By Keith Sharp
As the Kitchener Blues Festival enters its 18th year of operation, (commencing Thursday August 9th with a paid concert featuring Rik Emmett & Revolution 9 plus Jonny Lang), event organizer Claude Cloutier continues to battle the odds to preserve his event as a true blues festival.
“We know that a lot of blues festivals like the Ottawa Blues Festivals are blues festivals in name only and I don’t begrudge them that,” noted Cloutier. “They realize they have to spice up their lineup (with bands like The Foo Fighters, Bryan Adams and Jethro Tull) but we don’t want to go in that direction. Muddy Waters once said `Blues had a baby and they called it rock n roll’ and most major rock bands like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin were inspired by the blues.”
Cloutier claims his festival would rather feature hot new blues artists and continue a tradition of having patrons discover exciting new talent. “The American dollar has taken a nosedive so it’s always a challenge to attract top American and British talent and our legendary blues artists down south are passing away so it is difficult to put a legendary retrospective show on stage.”
Using the event’s three downtown stages, the OLG, YNC and BIA stages plus a special Kids Stage, Cloutier has again succeeded in attracting a lineup of exciting free entertainment for Friday (August 10th), Saturday (August 11th) and Sunday (August 12th).
Other key artists to watch for include former Black Crowes vocalist Chris Robinson and former John Mayall guitarist Walter Trout who was a recent Blues Award recipient in Memphis.
Other Canadian talent includes Sass Jordan, Paul James, Danny Marks. Kevin Breit and Sue Foley with Lee Aaron given the pivotal Saturday 3 p.m. spot at the YNC Stage. “We used to call that spot `the David Wilcox Slot’ because we wanted a name act to play in mid afternoon to draw the crowds downtown and keep them there,” reflected Cloutier. “When it’s a free festival, it’s hard to get people to be at a specific place at a specific time so having a name performer helps get the crowds out early.”
Cloutier is full of praise for this country’s various blues societies who he believes continues to nurture established artists while developing new talent and is hopeful that younger fans will pick up on artists like The Black Keys and Michigan’s Greta Van Fleet who are adding a new twist to established blues music.
This year’s festival will kick off Thursday a paid concert featuring former Triumph guitarist Rik Emmett with Revolution 9 opening for American blues guitarist Jonny Lang. Tickets for the show are $30 with special VIP tickets at $150 which allow for special VIP seating and food and also reserved VIP seating at all other events throughout the festival.
Also again featured is the 12 Bar Blues program in which 12 major downtown Blues venues feature key artists like Sue Foley, Jack DeKeyser and Danny Marks in a club setting following their venue appearances plus a series of song writing workshops featuring top blues performers.
For a complete schedule of all festival artists, 12 Bar Blues performers and FBF Workshops, please link to https://kitchenerbluesfest.com