Blues Fest hits Downtown Saturday

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June 6, 2005 // UPDATED 1:55 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Michael Metzger
Michael Metzger

There are a few rules to observe when throwing a blues party. First, get a band or two ready to howl out azure ecstasies. Second, make sure ribs and beer are available. Third, find a spot where funkified foot stomping is allowed.

These simple rules have been followed faithfully by the organizers of the Famous Dave's BBQ & Blues Festival, happening Saturday, June 11, noon-10:30 p.m. at Peavey Plaza, South 12th Street & Nicollet Mall.

The free festival features blues party band Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, the Motor City Rhythm & Blues Pioneers with Alberta Adams, Big Walter Smith, Mike Kindred, as well as the Butanes with Willie Walker.

Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials never phone in a performance. This Chicago band insists on delivering the their rough-rocking dance music in person with Ed ripping it up on slide guitar and vocals. The band hits the main stage at 7 p.m.

The members of the Motor City Rhythm & Blues Pioneers made their bones in doo wop, jump blues and early soul. Vocalists Stanley Mitchell and Kenny Martin played with greats such as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Clyde McPhatter and Ruth Brown as part of the touring Alan Freed rock 'n' roll shows of the 1950s. Now they're hooked up with longtime Detroit piano man Joe Weaver and singer Alberta Adams (who formerly performed with the likes of Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker and James Moody). They'll be on the main stage at 5 p.m.

Minneapolis legend Big Walter Smith and his band, the Groove Merchants, headline the festival. Smith, who was born 75 years ago in Mississippi, is celebrating 50 years of making music. All 300 pounds of Big Walter hit the stage at 9:10 p.m. to play his soul-stirring version of the dance-friendly blues.

The second stage features acoustic performers, including Minnesota's Paul Mayasich, playing his bottleneck-swamp blues (1:15 p.m.) and country blues singer-guitarist Rena Haus (2:40 p.m.).

Minneapolis's soulful Percy Strother was scheduled to be the main performer on the second stage, but as blues fans know all too well, the 58-year-old died of liver cancer on May 31.

A festival spokesperson said a tribute to the bluesman was being planned as the Skyway News went to press.

Strother had been a fixture on the Twin Cities blues scene since the 1970s, when he moved here from Mississippi.

Like that of most musicians, Strother's health insurance was inadequate to cover a serious illness. If you would like to help his family with his medical expenses, you can send a check to:

P.O. Box 22193
Robbinsdale, MN 55422
(Make checks payable to: Strother Family)

For more information on the blues festival, call952-294-1299 or go to