Victor Wainwright, Angel Forrest, Jason Ricci & Bad Kind, Nick Moss, Ghost Town Blues Band and more will headline the festival that heads back to Kalamazoo’s Arcadia Festival Place in mid-July.
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEOS OF SOME FEATURED ARTISTS
After spending last year inside at Wings Event Center, the Kalamazoo Blues Festival is heading back downtown to Arcadia Festival Place to celebrate its 25th year.
“Last year, the lineup was unprecedented, but the indoor venue was not supported,” said Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association president Mike Depoian in a November letter.
An ensuing survey from the association came back with 87 percent of respondents indicating that they would like to see the festival move back outdoors.
“We knew going into last year that it would not be as popular inside as outside, but we had a sponsorship opportunity from Wings Event Center that was so (good) that we had to try it and see if it would work,” said longtime festival coordinator Dennis Massingill.
“It was almost a boycott, it felt like though. It was the biggest lineup I ever brought in and I thought that might convince people to take it inside. But as luck would have it, it was perfect weather, and they didn’t come, so we are going back downtown.”
And while last year’s lineup may have been the best ever, according to Massingill, this year’s slate of artists isn’t too shabby either.
Heading up this year’s lineup is three-time Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of Year winner Victor Wainwright, who won BMAs in 2013, 2014 and 2017 for his prowess on the keyboards and was also named the Blues Association’s Entertainer of the Year in 2016.
“He has risen in the blues world to not just national, but international fame,” Massingill said of his Friday night headliner, who also played the festival in 2013. “It’s more than just he’s a great keyboardist, he’s a great entertainer, he works the crowd, is interactive, they love him.”
ANOTHER STELLAR LINEUP, PLUS REGIONAL ACTS
Also working the crowd Friday night will be Angel Forrest, who has won the Maple Blues Award for Canadian Female Vocalist of the Year every year since 2013, while also winning songwriter of the year and recording artist of the year twice in that span.
“She’s probably the artist I’m most excited about,” Massingill said. “She’s a power singer, very animated. “I’d compare her to a Janis Joplin type. People are going to love her. She’s been around a while, she just hasn’t played the States very much. She won’t disappoint.”
Other big names on this year’s bill include Thursday night contemporary blues headliners Corey Dennison and Ghost Town Blues Band as well as marquee Saturday night acts Grand Marquis, Jason Ricci & Bad Kind and The Nick Moss Band (featuring Dennis Gruenling), the latter two of which will feature not only some of the hottest music but some of the best harmonica playing on the entire blues circuit.
In addition to the aforementioned national touring acts, the festival, per usual, will also showcase a number of Southwest Michigan bands, many of which are carving out a name for themselves on the national scene. Kalamazoo’s Blue Veins and Grand Rapids’ Hilger & DeVos both participated in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis earlier this year, and festival closer Kevin Nichols & Blue Tuesday, out of Jackson, has become a staple on the Memphis scene.
New this year, the blues fest will feature just one stage, but with plenty of food vendors, a large craft beer tent and lots of merchandise to peruse, Massingill is confident that attendees will find plenty of use for the 20-25 minutes of down time between each act — even if it just means kicking back and relaxing and once again enjoying the view of downtown.
Find more details online here.
VIDEO: Victor Wainwright, “”Walk Away My Blues”
VIDEO: Angel Forrest, “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean” & “Whole Lotta Love”
VIDEO: Ghost Town Blues Band, “I Get High”
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