Tag Archive: live music

2011 Festival Date Set

The date for the 2011 Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival has been set! Marke your calendars and save the day: this year’s event will be on Saturday, October 29th, at the historic Rivoli Theatre, right here in Monmouth, Illinois. We are close to finalizing the line-up for the event – it’s going to be an amazing show – we’ll see you there!

Chocolate Drops Win Grammy!

2010 Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival headliner, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, took home the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album for Genuins Negro Jig in last Sunday’s Grammy Awards event!

In other Chocolate Drops news, Nonesuch Records spokeswoman Melissa Cusick told The Associated Press that founding member Justin Robinson has left the band. Beat boxer Adam Matta and multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins are coming aboard to join Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons, she said.

Also, on Wednesday’s American Idol Hollywood Week group day, one of the songs the contestants could select was Hit Em Up Style, a Blu Cantrell song that the Chocolate Drops recorded on Genuine Negro Jig and performed to an enthusiastic crowd at last year’s festival.

Duke Robillard at Fat Fish

Blues guitar great Duke Robillard will be playing at the Fat Fish Pub in Galesburg this Sunday, November 21st. Duke is a masterful guitar soloist and evangelist for the blues, called by the New York Times “a soloist of stunning force and originality.” Tickets are $20 before the show and $25 at the door. Doors open at 4pm and the show will kick off at 6pm.

Fat Fish Pub website.

Official Duke Robillard website.

Submissions for 2011 Deep Blue Innovators

If you are interested in being part of a magical day of music at the historic Rivoli Theatre for the 2011 Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival, please send your promotional materials in so they will reach our offices no later than January 20, 2011. The promo packs should be sent to:

Paul Schuytema


90A Public Square

Monmouth, IL 61462

Deep Blue Innovators a Huge Success

If you were there, then you know!

Blues fans from all across the country packed the Rivoli Theatre on Saturday night for the 2010 Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival. From 2pm until the stroke of midnight, the music and fellowship flowed in abundance. Many thanks to all the musicians, the fans, the sponsors and the volunteers – without each and every one of you, it would have been just another day of music… but this was more… this was special… a rare moment we all got to share.

Here are what some of the attendees had to say:

I have been to more than fifty blues festivals and this festival rates as the best I have attended. All of the acts individually were outstanding but the variation in musical styles made it truly special.

We drove from Madison WI for the festival and it was worth the drive! So much talent packed into one day and one place.

I thought Scott Ainslie gave about the best live performance I’ve ever seen – wonderful!

Thanks for the best fest yet! The music, ribs, and everything were the best ever.

I read about the festival and the small venue and decided to make the 900 mile trip. I just want to say we enjoyed all of the musicians.

Thanks to you for the fine hospitality and putting on such a great fest. -Dave Specter

Thank You, Monmouth! As a guest artist at the Deep Blue Innovators Blues festival at the Rivoli last Saturday (and a first time visitor to Monmouth) I salute you! The sense of community on stage and off was simply remarkable and something that you all can honestly brag about. – Scott Ainslie

To see pictures of the fest snapped by Doug Rankin, click here.

The 2010 Festival is Nearly Here!

After months of work and months of anticipation, the 2010 Deep Blue Innovators Festival will be here this Saturday, October 23rd at the historic Rivoli Theatre.

It will be a special day of music and fellowship in the blues. Here are some highlights:

  • Blues festival pre-party Friday night at Galesburg’s Fat Fish Pub, featuring Little Joe McLerran
  • Blues guitar workshops featuring Little Joe McLerran and Scott Ainslie at the Buchanan Center for the Arts (starting at 10am)
  • Doors open at 2pm
  • Demonstrations by Brian Baugh and his students: homemade Diddley Bows and Cigar Box guitars
  • Try out Hahn Amplifiers custom tube amps: the Short Stack and the Signet
  • Eddie B’s famous ribs
  • A lineup of amazing musicians: Hayes & Fleming, Little Joe McLerran, Scott Ainslie, The Dave Specter Band and the Carolina Chocolate Drops
  • After-fest blues jam

We’ll see you at the show!

2010 Performer: The Carolina Chocolate Drops

In the summer and fall of 2005, three young black musicians, Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson, made the commitment to travel to Mebane, North Carolina, every Thursday night to sit in the home of old-time fiddler Joe Thompson for a musical jam session. Joe was in his 80’s, a black fiddler with a short bowing style that he inherited from generations of family musicians. He had learned to play a wide ranging set of tunes sitting on the back porch with other players after a day of field work. Now he was passing those same lessons on to a new generation.

