Technically, the “blues” is a twelve-measure musical form based on three chords – I, IV and V – liberally sprinkled with flat 3rds and 7ths. But in reality, the blues is a feeling, the musical distillation of anguish. Even if you don’t understand the technical aspects, you know the blues when you hear it. And you can hear a whole lot of it at the 2010 Riverfront Blues Festival at Tubman Garrett Park on the Christina Riverwalk.
Friday tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Saturday and Sunday are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Or you can purchase a single ticket for all three days for just $50. Children under 12 are free. There are two stages at the event with more bands than I can possibly review. But here is an annotated schedule for the Main Stage.
Skyla Burrell Blues Band – Friday 5:00 pm
Skyla is the lead singer in this hard driving band with two guitars, a bass guitar and drums. The musical form is relatively traditional with lots of electric guitar solos – a great group to kick off the Festival.
Bernard Allison Group – Friday 6:45 pm
Like John Lee Hooker, Jr., Bernard Allison is clearly a chip off the old block. In this case the old block is his father, the legendary Luther Allison. Bernard is hard riving and “down home” at the same time.
Delta Harp Blast – Friday 8:30 pm
A large “down home” collection of harmonica legends backed up by a blues band. What a great way to conclude the first day of the Riverfront Blues Festival.
Lower Case Blues – Saturday 12:00 noon
A blues trio that actually originated in Newark, Delaware. I’m not a big fan of blues duos and trios, because they don’t have the freedom of a soloist, or the potential for rich instrumental interplay that you get with bigger bands. But Lower Case packs a lot of sound into a small package.
The Nouveaux Honkies – Saturday 1:30 pm
Festival goers are gonna luv the Nouveux Honkies. The group includes a fiddle, guitar, base guitar and drums, and the style is a hard-driving, toe-tapping cross between blues and country tinged with a hint of Zydeco.
Donna Angelle & the Zydeco Posse – Saturday 3:15 pm
And speaking of Zydeco, no good blues festival would be complete without a zydeco band. Donna Angelle is backed up by four musicians including the requisite accordion player, who often join her to create three-part vocals.
Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers – Saturday 5:00 pm
If you like harmonica, you’ll absolutely love Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers. All of the musicians are top flight (no pun intended) and the young female pianist is a honky tonk monster. This group is worth the price of admission all by themselves.
The Shaun Murphy Band – Saturday 6:45 pm
It doesn’t get any more “down home” than Shaun Murphy. She’s sort of Janis Joplin, Gracie Slick and Aretha Franklin all rolled into one, accompanied by all of the instrumental icons of the Blues style – electric guitar, harmonica, organ, bass and drums.
The Perfect Age of Rock n Roll Blues Band – Saturday 8:30
The musical form is blues but the group is vintage rock ‘n roll, and they will be a huge hit at the Festival.
Mike Zito – Sunday 12:30 pm
Mike Zito’s sound is completely different from the other performers but just as entertaining. It’s a cross between Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and John Denver.
John Lee Hooker, Jr. – Sunday 2:30 pm
They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and you can definitely hear the influences of his legendary father in the voice of John Lee Jr., but the sound has an edge on it, as well.
The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue – Sunday 4:30 pm
This group is sort of the musical version of full-service hotel with enough fine musicians to be able to play just about any blues style you want. They are definitely crowd pleasers and a great closing act for the 2010 Riverfront Blues Festival.
Everybody’s taste is different, but if you only have a few hours to spend at the Festival, my recommendation would be 1:30 pm to close on Saturday. Every group in that time frame brings a new and exciting sound to the stage.
TravelTip: Check out the “If you like this…” box on the left hand side of this article for past articles transportation, hotel and restaurant information in Wilmington, as well as other world-class attractions in the Brandywine Valley.