If you came of age in the 1990s, the headliners for this year’s Thunder Bay Blues Festival should be right up your alley.
The annual Marina Park event, arguably the most popular staged in the city each summer, has no shortage of big-name talent at the top of its 2014 bill, starting with the smoky sounds of 15-time Grammy nominee Melissa Etheridge.
Add in the likes of California’s Rival Sons, Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-a-Whirl Band, The Wallflowers, Serena Ryder and ‘90s hit-makers the Spin Doctors and festival organizers have cooked up a recipe for musical success.
“We were trying to do a wide variety of things here,” said Blues Festival spokesman Trevor Hurtig. “We wanted to make sure we had some solid blues in there as always, but we also wanted to continue what we did last year, which was to introduce new people to what’s going on down at Marina Park.
“With acts like Melissa Etheridge, Wallflowers, Serena Ryder and the Spin Doctors the idea was to bring as many different people down there, but still satisfy the blues crowd.”
Etheridge is a fitting choice to culminate the July 4-6 festival’s opening day.
The Kansas-born singer-songwriter rocketed to fame in 1989 and rolled off a string of hits, culminating in Grammy best rock vocal performance wins in 1993 and 1995 for Ain’t it Heavy and Come to My Window.
The 52-year-old was also honoured in 2006 with a best original song Oscar for her song I Need to Wake Up, written for Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
Etheridge leads a Friday lineup that starts with a little local flavour when James Boraski and Momentary Evolution take the stage.
Canadian guitarist Steve Hill, once proclaimed the best young blues guitarist in North America by Real Blues magazine and the “meanest guitar player in Canada” by The Hour’s B.B. Burnett, is second on the opening-night bill. He’ll be followed by fellow Canadian blues and jazz vocalist ShakuraS’Aida.
Saturday night headliners Rival Sons, whose songs Until the Sun Comes and Wild Animal have enjoyed modest success and plenty of airplay on rock radio stations across the continent – including our own Rock 94 – are often loosely compared to ‘60s and ‘70s greats like Led Zeppelin, the Animals, Deep Purple and Bad Company.
“Jimmy Page is quoted as saying he has all of their CDs and really likes their sound,” Hurtig said. “Although they are certainly heavier than Tedeschi Trucks was, they are similar in the sense that they are right on the cusp of superstardom.”
They’ll put an end to a fabulous day of music that starts with Thunder Bay’s own The Chain at noon and continues through the likes of the Groove Merchants, The C-Notes, Mathew Curry & the Fury, James Hunter, Carolyn Wonderland and Vaughan, one of the founders of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the older brother of late guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, a headliner-sized act capable of carrying any blues festival lineup on his own.
After last year’s Great Big Sea finale, Blues Fest organizers set a Sunday precedent they knew wouldn’t be easy to live up to.
With a revamped, Jakob Dylan-led Wallflowers, and the band celebrating its 25th anniversary, festival booker Bob Halvorsen and company might just have done it.
In 1996 the band rocketed to stardom with the quadruple platinum release Bringing Down the Horse, which delivered hits like 6th Avenue Heartache, One Headlight and Three Marlenas. Two years later their cover of David Bowie’s Heroes kept them in the spotlight.
“I’ve got to admit, I’m a big fan of the Wallflowers,” Hurtig said. “I really enjoyed then and that Bringing Down the Horse album is still (frequently) played in my car. So I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that one.”
They’re the final act of a one-two-three punch to close the festival that includes jam-band favourites the Spin Doctors, authors of hit like Two Princes, Jimmy Olsen’s Blues and Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, and Toronto’s Serena Ryder, whose influences include everyone from Michael Jackson and Stevie Nicks to Ella Fitzgerald and Leonard Cohen.
Other Sunday acts include the city’s own Tracy K, Annie Mack, Ken Valdez, Pavlo and Erja Lyytinen, who’ll bring a touch of the Finnish blues to Thunder Bay this summer.
Tickets for the 13th annual Thunder Bay Blues Festival go on sale on Friday at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium box office. Day passes are $69 apiece, while a weekend pass costs $109. VIP passes are $159. Ticket prices do not include handling fees.
Click here to report a typo or error
You must log in to add comments.
Create a new account
Remember me next time.