, TN this fall, has always loved what she regards as “the universal language of people”. Although she’d been singing for some time, Shelby was galvanized by the response to her winning performance in a 6th-grade talent show. “I started singing in grade school,” Shelby remembers, “but the fantastic feeling I got from the enthusiasm and applause that day helped me know that this was what I wanted to do with my life.”
Shelby’s come a long way since that time. Self-taught on the guitar, the young singer began booking gigs and playing in local clubs at the age of 15. She’s since performed in some impressive settings, such as the Palace of Auburn Hills and the KWings Stadium, when she sang the National Anthem before thousands of people. She has appeared on stage at the Kalamazoo State Theater as the opening act for country artist Frankie Ballard’s 2012 Christmas show, opened the show for local Idol Matt Giraud, and last summer warmed up the crowd at the District Square’s Summer Blues Series for 2013 Kalamazoo Blues Festival headliner Joanne Shaw Taylor. She also stood in line for hours for the chance to have her name drawn from a hat at the famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, winning the chance to perform in one of country music’s storied settings.
Seven years of singing in school choirs, three years of vocal lessons, and five years onstage in high school musicals (including this year’s exhilarating presentation of “Footloose”) have all helped Shelby develop her talent and add to her skills. She gives credit as well to her involvement in the Chilipepper Songwriting Club, a local organization that has provided support, inspiration, and collaboration for a number of local performers starting out in their careers, including Frankie Ballard and Shelagh Brown. “Shelagh introduced me to the Chili Peppers two or three years ago,” says Shelby, “She and all the rest of the folks there have been a huge help.”
Shelby has several original songs to her credit, including “Mirror Mirror”, a heartfelt message to girls struggling with issues of self-esteem, and “Mascara”, an enthusiastic celebration of a man who’ll “mess up your lipstick, but not your mascara” that was developed with Shelagh Brown, Dani Jamerson, and other members of the Chili Peppers. Shelby’s big, powerful voice has a quality of warmth and intimacy that connects with listeners, sending her message, pleasing the ears, and making it all personal in a way that’s hard to forget.
“Boogie-Woogie” Bob Peters, a popular figure on the local music scene for many years who passed away in March of 2010, was dedicated to using music to communicate and connect with others on many levels. He left behind a legacy of music and relationships that has been kept alive by his family and friends, including his wife Martie Peters, sister TJ and brother Mike, who teamed up with the KVBA to create and fund the scholarship program. The scholarship is awarded to an area high school senior based on his or her school and community involvement in music.
“Bob was incredibly passionate about music,” says Martie Peters. “It means so much to me to know that through this scholarship we’re helping to keep Bob’s memory alive in the hearts and minds of so many people.”
“My parents taught me that it was important to follow my dreams when I was young,” says Shelby Lentz. “I’ve always had their love and support. Winning this scholarship has meant so much to me—it tells me that others believe in me, and helps me go forward and follow my dream.”
Kalamazoo, Michigan sits midway between Chicago and Detroit, 2 hours in either direction from the great urban centers that have been the birthplace of so much of the great music of the 20th century. From the Motown and soul sounds pouring out of Detroit to the rise of the powerful style known as Chicago blues, American music has never been the same.This lively midwestern city has a blues tradition of its own, as the thousands of attendees at the Kalamazoo Blues Festival over the years (22 and counting!) can attest. The Festival was first staged in 1994, but the music, blues and otherwise, had been going on in and around Kalamazoo for a long time before that.
The year between last year’s 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Festival and this has seen some big changes in the local club scene. To the great sorrow of local audiences, Kalamazoo’s only venue dedicated to the blues, the 411 Club, closed its doors in October 2014, ending a 6-year run that saw some of the greatest names in blues, as well as a long line-up of local and regional acts, take its stage. And yet the music goes on, as bars, clubs, and other entertainment spots continue to feature the blues, whether as a regular or occasional offering.
