Island acts get their time in spotlight at blues festival

IN CONCERT

What: Summertime Blues Festival featuring David Vest, David Gogo, Bill Johnson, Blue Moon Marquee and more
Where: Maffeo Sutton Park, Nanaimo
When: Friday, Aug. 24, through Sunday, Aug. 26
Tickets: $49.99 daily or $114.99 for a festival pass at nanaimoblues.tickit.ca
Information: nanaimobluesfestival.com

The non-profit Nanaimo Blues Society is doubling down on local talent for its sixth edition of the Summertime Blues festival. Only one of the 14 acts on the festival roster — Montreal’s Paul Deslauriers Band — has off-Island roots, which should give the homegrown headliners of the three-day festival some well-deserved time in the spotlight.

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“We have amazing musicians on our island,” said Gerold Haukenfrers, president of the society.

“It’s nice to showcase them and put them on a pedestal, which they deserve to be on. They are international artists.”

Haukenfrers said the move was designed to give back the stage to acts from Nanaimo and Victoria after the preceding year’s festival focused heavily on acts from across Canada and the U.S. Sonny Landreth, Shemekia Copeland, MonkeyJunk, Mark Hummel’s Golden State/Lonestar Revue, and Coco Montoya were top of the bill at Summertime Blues in 2017, but the audience totals did not reflect the society’s increased spending at the time, Haukenfrers said.

The focus is back on quality this year, with the hope that the quantity of acts increases in 2019. “We’re seeding for next year. It looks like it’s going to work. That’s our end game — to seed the pot and mix in international names for next year.”

With help from the society, the mid-Island area has become is a hub of blues activity in recent years. Bands and solo performers who have performed at the society’s weekly blues jam at the Queen’s Hotel have advanced to bigger venues as result, including the main stage at Summertime Blues.

“It allows our local musicians an opportunity to play on the stage and get exposure to the real deal,” Haukenfrers said. “That’s a positive.”

The festival can accommodate up to 1,000 people on site each day at the festival’s waterfront location, Maffeo Sutton Park. That expectation isn’t out of range, with performances on tap this weekend from David Gogo, David Vest, Bill Johnson and Blue Moon Marquee, among others.

Those unfamiliar with the award-winning talent booked to perform will be pleasantly surprised.

“I really want to emphasize the fact that we’re honouring and respecting our local Vancouver Island talent, which his absolutely superb. It’s as good as anything out there.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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