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Blues Festival scheduled for Aug. 9, 10

by BRENT SHRUM
| July 5, 2013 4:59 PM

The fifth annual Riverfront Blues Festival will be bringing a diverse group of artists including Mississippi-born veteran bluesman Bill Magee, Seattle trombonist Randy Oxford and Mexican guitar master Rafael Tranquilino to Libby’s Riverfront Park for a two-day event in early August.

Performances start at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, with the Red Hot Blue Chips, a Cajun-Zydeco-“Bluedeco” band from the Flathead Valley. The core of the band is comprised of members of the legendary Montana band Big Daddy and the Blue Notes, led by Steve “Big Daddy” Kelley. The Red Hot Blue Chips are sponsored by Libby Auto.

Peter Karp and Sue Foley will take the stage at 8 p.m. Friday. A singer-songwriter, guitarist, pianist and American troubadour, Karp’s songwriting has been compared to John Hiatt and John Prine, while his guitar and slide licks reveal his love of Freddie King and Elmore James.

Foley spent her early childhood moving from Canadian town to town with her mother, then embarked on her professional career at 16. By 21, she was living in Austin, Texas, and recording for the legendary blues label, Antone’s Records. Sponsorship for Karp and Foley is provided by Edward Jones Investments in Libby.

Rafael Tranquilino will round out Friday’s performances, playing from 10 p.m. to midnight. A native of Mexico City, Tranquilino now leads his own band in Seattle, a power trio that fuses rock, blues and funk with an alternative and fresh sound. Tranquilino’s appearance at the festival is sponsored by Flathead Media.

The second day of the festival starts at noon Saturday with the teen blues trio The Skivvies, sponsored by Dirty Laundry/Pinup Girl. The band is bringing the blues tradition to their generation, performing songs they remember but that their peers are loving because of the video game Guitar Hero.

At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Billee & Her Blues Boys will perform. Billee Reis grew up in Montana singing with her mom in church, and her powerful, soulful voice reflects the hardships she has faced in her life that she has turned into the fuel for her music. Reis is sponsored by Ann German and Jay Forsyth.

Carl Rey & the Blues Gators will perform from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday. A 32-year veteran of the jazz and blues scene, Rey is known for his strong vocals and clean harmonica sound. Sponsorship is by Tom and Richard Wood.

The Ben Rice Band will perform their mix of rockabilly, swamp rock, and soul-infused country blues from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Ben plays a Dobro, lap steel, and cigar-box guitar, while his brother Tommy Rice plays a large bodied upright bass. These throwback and vintage-voiced instruments combine with influences ranging from punk and hip-hop to Johnny Cash and the Reverend Gary Davis for a fresh sound that remains true to its heritage. The Ben Rice Band is sponsored by Morrison-Maierle.

The Randy Oxford Band will perform from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday. The “big frog” the very small pond of blues-based trombonists, Oxford has chalked up 17 awards from the Washington Blues Society in various categories over the course of his career. 

The Bill Magee Blues Band will play from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday. Born in the backwoods of Mississippi in 1943, Magee grew up listening to Muddy Waters, Elmore James and B.B. King on the radio. After a young life full of hard knocks, in 1963 Magee met and befriended Jimi Hendrix and joined him in his band Jimmy James and the Flames. When Hendrix went to England in 1967, Magee took his own band, the Kansas City Playboys, on a tour around Europe. Bill Magee is sponsored by Libby Drug.

Saturday’s finale will be an all-star jam, with musicians from various bands playing together until 1 a.m. to close out the festival. The jam is sponsored by Glacier Bank.

Situated along the banks of the scenic Kootenai River, the festival will include a variety of food and craft vendors and microbrew beers on tap. Camping is available for only $10 a night at nearby J. Neils Memorial Park, with complimentary shuttle service offered throughout the festival.

A portion of the proceeds from the festival will benefit the Riverfront Blues Youth Connection, a program that provides musical instruments to area youth involved in school band programs. In 2012, the first year of the program, instruments were provided to two high school students in need of instruments of their own. Donations may be specifically earmarked for the youth music program.

Tickets and more information are available online at www.riverfrontbluesfestival.com. Advance tickets are $20 for Friday, $25 for Saturday or $40 for both days. Tickets at the gate are $25 for Friday, $30 for Saturday or $50 for a full pass. Kids 10 and younger get in free with a canned food donation for the Libby Food Pantry.