One popular tradition in the local scene is the blues jam, a gathering of performers eager to get together to make music and see what happens. Probably the most well-known is the legendary Thursday night blues jam, which began at Wonderful’s Funky Basement many years ago, and then regrouped at the 411 Club following the closing of Wonderful’s. The Thursday jam took a 7-month hiatus after the closing of the 411 Club, but has recently resumed on a biweekly basis at Louie’s Trophy House Grill, to the delight of its many fans.
The Old Dog Tavern, one of the newest sponsors of the Kalamazoo Blues Festival, has been offering a Sunday night blues jam for about two years. A rotating roster of blues bands, including Seventh Son, Crossroads, and Gator Blues, among others, hosts the event that’s been drawing an increasing number of participants eager to start the week with a blues fix.
Shakespeare’s Pub stepped up in late 2014 to become the new “KVBA event home”, hosting the Second Sunday Series of fundraising concerts to benefit the Festival. Shakespeare’s Lower Level will also be the spot for the post-Festival jam, to be held Thursday evening, July 9. The great thing about this jam is the chance to see members of Festival acts jamming on the same stage with local performers, and generating excitement for the rest of the weekend!
In other blues news around town, the Kalamazoo State Theater, long the site for the Budweiser/WRKR Blues Series, has gone through a number of exciting changes, including major renovations to the structure and sound and lighting facilities. It’s also revamped its approach to blues shows, moving from the Blues Series to presenting high-powered, fully-staged individual shows featuring national blues acts such as Gregg Allman, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and a powerhouse triple bill including Samantha Fish, Mike Zito, and perennial local favorite Tab Benoit (with local sons the Out of Favor Boys opening). The strategy’s proving to be a huge success, with near-sold-out crowds at all the shows, and the State is planning a follow-up with Buddy Guy in October.
The list of places to hear blues in Kalamazoo and the surrounding area is long and varied, and growing every year. The Union Cabaret and Bistro, also a Blues Festival sponsor, regularly features blues acts, as do Bell’s Eccentric Cafe’, Webster’s Tasting Room, and Bennucci’s Chicago Oven and Grill. District Square, which hosted its Summer Blues Series in 2014, continues to bring local, regional, and national acts like 2015 KVBA IBC contestant The Jim Shaneberger Band, Kev Nichols and Blue Tuesday, and Joanne Shaw Taylor to its stage. O’Duffy’s Pub (another sponsor) is one of several venues that offer smaller acts like the OFB Trio, while Mangia in Oshtemo, Amore’ Pizza in Paw Paw, and Maude’s in Otsego also make a home for blues duos like Hunt & Gator, also a 2015 KVBA contestant at the IBC in Memphis. The Franke Center in nearby Marshall brings national blues acts like Eddie Shaw and Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown to its classic facility several times a year, the Kalamazoo Valley Museum recently presented a Blues Night, featuring two KVBA member bands, and for those willing to make the drive further afield to neighboring communities like Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, and Lansing, the possibilities are nearly endless.
So: where do you go for blues in the ‘zoo? To paraphrase the Michigan state motto: if you seek some great blues, look about you!
by Ralph Yingling, President, KVBA Board of Directors
Welcome to the 2015 edition of the Kalamazoo Blues Festival! On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association, I say thanks to each and every one of you who choose to spend some time with the Kalamazoo Blues Family this weekend. There were a number of choices to consider before arriving at the festival entrance – we like to think this festival is a great value in terms of the quality and quantity of music provided and the variety of blues genres we feature in our programming.
“The blues was like that problem child that you may have had in the family. You was a little bit ashamed to let anybody see him, but you loved him. You just didn’t know how other people would take it.” – B. B. King
Yes indeed, we sure loved BB and we sure love the blues!
