If you love the blues, then will be the place to be this weekend as the ArtsQuest Center hosts the second annual Blast Furnace Blues Festival.
The festival will showcase gospel, soul, zydeco music as well as traditional blues on three stages with 25 performers including young up-and-comers like Samantha Fish, local favorites like Craig Thatcher and Bev Conklin and established stars like Marcia Ball and Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials.
The festival gets under way at 5 tonight when local harp man James Supra takes the Musikfest Café stage. The evening’s highlights also include sets by Vietnam veteran/retired watermelon picker/retired truck driver/singer/songwriter/guitarist/harp player Bill Homans, aka, Watermelon Slim, and soul-singing phenomenon Alexis P. Suter.
Legendary harp player James Cotton had been scheduled to headline the festival on Saturday night, but he canceled after becoming ill earlier in the week.
Still, the festival replaces him with the legendary Magic Slim & The Teardrops in an impressive lineup that also includes Lazy Lester, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne and the dynamic Lil’ Ed, one of the blues genre’s greatest showmen.
Closing out Saturday night will be C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band. With a career that spans more than a quarter-century, Chenier is widely regarded as one of zydeco’s best singers, musicians and live performers. Living Blues magazine named him “the best living zydeco singer and accordionist.”
Headlining the festival’s closing night is the incomparable Marcia Ball. For more than three decades this amazing pianist and singer has been entertaining audiences throughout the nation with her unique blend of blues, rock, zydeco and soul. Born in Texas and raised in Louisiana, Ball is a four-time Grammy Award nominee and has also captured eight Blues Music Awards including two "Female Artist of the Year" honors.
Other highlights from the festival’s last day include the blistering Texas rocking blues guitar stylings of Joe Kubek and B’nois King, former Roomful of Blues frontman Sugar Ray Norcia & The Bluetones and the amazing sacred steel gospel sounds of the Campbell Brothers.
Tickets will be available at the door for all three days at $39 for tonight and $49 on Saturday and Sunday, less for ArtsQuest members. Three-day passes are also available at $99, less for ArtsQuest members.