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Preliminary Round of the Iowa Blues Challenge

This just in: Admission is now $5, $4 for Mississippi Valley Blues Society members.

The preliminary round of the Iowa Blues Challenge will be held at Rascals (1414 15th St., Moline) on Sunday April 11th starting at 5:00 p.m. Admission is $10, $7 for Mississippi Valley Blues Society members. The Pocket Deuces Blues Band takes the stage at 5:00, V.J.J. Groove comes on at 6:00, and the Steady Rollin’ Blues Band starts at 7:00. Each band will play a 30- minute set, and after the challenge there will be a jam session.

The bands will be judged by three experts from as far away as Des Moines and Peoria. Each band will be evaluated in five categories: blues content, vocal talent, instrumental talent, originality, and stage presence. The winner of this Quad-City round will travel to Des Moines on May 22 to compete at the state level. The winner of the Iowa Blues Challenge will then travel to Memphis in early 2011 to compete in the International Blues Challenge. The winner of the Iowa Blues Challenge will also have a slot at the 2010 IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. Last year’s winners of the Iowa Blues Challenge were The Avey Brothers Band of the Quad-Cities; they went on to become finalists in Memphis.

Visit Rascals online here.

Tommy Castro Band

Tommy Castro

The Tommy Castro Band will be appearing at Galesburg’s Fat Fish Pub on Sunday, April 18 (showtime is 6pm).

Castro is a rising star of the blues, and has been honored with a slew of award nominations for 2010, including Band of the Year and the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year by the Blues Music Awards.

Check out Tommy’s website here.

Brooks Williams at Tri States NPR

Brooks Williams

The amazing Brooks Williams brings this season’s Celebration Concert series to a close at 7PM on Saturday, March 27th in Tri States NPR’s Music Performance Studio in Macomb.

You can buy tickets here.

MonmouthBlues.com Gets a Makeover

As we get ready for the 2010 Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival, it was time to give the old site (getting a little long in the tooth) a bit of a makeover.

This new site is powered by WordPress and will make it much easier for me to keep updated and I think it’ll far easier to use. Drop us a line and let us know what you think.

2010 Festival Date Set!

It’s official! The date for the 2010 Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival will be Saturday, October 23rd, 2010. Mark your calendars and line up your baby-sitters. It’s going to be a great show.

In a few weeks, I’ll be able to release the 2010 performer line up – rest assured, it’ll be the best yet!

Bernie Pearl Workshop Article

The Monmouth Daily Review Atlas just published an article on Saturday’s wonderful workshop with Bernie Pearl and Mike Barry. You can read it here.

Oh Yes!

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!

Friday Night Fun

The Friday before the 2009 Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival saw local musicians and festival performers take the stage at Buddes in Galesburg.

Joe Price, Vicki Price, Bernie Pearl and Mike Barry all took the stage for some solid blues jams as did local favorites Mike Budde, Nathan Hahn and Curtis Hawkins.

The packed bar got to hear a preview of the festival as well as win some festival swag (t-shirts, tickets and CDs).

2009 Festival Advance Coverage

We’ve had some great advance press come out on the festival today:

IllinoisBlues.com Blues Blast

Feature article in the Galesburg Register Mail

Well see you at the show… only two days away!

2009 Performer: Watermelon Slim

watermelon slim

“Does anyone in modern pop music have a more intriguing biography than Bill “Watermelon Slim” Homans?” asked the Memphis Flyer.

Slim was born in Boston and raised in North Carolina listening to his maid sing John Lee Hooker and other blues songs around the house. His father was a progressive attorney and ex-freedom rider and his brother is now a classical musician. Slim dropped out of Middlebury College to enlist for Vietnam. While laid up in a Vietnam hospital bed he taught himself upside-down left-handed slide guitar on a $5 balsawood model using a triangle pick cut from a rusty coffee can top and his Army issued Zippo lighter as the slide.

Returning home an fervent anti-war activist, Slim first appeared on the music scene with the release of the only known record by a veteran during the Vietnam War. The project was Merry Airbrakes, a 1973 protest tinged LP with tracks Country Joe McDonald later covered.

In the following 30 plus years Slim has been a truck driver, forklift operator, sawmiller (where he lost part of his finger), firewood salesman, collection agent, and even officiated funerals. At times he got by as a small time criminal. At one point he was forced to flee Boston where he played peace rallies, sit-ins and rabbleroused musically with the likes of Bonnie Raitt.

He ended up farming watermelons in Oklahoma – hence his stage name and current home base. Somewhere in those decades Slim completed two undergrad degrees in history and journalism.

Watermelon Slim’s accolades are legion, including being only one of four musicians ever nominated for a record tying six blues music awards in 2007 (the only others to accomplish this feat were B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Robert Cray). To see all of Slim’s nominations and awards, click here.

Now, this award winning bluesman and storyteller will descend on the Rivoli stage to give the Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival a set like no other – innovative, exciting and deeply rooted in the blues.

