Various Artists

Various Artists
Gloucester Blues Festival 2014

By Kurt Fitzsimmons
September 2014

If Kurt didn’t know Paul Benjamin, organizer of the popular North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland, Maine, he would be amazed at its similarity to the Gloucester festival, which just celebrated its third year. Benjamin, with help from Bob Hastings, puts on the Gloucester show.

Both are set against a gorgeous ocean vista, but in Gloucester, at historic Stage Fort Park, you can actually walk down to a beach for sun OR swimming. Kurt must remember to bring his Speedo next year!

The lineup this year was superb, climaxing with a nine-piece band headed by Ronnie Baker Brooks, son of the legendary Chicago bluesman Lonnie Brooks. His set included classics by Muddy, Wolf, and Hooker. Then he invited the talented slide guitarist Debbie Davies to the stage, along with the funky Biscuit Miller. It was beyond superlatives.

Before that, Kurt spotted Debbie, Biscuit, his drummer Dr. Love (more about him later…) and a few others backstage, dancing in a line like something at a big Greek wedding. Lots of fun stuff to watch.

The day began with Willie J. Laws, a local favorite who belted out his Hendrix-esque licks to an already packed crowd. The gates opened at 9 a.m. Willie was onstage around 11 a.m.

He was followed by Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, another local biggie, who also put on a great set. The band featured Mike Welch on guitar and Anthony Geraci on keys.

At this point, the beer-and-wine “garden” had opened up (OK, maybe it opened at 9 a.m. but Kurt can’t get anywhere that early.) So, they were selling all kinds of local brews, including something with strawberry-rhubarb that my sister seemed to enjoy; and a stronger, 6 percent blend that Kurt’s man preferred. But Kurt does not like to stand around like an inmate in a hot, sweaty cage (yes, there is a chain-link fence around the booze area) to watch the show, so he had his preferred choice of imbibe later in the day.

Debbie Davies gave her usual great performance, including “No Way Out” (NOT by the Allman Brothers, by the way) along with some Albert Collins songs. Her career started playing with him, so no wonder she is such a standout guitarist.

Biscuit Miller and the Mix did some really good funk, including some James Brown – with the appropriate dance moves. As mentioned, the drummer for Biscuit, Dr. Love, is quite the character! I was wondering who was that guy dressed in red, complete with a top hat, and a stethoscope dangling around his neck. I noticed him buying some hand-cut fries (they were good) during the show, and then after his set, dancing quite suggestively with several ladies in the audience.

Speaking of the audience, EVERYONE was there. Shall I mention names? OK, there was blues radio stars Holly Harris and Greg Sarni, former BBS prez Heather McKibben and her crew; current BBS president Paul McNeil, and treasurer Bev Dancey and her man, “Washboard Man” Bill DeTellis; Carole Mellor from the BBS, newest board member Jo Neary; the two Joanne’s: Cullen and Silva (Gloucester music babe), and of course Kurt’s favorite party pal, Nancy Weston. (We are neighbors now!) Joe Marino spent the day at his post videotaping. Moe had her ears on, and took several turns with Dr. Love.

Back to the show.

Tinsley Ellis, the Atlanta blues-rocker with a big following, rocked the crowd with “Cut You Loose” and his own hit, “Devil for a Dime.”

Memphis-based keyboardist Victor Wainwright gave a solid set of barrelhouse boogie

All in all, it was one of the best blues festivals in recent memory. It was topped off by the rising of the “supah-moon” over the Atlantic.

All this for only $28! (plus $15 parking.)

Check it out next summah!

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