After more than a year of anticipation, the inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival takes over Riverwalk and pretty much the rest of downtown this weekend.
And we have all the info, including details on some cool, free events.
For starters, famed performance photographer Joseph A. Rosen will be hosting a showing of his portraiture work at the Blues Revue headquarters in the Village of the Arts at 1001 11th Ave. W., Bradenton. The exhibit will be at the Blues Revue’s gallery Friday from 1 p.m. until 5 pm. Featured Musicians in the Friday exhibit will include B.B King, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Dr. John and many more. Information: 866-702-7778.
Festival producer Realize Bradenton, the non-profit organization that played a key role in creating the renovated Riverwalk, is starting things off right by offering the community a free preview to the festival at the Riverwalk pavilion on Friday. The Blues Appetizer Concert is 6-9 p.m. Friday with performances by Tampa blues man Selwyn Birchwood Band and Sarasota roots rockers Kettle of Fish, which features singer/songwriter Dana Lawrence backed by a rotating cast of equally impressive players. Food and beverage available for purchase at this highly recommended event.
The Women’s Resource Center of Manatee’s annual fundraiser, “Bringing on the Blues,” will be held Friday as well starting at 7 p.m. in the historic “Brickyard” area behind O’Bricks on Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton. The cost is $125 per person and includes live entertainment, food and premium open bar. For more information call 941-747-6797 or go to www.wrcmanatee.org.
And then there's the biggie, the inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival on Saturday.
Grammy Award nominee Ruthie Foster headlines a first-rate lineup that includes Louisiana Music Hall of Fame inductee Kenny Neal and super group Southern Hospitality, which is led by Bradenton Beach resident Damon Fowler.
Dave “Biscuit” Miller, Johnny Sansone, Homemade Jamz, the Steve Arvey Horn Band with Henry Lawrence also a pair of local favorites and Ben Prestage round out the lineup.
In addition to the live music along the Manatee River, there will be an array of food, drink and art vendors.
Attendees are asked to bring a non-perishable food item or canned good to the Blues Appetizer and Bradenton Blues Festival to help donate food items to Meals on Wheels of Manatee County.
After the Bradenton Blues Festival ends at 8 p.m. Saturday there's the official after party featuring acclaimed Tampa blues man Sean Chambers at Tarpon Pointe Grille & Tiki Bar, the popular eastern anchor of Riverwalk that celebrated its first anniversary in July.
"Sean Chambers has invited all the festival performers to sit in with him," said Jack Sullivan, operations officer of Blues Revue magazine and the co-founder of the Bradenton Blues Festival. "I'm sure there's going to be a great jam."
Also, Old Main Street will be closed Saturday between Manatee and Third Avenues for the Farmers Market (8 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and then from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. to accommodate the crowd from the Bradenton Blues Festival.
Bradenton Blues Festival schedule
Steve Arvey Horn Band featuring Henry Lawrence: 11-11:40 a.m.
Bradenton area blues man Steve Arvey has teamed up with local hero Henry Lawrence, the superb soul singer who earned three Super Bowl rings and made two Pro Bowl appearances while playing with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.
Homemade Jamz: 11:55 a.m.-12:55 p.m.
Ryan, Kyle and Taya Perry are siblings in their teens who play rocking blues.
Southern Hospitality: 1:10-2:10 p.m.
Bradenton Beach resident and Blind Pig Records artist Damon Fowler recently joined forces with fellow Florida guitarist/vocalist JP Soars and Memphis-based keyboardist/singer Victor Wainwright to form one of the most in-demand groups on the blues festival circuit. See accompanying interview with Fowler.
Johnny Sansone: 2:25-3:25 p.m.
The New Orleans-based harmonica player and vocalist offers plenty of emotional punch as a performer while also excelling as a songwriter.
Dave “Biscuit” Miller: 3:40-4:40 p.m.
A superbly funky bassist and outstanding showman , Miller has become a favorite at Aces Live in Bradenton with songs ranging from the funky double entendre “Butter My Biscuits” to the somber, soulful “Never Seen it Coming.”
Kenny Neal: 4:55-6:05
Baton Rouge swamp blues master has been elating audiences since the 1970s with his explosive guitar licks, hot harp and potent vocals.
Ruthie Foster: 6:20-7:35
Grammy Award nominate singer’s latest album “Let it Burn” finds Foster putting her own glorious vocal stamp on songs ranging from the Johnny Cash classic “Ring of Fire” to Adele’s recent smash “Set Fire to the Rain.” Read my interview with Foster.
Ben Prestage: performs between acts
One-man-band who grew up near the Everglades sings, plays finger-style guitar, harmonica, banjo, lap-steel, fiddle, resonator guitar and foot-drums.
Details: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 1, Bradenton Riverwalk, 425 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Tickets: $25 (until noon Friday); $30 (gate). Information: 941-681-0708 or www.bradentonbluesfestival.org.
—Bradenton Blues Festival logo (above) and poster by 'Harry Potter' illustrator Mary GrandPré provided by Realize Bradenton.