If you were there, then you know!

From Bernie Pearl’s guitar workshop at the Buchanan Center for the Arts to the after hours jam tipping past midnight, the 2009 Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival was a rousing success.

Over one hundred and seventy fans congregated at the historic Rivoli Theatre for a day of blues music, fellowship and slow-cooked ribs.

Local favorites Hayes and Fleming started the event with an hour of classic blues jams with a jazzy harp twist. Following them, Iowa blues hall-of-famer Joe Price, accompanied by his wife Vicki, delivered an energized set that saw him stomping out rhythms with his boots to keep time with his frenetic slide guitar.

Seventy-year-old blues legend Bernie Pearl took the stage with Mike Barry, considered by many to be the world’s finest acoustic blues bass player, to deliver a set of classic blues with a jam-band flavor.

Following Pearl, Canadian blues-rocker Shawn Kellerman took the stage to deliver a set of such raw energy that the crowd was literally breathless – moving from original blues rock numbers to century-old gospel tunes, Kellerman shredded the stage with an energy rarely seen in live music. “This is the best band I’ve ever seen play here at the Rivoli,” said Chris Carr, the sound engineer, “and Shawn was the best guitar player I’ve ever seen live.”

Closing the show was Watermelon Slim, one of the leading blues performers in the country. Playing a solo Dobro and harp, Slim mesmerized the audience with tragic tales of the open road and high-energy raunchy ballads.

“This was truly a world class blues festival,” said Slim. “I’ll come back here and play any time.”

The blues press and blues pundits from the Mississippi Valley Blues Society, IllinoisBlues.com and Blue Monday Monthly covered the event and stayed throughout the day, enjoying the after-hours jam of Hayes, Price, Kellerman and Slim.

The theme of the event clearly focused on innovative blues playing, but by midnight Saturday, the Rivoli felt more like a Depression-era juke-joint – jumping with the vibes of a truly American art form.

Like I said, if you were there, then you know… if not… make plans for next year!

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