Another Great weekend of blues…
Julie and I took off early on Friday afternoon, headed for Peoria. Illinois Blues Festival,
on the riverfront. The short drive wasn’t too bad, checked in to the Pere Marquette and headed
to the riverfront. Nice little walk; 4 blocks on an easy downhill slope. Two lines of people
all paying in cash for their tickets, we had e-tickets so got in the little short line and we
were through the gates in no time (I recommend those e-ticket things, saved us money and got
us right in). Now with our programs in hand we set out to check out the grounds. This year,
being the 21st year for this festival, Jay Goldberg and the Illinois Blues Coalition have it
down to a science.

Inside the 32 page program was a map of the grounds. It showed location of the Landing stage,
Center stage, Blues Alley (arts-crafts-gifts), 2 food areas and the Blues tent which had a stage
in it also. At least eighteen acts, three stages, guitar and harmonica workshops and two days to
see it all. We ran ourselves ragged trying to see everything. We finally realized we couldn’t
see everyone we wanted to, but we tried. Let me run down the list of who was there:
Friday Moreland & Arbuckle
Peoria Select Blues Band
Bryan Lee & The Blues Power Band
Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne
Kelly Richey Band
Little Joe McClerran
Kent Burnside & The New Generation
A workshop on Professional Conduct
A guitar workshop
Saturday Gas House Gorillas
Jess haggard
Darrell Nulisch
Chris Cain
Janiva Magness
Walter “Wolfman” Washington & The Roadmasters
Matthew Curry Band
Bruce James Band
Blind Dog Willie
Gas House Gorillas
Catfish Keith
Deak Harp Blues Band
The first bands were getting set up so we had time to walk around and see some of the arts and
crafts. When first workshop was about to start we headed for the Blues tent. The free workshops
and the Blues tent were sponsored by the GLT public radio station out of Normal IL
(89.1 And 103.5 FM). Met some of the folks from the station; they are great supporters of
the blues.

Chris Stevens was the host at the workshops and did a very good job of keep the ball rolling.
His workshop on Blues guitar was very informative. I learn some cool new trick and techniques.
After Steve’s workshop we were off the catch a few acts.

We bounced back and forth between stages trying to soak up as much music as we could, until we
came to an act you just couldn’t walk away from. The Kelly Richey Band was on the Landing stage.
When she started rippin that Stratocaster we were hooked. A quote in the program from Music City
Blues described her as “Stevie Ray Vaughan trapped in a women’s body with Janis Joplin screaming
to get out”. I couldn’t put it better myself. She was amazing. You know as well as I do that if
you have a 3 piece band you have to have a kick &*# bass player, Jimmy Valdez and his 5 string
bass filled the bill, with Bryan Meyers keeping the beat on the drums. This band was HOT. I hate
not giving the other bands up to this point more mention; they were all great. But, like I said
earlier, The Kelly Richey Band was one I just could not walk away from.

So after 5 hrs, it was time to head for our hotel. You remember that nice little walk, 4 blocks
on an easy downhill slope, I talked about earlier? It was up hill now and quite the jaunt; we
were beat. Oh, I almost forgot, the full moon was a cool plus to the great weather we had all
weekend.

Saturday morning was a no rush deal. Things down at the riverfront didn’t start until 1:00.
So we had time to relax: breakfast, a lot of coffee and review some of the over 100 pictures
Julie had taken Friday. We got back down to the festival grounds about 11:30, hauling even more
camera equipment than the day before, and a small backpack for all the information we picked up:
I’m old but I do learn a thing or 2 occasionally. We were early enough to get to talk to a lot
of the venders and organizers. You know me, I got to spread the good word of the Blues Society.
Shook some hands and collected a lot of contact information.

As Julie was taking pictures I watch the crowd grow, people were pouring in. It didn’t take long
to build up an impressive crowd.

We went down to the blues tent for the first workshop of the day. Chris Stevens’s guitar
workshop was worth seeing again. Up next was Steve “The Harp” from the Blowtorch Blues Society
in Bloomington, IL with his harmonica workshop, which was followed by an impromptu jam session
when Deak the Harp showed up. Quite a show.

While I was at the blues tent, Julie went down to Center stage to check out the Gas House
Gorillas. She said it was a high energy show and the music was awesome. She was impressed with
the singer and the sax player taking their wireless act into the crowd. While the Kilt-garbed
bass player, with his chrome standup bass, kept the band going from the stage. When she came back
to the tent, I was enjoying the sounds of Deak Harp and Reverend Robert. Deak’s James Cotton
style of harmonica and Bob’s masterful guitar playing was Too Cool.

Down at the Landing stage we found a guitar phenom. Matthew Curry was billed as a future legend
and I have to agree. This kid (14 years old I think) was smoking hot. I’ll see if I can put a
video I took on our web site. If not, check out Matthew Curry on youtube.com.

The rest of the day was a blur. So much to see and so little time. Overall I was very impressed
with the festival. Well put together, and very organized. I hope that our first festival in
Decatur goes half as well. Next weekend we are headed for VA. We’ll see what kind of Blues we
can find around Washington D.C. Until then, help keep the blues alive. Join a Blues Society
near you.

Don Wright
President Decatur Blues Society

 

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