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Nanaimo's Summertime Blues festival returns, with a spotlight on B.C.

Lineup includes Crystal Shawanda, Jim Byrnes, David Gogo, Steve Kozak, and David Vest

LIVE MUSIC: Summertime Blues Festival

With: Crystal Shawanda, Jim Byrnes, David Gogo, Jenie Thai, and more

Where: Maffeo Sutton Park, 100 Comox Rd., Nanaimo

When: Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 11-14

Tickets: $35-$75 (daily) or $170 (festival pass) from nanaimoblues.tickit.ca

More than 30 acts, the majority of which are from B.C., are set to appear this week at Nanaimo’s Summertime Blues Festival.

That’s a distinct change from the 2019 version, when the Nanaimo Blues Society event showcased high-profile U.S. acts such as Walter Trout, Eric Gales, Tas Cru, and Ana Popovic. That previous model — expensive, and labour-intensive — was unsustainable this summer, especially coming out of a two-year layoff with limited time for advance planning, said society president Jackie Moisan.

“It’s been a real challenging situation, as you can imagine. One of the biggest challenges was dealing with the availability and access of services and goods. It was also tricky because in the early Spring, the provincial government wasn’t sure when they were going to lift [capacity] restrictions, so we had to take a leap of faith with our bookings. I’m really glad we went ahead with it.”

Moisan said she expects the festival, tickets to which are ahead of projections this year, will offer a mixture of U.S. and Canadian acts in 2023, when cross-border travel is not impeded and long-term planning is feasible. But while the festival’s focus on Canadian acts was the proper way forward in 2022, she’s proud of the assembly, which includes multiple award winners Crystal Shawanda, Jim Byrnes, David Gogo, Steve Kozak, and David Vest — some of whom were confirmed to perform at the postponed edition from two years ago.

“That gave us an opportunity to scale it down, but I use that term lightly,” she said. “The quality is not scaled-down whatsoever. It’s a world class festival. The only scaling down was in the distance of transportation.”

Re-engagement has been a top priority for the four-day festival, whose gates to Maffeo Sutton Park open at 3 p.m. Thursday. The majority of programming at the festival will be held there, including the Nanaimo Youth Blues Showcase, which features a collection of young performers brought together by the Sunday Blues Jam sessions held weekly at the Queen’s Hotel.

The popular downtown Nanaimo venue will be home to after-jam performances on Friday and Saturday, featuring local blues musicians as well performers from the event. It’s part of Moisan’s plans to expose the greater Nanaimo community to the benefits of Summertime Blues.

“It’s an opportunity to review the festival, to take a forward look at where we going, and move in a direction of engaging more of the community,” she said. “Traditionally, blues is a middle-aged to older audience. What I want to see is a festival that is introducing the blues to a broader and more diverse community.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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