About 1,000 Blues fans packed the Coral Bay ball field on Saturday night, March 20, for the main concert of the 8th Annual St. John Blues Festival, hosted by Steve and Helen Simon. The night of fabulous music included acts by The Ford Blues Band, E.G. Kight, J.T. Lauritsen, JP Soards and The Red Hots, Shakura S’aida, the Ty Curtis Band, Washboard Jo and headliner Deanna Bogart
By Karin Schlesinger
Stellar performances rocked the 8th Annual Johnny Walker St. John Blues Festival main concert in the Coral Bay ball field on Saturday night, March 20, from four guest bands and a myriad of guest artists.
The pre-party kicked off mid-afternoon with the Skinny Legs Blues Review featuring local musician Chris Carsel and Company with guest artists. By the 7 p.m. start time for the main concert, the crowd was more than primed for a hot night of top musicians from around the globe.
The big concert opened with performances from the top bands of the 2009 International Blues Challenge — and that was only the beginning.
Hailing from Oregon, the Blues Challenge finalist Ty Curtis Band called out “I sing the Blues” in their opener lyrics. It was the first crowd teaser of the night and warmed the early evening crowd arriving with beach chairs and blankets to settle in for the evening.
Over 1,000 tickets were sold for the big concert. Steve and Helen Simon were the perfect hosts, with Steve as master of ceremonies. Between sets, Simon invited audience member Senate President Louis Patrick Hill onstage and presented him with an official USVI Blues License plate. He thanked the senator for his continued support for the island of St. John and the things that matter to the community.
JP Soars and The Red Hots, winners of the International Blues Challenge took the stage next with JP’s unique red hot guitar and a stageful of surprises. Their eclectic mix ranged from original tunes to Muddy Waters greats and a soulful “Gangsta of Love.”
A guest appearance by Billy Gibson brought cheers from the crowd. The Blues Music Awards Instrumentalist of the Year strutted his stuff with a tight performance for the Red Hots band.
The band was also joined on stage by JT Laurensen and his accordion with sweet vibes. The memorable “I Want A Bald Headed Woman” was dedicated to Steve Simon by JT and had the crowd roaring in approval.
To top it off, last year’s crowd pleaser Washboard Jo joined them on stage. The colorful Jo wowed the audience with her faster than lightening washboard percussions. Her purple outfit, fully tattooed arms and light-up keyboard were as vivid as her personality and performance.
The Ford Blues Band with drummer Patrick Ford took over the stage with solid performances from everyone in the band. Andy Ford made magic with his harmonica, while the strings from Volker Strifler were electrifying.
Dewayne Pate’s rich repertoire showed its depth. It was hard to find anyone not swaying and grooving to both their classical and their own refreshing Blues style.
Ten seconds after the opening keyboards, the audience knew they were in for something extraordinary with the Deanna Bogart Band. Contemporary Blues married boogie as Bogart took to the keyboards with her saxophone ready nearby. She talked about playing on St. John.
“It’s because of the love of Love City that made it happen” Bogart said.
She also spoke about her newfound love.
“On the way to the Smoothie Stand on the other side,” she said, but needed no more words — the crowd roared.
Bogart’s tenor saxophone embodied the blues with every rich note and her performance dazzled as the evening reached an unprecedented pitch.
Then EG Knight joined in for some special Southern Comfort and got the whole audience engaged with her “Trouble with a Capital T.”
This southern gal from Georgia won a lot of hearts Saturday night with her fine guitar and strong vocals which married country to the Blues.
International solo artist Shakura S’Aida then took the stage and belted out some fine blues. Love City’s own Barbie Barry was invited up on stage to join the ladies with her harmonica for a number and held her own amongst these Blues greats.
It was ladies night in Coral Bay. The audience was on their feet, dancing and hanging on to every word. All things must end, but first their was an impromptu song from the four visiting female artists.
They sang about their newfound love of St. John smoothies. It was a love letter to St. John that left the audience happy and sated with the Blues but sad it all had to come to an end.
While it’s hard to believe Saturday night’s event could be topped, the 9th Annual Johnny Walker St. John Blues Festival is already planned for the third week of March in 2011.
The initial lineup for the event includes such music greats as Curtis Salgado, Grady Champion, Candye Kane, and Moreland and Arbuckle. Start planning now to be on-island for this great event next year.