The eighth annual Gloucester Blues Festival returns to Cressy’s Beach at Stage Fort Park this Saturday, Aug. 10, with a lineup of award-winning artists, national touring acts and ― for the first time in its history ― forecasted good weather.
“We’ll have a bunch of different styles of blues, which is exciting and educational for the people who come,” said Paul Benjamin, owner and organizer of the festival. “This also gives people a chance to see artists they never get to see in Gloucester or in the area.”
Chris Beard, son of blues legend Joe Beard, will open the show at 11 a.m. The winner of Best Emerging Artist Album at this year’s Blues Music Awards, Amanda Fish, will follow at 12:15 p.m. with Newton native Tyler Morris joining her on stage.
Marquis Knox will pay homage to blues greats through his unique sound at 1:30 p.m. Darrell Nulisch, who has played with David Maxwell, Ronnie Earl's The Broadcasters and sung with James Cotton's band on tour, will play at 2:45 p.m.
Damon Fowler will grace the stage with his guitar and voice at 4:15 p.m. Johnny Rawls will bring out his "Red Cadillac" and share his sound, which was crafted at the side of southern soul legend O.V Wright, from 5:45 to 7 p.m. to close the show.
Benjamin is hoping to see an audience of more than 1,000 blues enthusiasts and newcomers at the festival.
“Everybody thinks blues is always sad, but in my opinion, blues is the heartbeat of life,” Benjamin said. “There are sad blues songs, but there are also happy blues songs. It’s (a genre about) everyday life.”
A beer garden and food and craft vendors will set up at Stage Fort. Refreshments from hamburgers and hotdogs to sausages and Mexican food will be available.
The festival’s sponsors include Boston Fence, JRM Hauling and Dumping, Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, Cape Ann Brewing Co., WMWM Salem 91.7 FM, Good Morning Gloucester, Cape Ann Savings Bank, the Ninety Nine Restaurant, Lyon-Waugh Auto Group, Hagstrom Co. Inc. Paving Contractor and R.B.Strong Excavating and Sewerage Contractor Inc.
Frank Biscardi, a promoter of the festival and owner of Boston Fence, said Benjamin’s dedication to the festival is a large part of why it is so successful.
“People should want to go to the festival because of the quality of its sound and the quality of the blues shows put on by Paul Benjamin,” said Biscardi.
Benjamin, who lives in Maine, puts on dozens of major blues festivals around the country each year. He is even a consultant for a festival in Denmark.
Benjamin is also on the board of directors for the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee, and his annual North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland, Maine, attracts an audience of more than 15,000 each year.
“The excitement from the festival that I get as a producer is seeing the looks on people’s faces when they hear something new,” Benjamin said.
Tickets, $40, and $5 tickets for children between ages 6 and 12 will be available at the gate. All children under 5 will be admitted for free.