Old Louisville feels the blues coming on, and that means the 2013 edition of the Garvin Gate Blues Festival is on the horizon. On Friday and Saturday, October 11 and 12, Louisville's largest neighborhood music festival once again takes the stage for two days of the finest blues that can be heard anywhere in the country. This is the 17th iteration of Garvin Gate, albeit the 7th year since a ten-year hiatus that began in 1997. Since its return in 2007, the fest has slowly rebuilt itself into the king-daddy of all the blues festivals in the region (writer's note: I am biased. I am the music buyer and emcee for the festival). This year Garvin Gate has expanded the scope of the out of town bands and in what is hoped as a big step in growing the fest in the future, the stage has been relocated. This year the Four Roses Stage will be moved 90 degrees so that it will be facing 4th Street instead of down Garvin Place. This will definitely improve not only the sound but the sightlines for all the blues lovers in attendance.
This year's music talent can hold a whole lot of candles to any previous year's schedule. Along with the finest local blues bands, this year might as well be called the Chicago Blues Invasion, as three of the four out of town bands reside in the Windy City.
Once again there will be a small stage down Garvin Place that will help fill the neighborhood with continuous music throughout the two-day fest. The Here We Go Girls Stage will showcase very diverse music. On Friday night, Smoblues featuring Susan O'Neil, Rick O'Neil and Doug Lamb will play tunes that will feature the dynamic vocal stylings of Louisville's own blues matriarch. They will play two sets between the bands on the main stage. Saturday on the small stage brings about the gospel sounds of the Soul Center Church @ The Rudyard Kipling Choir and the outstanding duo of Laurie Jessup and Court Duggins. Soul Center will play the two early sets and Jessup and Duggins will perform three sets later in the evening. Jessup and Duggins finished third in this year's Kentuckiana Blues Society's Solo/Duo competition and their take on the blues will definitely delight the fans. There was some doubt that the festival would be able to have a small stage this year, but thanks to the generosity of local blues lovers Margaret Lawrence and Pam Sasse and two anonymous donors, Here We Go Girls is again part of the festival.
The music on the Four Roses Stage gets underway at 6:30 Friday night with local favorites The Predators. Led by the duo of vocalist and harp player Jimi V and primo guitar player Screamin' John, The Predators made their first appearance in a number of years at the 2012 festival and didn't disappoint by turning in one of the stellar sets of the weekend.
Next up is the dynamic sound of Ray Fuller and The Bluesrockers. Hailing from Ohio, the band has been featured this past summer in festivals all over the country and Canada. They have also headlined at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago and The Slippery Noodle in Indy. A slide guitar player extraordinaire, Fuller has shared the stage with the likes of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Headlining Friday night will be Billy Flynn's Chicago Blues Party featuring Elmo James, Jr. and Milwaukee Slim. Flynn is a well-known guitar player out of Chicago who brings a resume that is second to none. He has played with the likes of Jimmy Dawkins, Otis Rush and Willie Kent. He has played at Garvin Gate with Mississippi Heat and Deitra Farr. Flynn is also a Grammy winner for his work on the soundtrack of the movie Cadillac Records. He is bringing along with him vocalist Milwaukee Slim and slide guitar player Elmo James, Jr. James is the son of the King of the Slide Guitar Elmore James. Chicago blues at its best is what you can expect. And that sets the stage for day two.
Kicking off Saturday at 2:00 will be the winners of the KYANA Blues Society's Band Contest, Hoodoo Blues Band. Featuring four of Louisville's veteran blues players, the band tore its way through the contest, easily outperforming all of the other bands. Led by Rick Cain on harp and John Burgard on guitar with Mike Lynch and Mike Algers laying down the backbeat, this band packs a punch that will set the bar high for the rest of the bands on Saturday's schedule.
The day's second act will be River City Blues Band. Led by Denny Thornbury on harp and Mark Stein on guitar, RCBB has steadily improved their sound over the years and ranks as one of the best bands in town. Thornbury's harp playing is influenced by Little Walter Jacobs and Big Walter Horton and shouldn't be missed.
Next up will be one of the local favorites and blues stalwarts, Lamont Gillispie and 100 Proof Blues. This veteran band of bluesmen always puts on a great show and the crowd will definitely be up moving. Gillispie and bassist Byron Davies are both fighting cancer and may or may not be able to play. To honor them, the band will play the fest just as if they are with them.
Following 100 Proof will be the daMudcats Reunion with Susan O'Neil and Doug Lamb. These folks got together with this same lineup back in March at a local joint and set it on fire. It was like they never separated. It will definitely feel like Garvin Gate of old during this set.
Rounding out the local bands will be Walnut Street Blues Band. This Garvin Gate favorite features Artie Wells' fiery vocals and one of this town's best guitar players in Michael Wells. Carrying on the family's blues tradition, Walnut Street honors founder and blues great Foree Wells with red-hot blues.
The first of two Chicago bands on the roster is Maurice John Vaughn with Holle Thee Maxwell. Vaughn is a multi-instrumentalist who played Garvin Gate many years ago and was one of the New Bluebloods made famous by Alligator Records back in the 1980's. Maxwell is a blues belter in the tradition of last year's headliner Nora Jean and KoKo Taylor. This is a set that should not be missed.
The headliner of the night is none other than world-famous Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials. These guys have been at the forefront of the international blues scene for twenty-five years and show no signs of slowing down. Led by Ed's slide guitar and a dynamic rhythm section the band will bring the Chicago blues sound like no other band playing today. They are former winners of the Blues Music Award Band of the Year. This last set will leave you sweaty and drenched, just like a great blues band and festival should.
Friday, October 11,
Four Roses Stage
6:30 The Predators
8:00 Ray Fuller & The Bluesrockers
9:30 Bily Flynn's Chicago Blues Party
Here We Go Girls Stage
Saturday, October 12,
Four Roses Stage
2:00 Hoodoo Blues
3:15 River City Blues Band
4:30 Lamont Gillispie and 100 Proof Blues
5:45 daMudcats Reunion
7:00 Walnut Street Blues Band
8:15 Maurice John Vaughn
9:45 Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials
Here We Go Girls Stage
Soul Center Church Choir
Laurie Jessup & Court Duggins