“Now I’m pumped,” says Slim. ” First of all, I’m going to get to see my old friend Joe Price. I have watched Joe’s magic down here in Oklahoma City, at the Blue Door. I am honored to be on a bill with him!”

“Then besides that, I get to meet up with another buddy, Shawn Kellerman. What a freakin MENSCH! One hard-working all-around showman. We got to jam a little bit up in Mont Tremblant back in early August. I play Canada quite a bit, so we run into each other a few times a year at least.”

“And your theme–Innovators– is spot on, least as far as I’m concerned. I try to keep the music new, keep it my own. The blues will never be a museum exhibit in my hands, nosireebob!”

www.watermelonslim.com

Our 2009 Sponsors

Sponsors

As we grow the festival each year, we need to rely more and more on our local sponsors to help us bring in the top regional and national talent for the festival. This year, we have a solid core of sponsors who believe in our mission and help to make the festival possible (we even have two anonymous sponsors this year!). Our deep thanks go out to them for their continued support.

Security Savings Bank
Cerar’s Barnstormer
Midwest Bank of Western Illinois
Maple City Dental

2009 Festival Schedule

Saturday, October 24th, 2008
At the historic Rivoli Theatre in Monmouth, Illinois

Need directions to the Rivoli? Click here.

EVENT SCHEDULE:

2:00pm: doors open
2:30pm: Hayes and Fleming perform

4:00pm: Joe and Vicki Price perform

5:30pm: Bernie Pearl performs

7:15pm : The Shawn Kellerman Band performs

9:00pm : Watermelon Slim performs

10:30pm : open jam

Eddie B will serve rib snacks, full rib dinners and pulled pork sandwiches thoughout the afternoon and evening.

This schedule is a best guess. We’ve got a lot of musical equipment to change out from act to act. Be sure to kick back and hang out for the open jam!

We’ll see you at the show!!

2009 Performer: Shawn Kellerman

Shawn Kellerman

Guitar wizard Shawn Kellerman is poised to join the innercircle of musicians who define modern blues. Traditional forms are reinterpreted — a not-so-subtle union of past and present delivered with ferocious authenticity.

Shawn understood from the beginning that true blues is a cultural tradition, passed down directly from today’s masters to the next generation. As a result, Shawn spent 5 years in Mississippi and Washington D.C., living, playing and touring with such notable blues artists as Mel Brown, Deborah Coleman, and Bobby Rush. Shawn was a regular on topdraw blues stages playing the Chitlin’ Circuit and the Five-Star Touring Scene and has performed hundreds of international gigs in over 20 countries.

These years on the road gave birth to Shawn’s trademark live stage presence, an unforgettable high-energy assault on the audience that is as much felt as heard.

Over the years Shawn has also earned the status of a highly respected guest artist for numerous live shows and recording sessions. Shawn has recently appeared on stage with W.C. Handy Award Nominee Paul Reddick and Hohner Harmonica World Award Winner Carlos Del Junco. His powerful playing was also featured on Michael Pickett’s Juno nominated CD “Conversation with the Blues” and in 2005 Shawn was invited to play at The House of Blues 80th birthday celebration for B.B. King.

Shawn’s high energy playing, deep-blue soul and original spin on a classical musical form make his show an event that will not soon to be forgotten. He is clearly a Deep Blue Innovator and we look forward to hearing him tear up the Rivoli stage.

Shawn’s latest album is Blues Without a Home, available on his website. Visit Shawn’s web site here.

2009 Festival Press Release

Monmouth, IL, October 6, 2009 — Some of the most innovative and award-winning blues performers in the nation will descend on the Rivoli Theatre stage for the third annual MonmnouthBlues.com blues festival, on Saturday, October 24th. This day-long event will feature national and regional acts, an open mic jam and rib dinners by Eddie Burton.

The theme of this year’s festival is Deep Blue Innovators. The festival will highlight artists with a traditional “blues soul” but who are also taking innovative approaches to their music, providing something new to this classical genre of American music.

Regional performers Charlie Hayes and Joel Fleming will light up the stage as an acoustic guitar and harmonica duo. They will perform classic and new blues songs enhanced by smoking hot improvised jams.

Joe and Vicki Price (www.joepriceblues.com), from Lansing, Iowa, will return to the Rivoli stage after a toe-tapping performance at the inaugural blues festival. Joe and Vicki play a hard driving, addictive for of country blues that just compels the crowd to get up and move.

“We had such a good time the first year, that we couldn’t wait to come back,” said Price. “This is the most intimate festival around for both the musicians and the audience… a real chance to get in touch.”

Legendary blues master Bernie Pearl (www.berniepearl.com) travels to Monmouth from the Long Beach, California. Pearl cut his teeth on the blues decades ago with such bluesmasters as ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb and Mississippi Fred MacDowell. Pearl will not only perform at the festival, but he will also deliver a blues guitar workshop at the Buchanan Center for the Arts on Saturday morning from 10:30am until noon. This event is free and open to the public (please RSVP to paul@monmouthblues.com).

