GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 26, 2013

Blues fest sales already cheering organizers

By Gail McCarthy
Staff Writer

---- — The sound of world-class blues will once again take center stage at Stage Fort Park waterfront at the second annual Gloucester Blues Festival on Saturday, Aug. 10.

Organizers say the festival is already a hit – at least when it comes to ticket sales.

Some of the nation’s finest performers will take to the stage, located on the waterfront near Cressy’s Beach, with the gates opening at 9 a.m. and the music set to run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Organizers have also hired a lifeguard for the benefit of concert-goers who want to take a dip during the event. Food and beverages, including beer and wine, will be on sale, with craft vendors adding to the atmosphere at the site.

“It’s a great day for people to be on the water,” said Robert Hastings, one of the organizers. “We have a full line up of international blues stars.”

The inaugural event last year attracted about 1,000 concert-goers, and organizers this year hope to attract at least 1,500 fans to the event. Sales to date are running close to three times higher than at this time last year, said Hastings.

Gloucester’s Ed Collard attended last year and plans to attend again this year.

“You couldn’t ask for a better venue. You get the beautiful sound of the entertainment at the park overlooking the harbor. It was just fantastic,” said Collard, president of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce. “It was very well organized, and even a small amount of rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. It was a blast. And the people who show up are there to have a good time.”

The demographics span generations with a varied slate of performers.

The 2013 performance schedule will feature Gracie Curran at 11 a.m.; Mr. Nick at 11:45 a.m.; Lydia Warren at 12:45 p.m.; Johnny Rawls at 1:45 p.m.; Anthony Gomes at 3 p.m.; Ana Popovic at 4:20 p.m; and the West Coast-based Tommy Castro and The Painkillers at 5:45 p.m.

Born in San Jose, Calif., Castro joined Warner Brothers’ artists The Dynatones in the late 1980s. He toured with this soul band for two years, backing major artists like Carla Thomas and Albert King.

After he formed The Tommy Castro Band in 1991, he won the Bay Area Music Award for Best Club Band in both 1993 and 1994. The band continued to win awards with the 1997 Bay Area Music Award for Outstanding Blues Album. Castro himself took the award for outstanding blues musician that same year.

In 2001 and 2002, the legendary B.B. King asked Castro to open his summer concert tours, and he joined King on stage for the nightly finale.

Hastings said he and fellow organizer Paul Benjamin, a national blues concert producer who heads up, among others, the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland, Maine, tend to bring in blues stars who perform more traditional blues, such as the Chicago, New Orleans and Memphis blues styles, including Johnny Rawls who is an old-time Chicago performer.

The show will also feature Boston-based talent, with Warren, who writes her own music, and whose guitar skills Hastings called extraordinary. Mr. Nick performs on harmonica with his band. Rounding out the program is Curran, whose vocals are in the spirit of some of the great old females blues singers, and Popovic who is also known for her guitar skills.

Gomes, meanwhile, was born in Toronto, son of a Portuguese father and a French-Canadian mother. He began playing guitar in his early teens, and was a fan of the blues sounds of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

Tickets in advance are $28, and $40 on the day of the event. For advance sales, visit the festival’s website at gloucesterbluesfestival.com, or go to the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce 33 Commercial St. in Gloucester. There are just a few remaining VIP seats left, Hastings said.

Collard said he would expect this event to grow each year.

“It’s also a bargain to have eight hours of entertainment from top-notch performers for $28 or $40. You won’t see just one of those acts for $40,” he said. “I’m happy it’s in Gloucester. I’m all about things for Gloucester.”

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.