From time to time, people ask me why I do what I do for the KVBA and for the Kalamazoo Blues Festival; my normal and customary response is that I do it for the music. This year I was asked to be a bit more specific, so here goes. I was born into a musical family – dad played trumpet, mom sang in church vocal groups and choir, grandma – who lived with us – played piano (she was really good!). The radio or the record player was always at work in the house. I absorbed that musical passion, took keyboard lessons, sang in choirs (school and church), musicals, and community choirs. My teachers (Tom Kasdorf was one) nurtured and molded (and tested) that passion. Lyrics, rhythm, verse & chorus are still the definition of music (to me).
The pursuits in my life have taken me down a twisty road, but one that ultimately returned to being of service. I was in the military, work at a public university, was active in the scouting program as a youth and an adult, participated in community chorus, and have worn the hats of band dad, cheer dad, football dad. And when the opportunity arose to meld two life driving forces (music and service) into one (serving on the board of the KVBA), it was something I knew I must do.
Blues music is the story of life. It puts to music the laughter, pain, rawness, grief, absurdity, and the irony that occur from time to time. I love a good story!
“The Blues are the true facts of life expressed in words and song, inspiration, feeling, and understanding.” – Willie Dixon
For me….yes, it is a labor of love.
by Dennis Massingill, Festival Coordinator
There are things that you learn after years of booking acts for a blues festival. For instance, consider this one essential fact: summertime is when the touring blues acts make their money. The going rate for an artist or act will often triple in price from what they might get for a winter club gig. So, how do we line up top blues acts with a limited budget? The answer: ROUTING.
There are three Canadian festivals that occur on the same weekend as the Kalamazoo Blues Festival. Bluesfest Windsor is about two hours down the road, and the Lighthouse Blues Fest in Kincardine is about four hours away. The other is in Toronto. A collaboration began three years ago when promoters from each festival shared who we were interested in, to see if there were acts in common. There are some variables to consider: we all have different budgets to work with; some festivals don’t bring artists back on consecutive years; and some acts have recently been used, and promoters are looking for a fresh name.
In working with booking agencies, we at the KVBA have found that if we can help provide routing for the same weekend, we can get acts at a better rate than working independently … sometimes for 60 – 70% of the quoted price. It’s a win-win for the festival and the artists. This year only one (Larry McCray) of our nine national touring acts isn’t either coming to us from Canada or heading to Canada the next day. That doesn’t mean that they are all Canadian acts. Dawn Tyler Watson w/Ben Racine Band and 24th Street Wailers are from north of the border, while Crystal Shawanda used to be, but calls Nashville her home now. The rest are touring the festivals on both sides of the border, but are from the U.S.
The main thing is we can get more of the great music you want to hear, by negotiating a great price by working together. We hope you enjoy this year’s lineup. It is a product of the Canadian Connection.
“B.B. King was the first blues legend of his generation that grabbed me. Finding him opened up a whole new world of music. From him, I found Bobby “Blue” Bland, Albert Collins, Albert King…not to mention all the fabulous blues women he had duets with – Koko Taylor, Etta James, etc. I remembered him from an episode of “The Cosby Show”, of all things. But his impact on me, as a musician and performer, was strong and lasting. I saw him and Bobby Bland at the State Theatre in Kalamazoo. What an amazing opportunity that was to see two of the masters in action.”
Joel Krauss, guitar player for local band Out of Favor Boys, had those words of remembrance for B.B. King, the blues great who passed away May 14, 2015, at the age of 89. Joel’s only one of the countless multitude of folks, musicians and otherwise, who’ve been touched by the mastery and the music of the man widely—and rightly—known as “The King of the Blues”.
For more than half a century, Riley B. King—better known as B. B. King—has defined the blues for a worldwide audience. Since he started recording in the 1940’s, he released over 50 albums, many of them classics.
He was born on September 16, 1925 on a plantation in Mississippi and played on street corners for dimes in his youth, sometimes playing as many as 4 towns a night. In 1947 he hitchhiked to Memphis, Tennessee, to pursue his music career, gaining his first big break in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program out of West Memphis. Soon he needed a catchy radio name, and what started out as Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy King, which in time became B.B. King.
