Barrie’s cure for the mid-winter blues is music. The 22nd annual February Blues Festival unfolds in clubs, restaurants, libraries across the county Jan. 31 to Feb. 3.
“It’s a broad-based music festival that embraces all genres of music,” said festival organizer Robin Munro. “We’re involved with clubs with independent music, alternative music, lots of blues, lots of jazz. Really the February Blues Festival is a celebration of live music at a forbidding time of the year. It’s a really cozy festival (and) a much different approach to a music festival. We’re doing something really intimate and engaging that features the artists (one on one) with the music.”
This year’s highlights include Jack de Keyzer’s Britain’s Got the Blues concert. The multiple award-winning guitarist is a regular at Barrie’s jazz and blues festivals as well as at similar events in Montreal and Ottawa, France and Mexico. He will be playing some of the music of Britain’s blues guitarists. Inspired by American guitarists, British musicians expanded on it, reintroduced it back to North America and influenced rock and roll.
“Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page each had a fascinating take on American guitar playing and we all know that led to some brilliance (such as) Queen guitarist Brian May and the Bohemian Rhapsody movie everyone is excited about,” said Munro.
Jack de Keyzer is known for blending blues with elements of jazz, soul, R&B and early rock ‘n’ roll. His latest recordings are Checkmate and The Best of Jack de Keyzer, Volume One. He is expected to compete in Memphis, Tennessee for the International Blues Challenge 2019.
Tony Springer is also slated to play. Last year, he did a musical story of his life from Trinidad to Toronto. This year, he will be performing some Jimi Hendrix. While he has become known for Hendrix performances that leave fans awestruck, Springer is also a member his own group, Wild T & The Spirit, a blues, rock, funk and reggae trio out of Toronto. He has released seven albums and toured across North America and Europe for the past 25 years.
Toronto singer Tia Brazda brings her blues-related music, jump jive and swing back for another fun, entertaining performance. Watch for it at the Innisfil Public Library’s IdeaLAB. Libraries in Midland, Barrie and Bradford (Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library) are also participating in the festival.
The Ontario Musicians Cooperative Inc. (OMCI), a new not-for-profit member-owned social enterprise, is hoping to feature some local singers, musicians, songwriters and the like in a variety of pop-up performances throughout the festival.
For an unscripted show, stop by the Rotunda at city hall for the Cabin Fever Blues Jam Friday night. It draws musicians from around the county.
“It’s an open jam and all the equipment is there,” said Munro. “People can just bring their guitar and/or their voice.”
Two new clubs will be joining the festival this year, Redline Brewhouse and The Speakcheasy. Performances will will be held at as well as numerous other venues.
Visit barriejazzbluesfest.com for a complete lineup of who plays where Jan. 31 to Feb. 3.
Photo: Tony Springer will be presenting a show of Jimi Hendrix’s music during the February Blues Festival.