NABF turns 25 in Rockland

Blues we can use

By Dagney C. Ernest | Jul 11, 2018
Courtesy of: Jean Benjamin Since 2001, the North Atlantic Blues Festival merch tent has included a year-specific NABF pin. This year, attendees will receive a free commemorative NABF guitar pick at the gate, while they last.

Rockland — As it has for a quarter-century now, Rockland Harbor Park will host blues performers and fans from all around the world Saturday and Sunday, July 14 and 15, as the North Atlantic Blues Festival turns 25.

And as usual, the blues starts saturating the city the night before, as many of the local and regional bluesmakers that play the Saturday night club crawl perform a preview at the local clubs. After the fest wraps up Sunday, there is the traditional All-Star Jam at the downtown Time Out Pub, which hosts Monday Night Blues concerts almost year-round (one of the exceptions: the Monday after the fest). One never knows who will show up to jam; and many festival attendees are around for the night in any case.

“We're looking for a good year … hotel rooms in walking distance, they're gone, which is a good sign for the economy,” said Paul Benjamin six weeks out. “Over 25 years, the festival has just had an incredible impact on the city.”

Benjamin cofounded and coproduces the NABF with Jamie Isaacson, who lives in Wayne. The Rockland fest had its roots in a Trade Winds parking lot bash that ran a few years; the two men met when Isaacson was planning a blues festival at the Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach. Benjamin came to the blues as a fan, as well as via his friendship with the late Eddie Shaw. Isaacson was, and still is, a performer as well, playing keyboards for the Blues Flames, an offshoot of The Blues Prophets, Maine’s first touring blues band.

The lineup they have put together for the 25th blues fest mixes returning favorites and steal-the-show newcomers; for full bios, see the official program from last week’s Courier-Gazette, Camden Herald or Republican Journal (online at knox[or waldo].villagesoup.com/publications); they’re also around town and will be on the grounds. Also on the grounds and around town is “Heart of Blues,” Benjamin’s memoir of the blues festival’s history — so far.

Here are the basics of taking in this year’s North Atlantic Blues Festival.

The how-to

For those without advance tickets, admission bracelets are $40 either day, $75 for a weekend pass, at the gate for adults; there is a daily gate fee of $5 for children age 6 to 12, free for younger kids. Gates open 9 a.m. both days, rain or shine; bring lawn chairs, blankets and sunscreen; leave coolers, sun umbrellas, tents, video recorders, pets and alcohol at home. There are food and merchandise vendors on site.

Saturday night club crawl cover charges are waived for festival bracelet (Saturday or weekend) wearers at clubs, but you don’t have to be a ticketholder, or 21 and older, to take in blues and food along Main Street. There will be five bands playing on Main Street, from in front of Key Bank to just before the ferry landing (Main Street will be closed to vehicles). Sunday also offers official options open to the public, not just ticketholders: blues brunch starts 9 a.m. upstairs at the Time Out Pub (blues by Brian McLean & Friends); and the aforementioned after-fest jam. For more information, visit northatlanticbluesfestival.com.

And the why

Both days will open with young musicians from the nearby Midcoast Music Academy blues intensive summer camp, playing from 10:30 to 10:55 a.m. Boston-subway-busker-and-more Ilana Katz Katz, a blues fiddler, plays between acts each day.

Saturday lineup

• Slam Allen (11:15 a.m.), former lead singer, guitarist and bandleader for the late, great James Cotton, promises to bring out the soul in blues music.

• Kat Riggins (12:30 p.m.) brings her out-of-the-park blues fusion vocals and Blues Revival Band from Florida to Maine.

• Lurrie Bell (1:45 p.m.) is a recent Traditional Blues Male Artist BMA-winner; son of famed blues harmonica player Carey Bell, Lurrie and his band offer the best of Chicago guitar blues.

The Welch Ledbetter Connection (3:15 p.m.) is a current BMA holder, thanks to this new collaboration’s first album. Mike Welch and Mike Ledbetter are indeed in the “Right Place, Right Time” to take the fest by storm.

Bobby Rush (5 p.m.), meanwhile, has a shiny new Grammy Award; those who haven’t experienced the Rolling Stone-dubbed King of the Chitlin Circuit’s show should prepare to have their world rocked, and how.

Sunday lineup

• Vanessa Collier (11:15 a.m.) is still in her 20s, but already has shared stages with Buddy Guy and gotten her own BMA, as well as songwriting, nods — not bad for just a few years out of Berklee School of Music, sax in hand.

• Wee Willie Walker and The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra (12:30 p.m.) demonstrates the power of collaboration, as a “soulman’s soulman” vocalist plus a mainstay guitarist and bandleader join forces to make for a BMA-nominated fan favorite.

• Mud Morganfield (1:45 p.m.) forges his own Chicago electric blues path, while paying homage to his father, the late, great Muddy Waters.

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials (3:15 p.m.) is known for big sound — and big entertainment. Expect great Chicago blues and lots of on-stage, and in-audience, fun.

Tab Benoit (4:55 p.m.) is a blues fest favorite, back in Maine to spread the Cajun blues and Louisiana wetlands news, as well as demonstrate why he’s won the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award four times.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Aimee Liberty | Jul 12, 2018 20:27

Paul you have done a great job of bring the best of the best to little old rockland maine Thanks so much for all the hard work. Wayne Ward

 



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Staff Profile

Dagney C. Ernest
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
(207) 594-4401/4407, ext. 115
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Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional for more than 30 years; and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.

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