Annual Downtown Blues Concert offers fitting lineup to showcase genre
Published: Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 12:13 p.m.
While the Downtown Festival & Art Show will showcase works of almost limitless hues Saturday and Sunday, a decidedly bluish element — as in the blues — will take the forefront Friday at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza.
The annual Downtown Blues Concert has been an evening hallmark of the art fest for more than a decade, and Friday’s performance from 7 to 10 p.m. offers a fitting lineup of acts to bask in the pre-fest spotlight before the festival proper starts Saturday.
“We see this is as a real opportunity to show people what the blues is all about,” says Rob Richardson, president of the North Central Florida Blues Society, which presents the annual concert.
“I think a lot of people otherwise would have to go to a club setting to see someone play, and here, they’re part of the downtown plaza; thousands of people will be there and get to see this.”
Headlining Friday’s show is Brandon Santini, the Memphis-based singer and harmonica player who will take the stage with his band at 9 p.m. “He’s originally from North Carolina but moved to Memphis for the sole purpose of knowing that playing on Beale Street would make him a stronger performer,” Richardson says.
“So he is very schooled in the traditional sounds and knows the old masters and has clearly studied people like Sonny Boy Williamson I and James Cotton. But also he’s still dynamic and fun in his presentation and also understands the point of showmanship.”
Performing at 8 p.m. is the R. Mutt Blues Band, the area group that has won the Gainesville Blues Challenge for the second year in a row and will represent the area as the contending group at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis next January.
“They’re definitely influenced by the Chess Records-era artists of the ’50s and ’60s but also very heavily influenced by the early Fleetwood Mac when Peter Green was doing it,” Richardson says. “So there’s the English side to that as well to what they do. And they’re just very, very accomplished musicians.”
The Gainesville-based group, Big Time Juke & the Joints, opens the show at 7 p.m., Richardson says. “They have a wide range of influences, but a Texas shuffle is one of the stronger elements of what they like to do. And they’re definitely influenced by people like Jimmy Vaughan. You would think you’re in Austin when you hear these guys play sometimes.”
Featuring both nationally known and local blues performers is the aim of the North Central Florida Blues Society, not only with the annual Downtown Blues Concert but in quarterly shows presented by the society on Sundays at High Dive and in other events throughout the year.
“There are many very talented blues artists and bands in this town, and it seems to be growing more and more,” Richardson says. “In the last few years, I’m seeing a huge growth in that. In addition, we also want to let people see a national artist that they would normally not get to see in this town ... somebody that you’d have to travel a long distance to see usually,” he says.
It’s all part of the mission of the North Central Florida Blues Society, which has been promoting the blues as a singular entity in the area since 2001, Richardson says.
“We we want to expose people to what all is out there in the blues world, because there’s a lot of great, great talent.”
Contact Entertainment Editor Bill Dean at 374-5039 or at email@example.com, and follow on Twitter @SceneBillDean.
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