Boogie with the Edmonton Blues Fest
Twenty years ago, thousands of Edmonton music fans converged on Hawrelak Park to witness the first Edmonton Blues Festival.
Producer of the festival Cam Hayden, says he knew the time was right. He’d already spent 10 years bringing blues and roots music to the Edmonton Media Club and other venues around town. “Thanks to concerts, clubs and specialty radio programs, there’s always been an appetite and an education for the blues music fan in Edmonton. It’s a very vibrant scene compared to many other cities”. A key factor in launching the festival was the huge volunteer ideology that already existed in Edmonton for such events, thanks in no small part to the experience of the volunteer base surrounding the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.
The venue chosen for the first blues festival was the Heritage Amphitheatre at Hawerlak Park in the Edmonton river valley. It has remained the home of the festival ever since. Not only is it a beautiful and expansive setting, the venue itself is rather unique. “It has wonderful sightlines, great acoustics, a permanent stage, and a roof over the audience and dance floor.” Hayden says. “I’ve been to music festivals all over North America, and I can think of very few venues that would compare”.
To celebrate the 20th Birthday of the festival this August, Cam Hayden said it was important to have performers that represented where they were in the beginning, and where they’re heading in the future. To that end, he’s invited back some of the artists who played the festival in those early years, including California’s Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, Zydeco star Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, and piano stalwart Marcia Ball from Texas .
The first-time performers at this year’s festival include a rock and soul legend and a brand new artist who’s rockin’ the blues world.
Booker T Jones, is bringing his Stax Revue to the Edmonton stage, touted as a journey through Soul, Blues and R&B. If the song titles “Green Onions” or “Time Is Tight” doesn’t ring a bell, you would know the music!
A new shining light on the blues scene is young Nikki Hill. Reviewers have called her “a total knockout” “a powerhouse” “a revelations”, and the hip music website PopMatters calls her “a southern soul singer with a penchant for AC/DC...a talent not to be ignored”.
Always part of the lineup includes a healthy dose of outstanding Canadian blues talent. Winnipeg guitar hero Brent Parkin, Victoria’s award winning piano pounder David Vest, Montreal blues veterans The Paul DesLauriers Band, and Ottawa’s JUNO award winning band MonkeyJunk (who hold the record for most cd’s sold at the Edmonton Blues Festival...458!).
Cam Hayden also holds a few key spots at the festival every year for Alberta artists, and this year is no exception. Hayden explains “It’s where we live. It’s important to give these artists recognition, and in some cases, a leg up”. He hopes that playing in front of three thousand hard core blues fans encourages the artist to continue to pursue their dreams. And getting to share a meal and a conversation back stage with the legendary headliners is priceless.
The success of the Edmonton Blues Festival is a point of pride for Hayden, saying it has now become a “destination festival” for blues fans from around the world. He already has confirmation from patrons from Australia, Europe and all over the States.
As blues legend Muddy Waters once said ‘The Blues is the roots. Everything else is the fruits”. Here’s a chance for you to experience both August 24 to 26 at the Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park. Tickets available now.