Second Annual New England Winter Blues Festival

Blue Ocean Music Hall

By Lady K
April 2011

With huge snow banks all along the roads and surrounding the parking areas, a definite chill in the air, and snow in the forecast, Blue Ocean Music Hall (on the beach in Salisbury) was a perfect setting for the 2nd Annual New England Winter Blues Festival. And just about 450 blues lovers were of like mind, when they braved the elements looking for (and finding) excitement and some great blues music. Nick David, the genius who has been gathering multiple blues bands together for one-night blues fests in many different venues for the past few years, opened the evening’s celebration of the blues with a welcome to the audience and a welcome to the other bands, and then the fun began.

Mr. Nick (the very same Nick David mentioned above) and the Dirty Tricks took the stage first, and kicked off the evening right on time. On stage with Nick were Lonesome Gus (lead guitar), Teddy B (stand-up electric bass), and Rick Rousseau (drums and back-up vocals) – and they all really got the joint jumping. Nick David is the epitome of high-level blues energy, with his blues/swing vocals, and hammerin’ harp. Gus had a terrific solo during “Worried” (by Darrell Nulisch), and “Good Morning Judge” lured the first of the dancers into the only space available (the dark corner between side-stage and the restrooms). Nick’s HUGE harp intro to “Been Gone So Long” was one of many high points of the band’s necessarily short time on a stage where multiple bands were waiting in the wings. As soon as Nick and the guys took their bows, the stage crew performed the first of many rapid transitions.

It wasn’t long before Nick was back up on stage, introducing the next band, and beginning the ‘blues guitar heaven’ portion of the evening. The Chris Fitz Band was second up and included Chris (lead guitar and vocals), Jeff Majeau (bass), and Steve Wolpe (drums, back-up vocals). Chris kicked off the band’s (too short) segment with 3 new tunes, hopefully to be included on the band’s next CD, “Ain’t Going Down,” with Steve on back-up vocals, “Somebody Save Me”, and the terrific “Springtime” – a fittingly optimistic tune, with snow showers fluttering over the ocean, visible through the wall of windows over the beach. Chris Fitz fans had no trouble recognizing “Traveling Wheels” and the rollicking “Welcome to the Rhythm Room.”

Nick returned to announce the next band up – another New England favorite, the Matthew Stubbs Band. Matthew Stubbs (lead guitar and composer) brought Sax Gordon Beadle (sax – d-uhh), his long-time drummer Chris Rivelli, and Mark Hickox on bass. There are no vocals to Matthew Stubbs’ blues music; his fiery guitar lead pretty much says it all. The band’s selections this evening included some old(er) “Rivelli’s Mood,” some new(er) “Medford and Main” and “Tube Top Temptations,” and some as yet unreleased tunes, including “El Segundo,” which was fantastic – a slow, kinda haunting tempo, with a terrific solo from Sax. And suddenly, it was time to meet Band #4.

There was one more mad dash by the stage crew, breaking down and setting up, and then Mr. Nick was back, welcoming the only non-New England band to the festival. It was a first-time meeting for most of the audience, when Nick Moss and the Flip Tops took the stage – and what a meeting!! Nick Moss (lead guitar, vocals, harp) was accompanied by Travis Reid (keyboard), Nik Skilnik (bass), and Patrick Seals (drums), and the band pumped up the crowd with Howlin’ Wolf’s “Louise” – Nick’s guitar solo definitely got the attention of everyone waiting to check out this Chicago-based blues powerhouse band. Sax Gordon stayed on stage for a few tunes, and added his sax to the mix. When the band performed Junior Wells’ “Next Train South,” Nick Moss asked for help and was joined once again by Sax, and by Nick David and his harp. There was also a mesmerizing slow blues tune, “Lonesome in My Bedroom,” on which Nick Moss relinquished his guitar, and switched to harmonica, while Matt Stubbs took over as lead guitar.

The 2nd Annual Winter Blues Festival was every bit as fun and successful as the 1st Annual, with a very involved and appreciative audience. There were familiar faces in the crowd, and newbies – people new to the venue, new to the bands – and everyone left with happy memories, and hours of blues music in their hearts. Each and every band received a well-deserved standing ovation; even tho’ most of the audience would have preferred the music to continue through the night. Can’t wait for next year and the 3rd Annual…

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