“I am very honored to be included in a festival that honors the tradition and encourages innovation,” said Pearl. “Not only am I going to get to play for a new group of people, but I get to share my ideas on playing with a bunch of blues guitarists. What fun!”

Heading to the festival from Canada is the up and coming Shawn Kellerman Band (www.shawnkellerman.com). Shawn is a guitarist and songwriter blessed with a powerful voice and serious skills on the guitar. Mixing old school blues with a taste of funk and hip hop, Kellerman is taking the blues into a new era while remaining true to the form.

“I am honored to be included in this year’s festival,” said Kellerman. “I have heard it is at a great venue and of course can’t wait to do another show with the great Watermelon Slim! I feel fun a-brewing!!!”

Headlining this year’s festival is the one and only Watermelon Slim (www.watermelonslim.com). The unconventional Slim is a musical storyteller, with a blending of traditional blues, jump blues and some vaudeville showmanship. Slim has farmed watermelons, earned multiple college degrees, worked as a truck driver, fought in Vietnam, rallied against the war and even spent time as a small time criminal.

His varied background provides fertile ground for wonderfully creative and innovative blues compositions that have earned him many awards and nominations, including 2008 album of the year (for “The Wheel Man”) and band of the year.

“Your theme– ‘Innovators’– is spot on,” said Slim, “at least as far as I’m concerned. I try to keep the music new, keep it my own. The blues will never be a museum exhibit in my hands, nosireebob!”

“However, I am also a man who loves old theaters… I am looking forward to breathing the air inside such a veteran theater, seeing the places backstage where the dust has long settled because the broom or vacuum nozzle couldn’t get to them.”

“Ah, the familiar glide of curtain velvet, the dear little set-up routine, the sound of the crowd increasing in the lobby as showtime approaches– the applause, the blessing of the crowd– the nightcap afterwards– all of this I’m looking forward to at the Rivoli Theatre!”

The Rivoli Theatre, with is remodeled interior and state of the art sound system, is an intimate, unforgettable location to watch this performers work their craft. Anyone who has performed or seen one of the MonmouthBlues.com events at the Rivoli can attest to the quality of the sound and the comfort of the venue.

Mark your calendars, call your friends and plan to spend October 24th with some of the finest blues musicians in the country. The Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival will be an unforgettable day of music.

Tickets are $14 prior to the show and will be $17 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online now or at the following local businesses: Monmouth (Buchanan Center for the Arts, Bijou Pub, Daw Violins), Galesburg (Cherry Street Guitars, MusicMakers, Capitol Music), Macomb (Capitol Music) and Burlington (Weird Harolds). Doors will open at 2pm and the show will start at 2:30pm.

MonmouthBlues.com is an initiative to bring great live blues music to the Monmouth area, as well as highlight local talent already playing around the region. Concert information, local events and event tickets can all be found online at www.MonmouthBlues.com.

2009 Performer: Bernie Pearl

Bernie Pearl

The blues is life itself to Bernie Pearl. A guitarist with an upbeat, finger-poppin’ picking style he learned at the elbows of bluesmasters Sam ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Mississippi Fred MacDowell, and others. Yet, Bernie Pearl is no hidebound traditionalist. As music critics and aficionados have said for years, he is a craftsman who packs his songs with melodic interpretations that are new and personal each time he picks up his vintage Martin or National. To hear him tell it, “I’m not a retro player. I’m playing real blues for right now.”

Bernie, who grew up in the Los Angeles community of Boyle Heights, took up the guitar in the 1950′s. Later, at his brother’s legendary blues showcase, the Ash Grove, he met, studied with, and often performed with greats like Hopkins, Lipscomb, and MacDowell as well as with Freddie King, Albert Collins, and Big Mama Thornton. Bernie played duets with John Lee Hooker at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village. “They were my teachers,” he says, “and it wasn’t just music they were teaching. If you took Mance or Lightnin’ out fishing you got philosophy, history, and lessons in life”.

Armed with the teachings of those and other blues icons, Bernie raises the roof with dazzling guitar solos – acoustic and electric – and with his own Bernie Pearl Blues Band, which has backed the likes of B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Dixon, and Big Joe Turner.

For music lovers tired of market-tested commercial radio and industry-buffed overnight phenoms, Pearl provides virtuosity, country wisdom, a warm voice, and the kind of fingerpicking and slide guitar work that still gets juke-joints jumping.

“Making blues music draws from someplace deep,” he says. “I’m lucky. It’s what I do.”

We are also pleased to announce that Bernie will not only be performing at the 2009 festival, he will also be providing a free blues guitar workshop at the Buchanan Center for the Arts on Saturday morning, October 24th, from 10:30am until noon. For more information, click here.

Visit Bernie’s website at: www.berniepearl.com

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