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Southern Avenue from Memphis
Southern Avenue from Memphis

Your Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival Saturday - What to look for

Who to see, who to discover, your Saturday guide

Day one is over. Nobody melted. Lots of smiles and great music. Day 2 of the 30th annual Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival kicks off at noon. Stop by and see us in our booth in the Louisiana Pavilion near the Front Porch Stage!

Who's new? What about your favorites? That's the essence of the festival. You saw our roundup earlier this week. Now let's tackle today. And who better to tell us about who's playing than the guy who booked the bands, Festival Artistic Director Peter Damman.

The headliner that days is one of these solutions to the question of how do you find younger acts that are resident with the genre and cut across demographic lines. Big Head Todd (Brewery Stage 9-10:15pm) is known as kind of a jam band from Colorado. They played to big crowds out there and when they’ve come through here they’ve always been pretty heavily based in the blues genre in what they do and their last couple records have been sort of blues tribute records. They put out a Robert Johnson tribute that had a whole cast of characters, special guests. The last tribute they brought in Billy Branch and Ronnie Baker Brooks and Cedric Burnside and these special guests.

Cedric Burnside (Front Porch Stage 7:20-8:20) is Lonnie brooks son and I’ve wanted to get him to Waterfront for years and it just hasn’t worked out. He’s not an act that has come out here very much so that’ll be an interesting headliner.

JD McPherson (Brewery Stage 7-8pm) is kind of a rockabilly dude from Oklahoma. I really like him a lot. He’s very popular around here. He’s played Pickathon a few times. He has a strong following around here. He’s got kind of a cool independent spin on some classic roadhouse blues and rockabilly.

The Greyhounds (First Tech Blues Stage 4-5pm) are a three piece off shoot of JJ Gray’s band that involves the keyboard player and one of his former guitar players. It’s a very original sounding band - just a keyboard, guitar, and drums. That is gonna be a surprise I think for a lot of people.

Southern Avenue (First Tech Blues Stage 8-9pm): They’re a real interesting band. They came they sort of surfaced at the international blues challenge a couple years ago. They didn’t actually win but they had obviously a lot going for them. They’ve got two women in the band; they’ve got the guitar players from Israel. They're very good musicians. They’ve got a totally original thing that they doing but it's still very based in the Memphis soul history. [Tom: Southern Avenue is the street that Stax records was on.] Right. And actually their new record is being put out by Stax. It’s the first release that Stax has done since Isaac Hayes I suppose. They’ve gotten all kinds of attention in press lately and they’ve been showing up on stages with Buddy Guy and Government Mule and jam bands as well as classic blues guys. So they’re a potential big crossover act.

Saturday and Sunday is kinda all day Cajun zydeco. Chubby Carrier (Front Porch Stage 9:50-11pm, also twice on July 2) is coming back he’s always really popular. He’s like the zydeco act, more than any other, that can connect with any audience – whoever they are, whatever age they are, whatever their musical predilections are, Chubby will make sure that you get engaged that you buy into what he’s doing so he’s really fun.

Northwest Women in R&B Cruise - Southern Avenue is also going to be on that cruise. That will definitely sell out early. On the upper deck I have this Argentine blues singer - she’s in a duo. Part of what I have been doing the past couple years is trying to bring to the festival, people to show how the blues has touched these other parts of the world and how those people have interpreted it. You know, you have the guy from Brazil last year, guitar player, really phenomenal guitar player. This year we’ve got an African act that I can’t announce yet. That’s the hint. North Africa. Think Mali.

So we have this Argentine. It's always interesting to see how other cultures interpret this music. They bring a really different rhythmic vibe to it. Argentina has that whole tango tradition and the indigenous instrumentation and it’ll be kind of interesting.

Saturday we have the After hours show with JD Mcpherson and Big Head Todd and all those special guests. That should be a lot of fun.


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