B. B. King became the most renowned blues musician of the past 40 years, playing with his trademark Gibson guitars, each one of which has been called Lucille. Over the years, B. B. developed one of the world’s most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from numerous blues masters, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which became indispensable components of the rock guitarist’s vocabulary. His signature style has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck. He mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop, and jump into a unique sound.
In 1968, B. B. played at the Newport Folk Festival and at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West, on bills with the hottest contemporary rock artists of the day, who idolized B. B. and helped to introduce him to a young white audience. He was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and went on to receive numerous other awards and honorary degrees. In 1991, B.B. King’s Blues Club opened in Memphis, and several other clubs followed. He continued to gain audiences and acclaim over the years, remaining universally loved, and now universally grieved.
Thank you, B.B. Thank you for the memories, thank you for the music, and thank you for the good times. We’ll miss you, man.
Each year the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association sends a local band to Memphis to participate in the International Blues Challenge. It is an amazing event with almost two hundred blues acts from all over the world. In fact, by the time the stage lights went down for the last time on Saturday, January 24, 2015, 250 blues acts from all over the world had taken their best shots at winning the top honors at the largest gathering of blues musicians in the world. This fantastic gathering of performers has to be seen to be believed, as anyone who’s ever made the trek—fans and musicians alike—to the IBC can attest.
Beginning in 2002, the competition was split into two different categories, separating solo-duo acts from full bands. This year, for the second time in its fifteen-year history of sending competitors to the IBC, the KVBA sponsored a solo-duo act along with a band. Hunt & Gator, an acoustic harp and guitar duo formed by Dave Hunt of Seventh Son and Dave Allemang of Crossroads, joined the Jim Shaneberger Band as representatives for the KVBA on the IBC stages.
Dave and Dave, who have approximately sixty years of history between them playing in blues bands around the region, got together about nine months ago to expand their musical visions and explore new directions for performing. Dave Hunt, as the front man, lead singer, and harmonica player for Kalamazoo’s longest continually-performing blues band Seventh Son, had been interested for some time in branching out into a more intimate approach to performing, and he and Dave Allemang, lead guitar player for another Kalamazoo veteran band, Crossroads, proved to be an ideal fit. Both Hunt & Gator have extensive histories of prior performances at the IBC with their bands, with Seventh Son appearing twice and Crossroads competing no less than five times. Both have very fond memories of their experiences at the competition, and Dave Hunt cites the good time he had in Memphis last year as his inspiration for pressing ahead with his idea to form a duo act.
The Jim Shaneberger Band, a versatile, dynamic, trio based in Grand Rapids, became the winner in the band category at the Kalamazoo Blues Challenge, held in September, 2014 at the 411 Club. Songwriter and performing musician Jim Shaneberger has been a mainstay in the Michigan music scene for over 15 years, recording and touring with Greg Nagy, the blues powerhouse from Flint, as well as the legendary Donald Kinsey. Shaneberger’s original songs are a showcase of his diverse range of musical interests, each drawing from a unique genre and theme. The Jim Shaneberger Band brings together Jim on guitar and vocals with longtime friend and bandmate Karl Schantz on drums and Robert Pace on bass. This powerful trio with backgrounds in blues, rock, gospel and funk put on a lively performance that put them on the fast track to Memphis for the 2015 IBC.
The Jim Shaneberger Band and Hunt & Gator each made strong showings on the IBC stages, delivering highly praised sets in the quarter-finals and, according to all reports, having a great time at the largest gathering of blues musicians in the world.
