In the back of their minds, the organizers of this year’s LiUNA Bluesfest Windsor, held from July 14 though 16 at the Riverfront Festival Plaza, were hoping to attract a younger audience to keep the genre alive. Judging by the varied ages of those attending the four afternoons and nights of riverside blues, there should be nothing to worry about.
Mike McCann, president of the Canada South Blues Society was more than elated at this year’s turnout. In an exclusive interview with The Square, he talked about how important it was, and is, to grow the local audience for the blues and how events like Bluesfest bring people and bands together.
McCann was particularly about Saturday night’s events. Not only was the crowd large and appreciative of the acts, as they were throughout the festival, he concluded they were all of the highest quality.
The fest kicked off with something unprecedented in recent memory, with the reuniting of two of the largest names in rock from the 1990s. The Tea Party and I Mother Earth were part of a large contingent of acclaimed artists the festival brought to the city.
On the big stage, the audience was treated to a range including most of the members of the famed Downchild Blues Band, now operating as the Hogtown All Stars, to current chart topper Anthony Gomes. But, it was the new generation which impressed McCann the most, assuring him the future of blues is on solid ground.
As examples he singled out the 519 Band, winner of the Society’s recent blues band competition, as well as Christian Vegh, an acclaimed local guitar virtuoso. Flattered by McCann’s comments, Vegh told The Square the blues will always be alive and well. As to his future endeavours, he plans to produce a jazz fusion album to carry on from his classic jazz training.
McCann said blues fans would be hard pressed to find such a large assembly of talent all in one place on two stages.
A notable change this year was a reduction in the Society’s membership fees at a Festival special of $20. Sales, McCann reported, were brisk. The membership price was once almost double in the past but, he acknowledged, it included admission to Bluesfest.
Now membership is untethered from the Festival. His organization was also seen busily selling Bluesfest t-shirts and memorabilia to raise money to keep the organization active all year hosting and helping bring blues artists to the city.
After such a sequence of talent it all had to end. And it did when the large lady sang; in this case none other than Detroit’s Queen of Blues, Thornetta Davis. With a wink in her eye she asked the musical question, “Do wild girls get the blues?”
With that done and a few more songs, she left the appreciative audience clamouring for more, as they did throughout the four days. For that, they will have to wait until next year.