From the truly amazing abundance of music to be found on Beale Street and the surrounding area, to the plethora of restaurants such as the Flying Fish, Rendezvous, and Interstate Barbecue, to area attractions like the Ornamental Metal Museum, Stax Museum of Soul Music, and Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club in blue-history mecca Clarksdale, Mississippi, a trip to the IBC offers the opportunity to enjoy a great variety of entertainment, while rubbing elbows with hundreds of like-minded blues fans. The KVBA congratulates the Jim Shaneberger Band and Hunt & Gator for their fine jobs in the competition, and encourages everyone to look forward to next year!
The 22nd Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival is right around the corner (July 9, 10, and 11), and YOU can be part of it! As a volunteer for the Festival, you have the opportunity to hear hours of the best blues music, enjoy a great party, and be part of a 22-year tradition—all for helping out in one of many 3-hour volunteer slots.
All of us at the KVBA are so grateful to all the volunteers we have had over the last 21 years of Blues Festivals! Without you, there would be no Kalamazoo Blues Festival—we are one of the only festivals around that is entirely staffed and run by volunteers. It’s a really incredible showing of energy, enthusiasm, and willingness to Help Put On A Show—without it there would be no show. Thank you, thank you to everyone who has volunteered in the past, and to all of you who will volunteer this year!
All volunteers get into the Festival free on the day/s they volunteer. Former volunteers and first-time volunteers are welcome! In addition, each person receives a t-shirt that he or she wears when volunteering. We have many people return year after year, and many exclaim, “It was so much fun, sign me up for next year”.
We ask volunteers to serve 3-hour shifts in various areas such as ticket, merchandise, and soft drink sales; main gate, service gate, volunteer, hospitality, and beer tents; festival services and children’s activities, and vendor ticket collection. In addition a few volunteers are needed for set-up on Wednesday and teardown on Sunday morning. One particularly fun way to volunteer is to work in the Children’s Area. We are looking for people with interests and skills to work with children on a variety of fun projects, including tie-dying Blues Festival t-shirts, a popular activity in years past.
To see a more detailed description of volunteer duties in various areas and to sign up to volunteer, go to the Kalamazoo Blues Festival website (http://kalamazoobluesfestival.com), click on “About”, and then click on “Volunteer”. You’ll find the volunteer registration form and everything else that you need to know there. It is important to indicate the number of DAY/S and TIME/S that you would like to work. Please indicate the name of the person you would like to be assigned to if applicable. Times in specific areas may be slightly differentthan listed on the registration form.
Questions? Call Nancy King, Volunteer Coordinator, at 269.342.5733 or email: email@example.com
Upon closure of the 411 Club this past October, many of the Thursday Night Blues Jam regulars were left without a home to call their own (their words, not mine!). The Out of Favor Boys ‘retired’ from their hosting duties to pass on the torch to a player to be named later at an undisclosed time and location. Happily enough, local blues players were not left completely without recourse, as the Old Dog Tavern continued its Sunday Blues Jams hosted by a variety of area bands…but the Thursday Night Blues Jam TRADITION took a hiatus…until June 4th!
Greg Shackleford and Megan Dooley have teamed up and convinced the good people at Louie’s Back Room to breathe new life into the Thursday Night Blues Jam that began its run at Wonderful’s Funky Basement so many years ago. This absolutely thrills us at the KVBA, but we are also very aware that this is really a test case…evidenced clearly by the bi-weekly schedule…
If you want the tradition to continue, you really gotta get out and support it with your love and attention….and ultimately your money. Louie’s got good food and drink. They’ve a top-notch sound system. We just gotta go put our butts in the seats and see what will happen…if it’s the blues its gotta be good.
Cover is $3.00.
“Bring your instrument and your talent. Check your ego at the door. Prepare for a fabulous evening of improvisational collaboration with some of the best blues musicians in Kalamazoo (not necessarily Greg and/or Megan!). All skill levels welcome, however. Singers will be given 3-song sets, beginning after the opening set. Musicians will be plugged in appropriately, but we’ll try to stick to first to sign up, first to play. Music starts at 8pm.”
Louie’s Back Room
629 Walbridge St.
Kalamazoo, Mi 49007
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