When the three students decided to form a band, they didn’t have big plans. It was mostly a tribute to Joe, a chance to bring his music back out of the house again and into dance halls and public places. They called themselves The Chocolate Drops as a tip of the hat to the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, three black brothers Howard, Martin and Bogan Armstrong, who lit up the music scene in the 1930’s. Honing and experimenting with Joe’s repertoire, the band often coaxed their teacher out of the house to join them on stage. Joe’s charisma and charm regularly stole the show.

The Chocolate Drops started playing around, rolling out the tunes wherever anyone would listen. From town squares to farmer’s markets, they perfected their playing and began to win an avid following of foot-tapping, sing-along, audiences.

“Tradition is a guide, not a jailer. We play in an older tradition but we are modern musicians.”
—Justin Robinson

While the young Chocolate Drops were upstarts in a stable of deep tradition, they were also the link between past and future. They began to expand their repertoire, taking advantage of what Dom calls “the novelty factor” to get folks in the door and then teaching and thrilling them with traditional music that was evolving as they performed. They teased audiences with history on tunes like “Dixie”, the apparent Southern anthem that musicologists suggest was stolen by the black-face minstrel Dan Emmert from the Snowden family, black Ohio musicians who missed their warm, sunny home. The “Drops” gave new energy to old tunes like John Henry and Sally Ann, adding blues songs, Gaelic acappella, and flat-footing to the show.

The band moved up through the festival circuit, from the Mt. Airy Fiddler’s Convention to MerleFest. They shared the stage with their new fan, Taj Mahal, and traveled to Europe. In 2007 they appeared in Denzel Washington’s film, The Great Debators and joined Garrison Keiler on Prairie Home Companion.  In 2008, they received an invitation to play on the Grand Ole Opry. The Drops were the first black string band to play the Opry. Opry host, Marty Stewart, pronounced the performance a healing moment for the Opry.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ latest disc, Genuine Negro Jig, is more revelation than revival. The old-time music that this trio of African-American musicians has been exploring for the last four years—with banjo, fiddle, guitar, snare, kazoo, jugs, and bones—offers pleasures both immediate and deep. “Trouble In Your Mind” and live-show favorite “Cornbread and Butterbeans” insist upon foot-tapping, if not a whirl around the closest dance floor, while others, like the brooding “Kissin’ and Cussin’” and the more sensual “Why Don’t You Do Right?,” invite comfortably seated rumination. But these generations-old songs, performed with both faithfulness and modernity, also represent a significant yet near-forgotten part of American musical history.

Behind its grooves, Genuine Negro Jig harbors extraordinary tales about the role of largely unsung black musicians who, from the pre-civil war south to the mid-20th Century, composed, performed, and passed on songs such as these, from parent to child, neighbor to neighbor. The Carolina Chocolate Drops focus on the sound of the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, the foothills where both black and white families settled and where musicians from both sides of the color line shared and swapped tunes.

Rolling Stone Magazine described the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ style as “dirt-floor-dance electricity”.  If you ask the band, that is what matters most. Yes, banjos and black string musicians first got here on slave ships, but now this is everyone’s music. It’s OK to mix it up and go where the spirit moves.

“We’re first and foremost entertainers and musicians,” Giddens emphasizes. “The other stuff enriches, deepens the experience. If you can’t enjoy the music on the surface, we aren’t doing our job. That’s been the problem with some historical-based music. Sometimes it feels like a lesson injected rather than just something to be enjoyed. We’re just pleased that we have the platform and that we can make a living playing this music. In this day and age, that’s no mean feat. Everything has fallen into place so nicely. We’re incredibly blessed; there is no other word for it.”

“Being able to play in an old vaudeville theater really creates an amazing atmosphere since so much of this music was performed in nice houses like this,” reflects Flemons. “This is for both the performers and the audience.  They are transported to an earlier time just by being entertained the way that people have been entertained for over a century.”

On Saturday night, be prepared to be transported back in time, yet also into the future of music, as the Carolina Chocolate Drops hit the stage of the Rivoli Theatre. In the music of the Chocolate Drops, we see what it truly means to be a Deep Blue Innovator.

For more information, please visit the Chocolate Drops website. Also, be sure to visit the Chocolate Drops artist’s store on Amazon.com.

2010 Performer: Scott Ainslie

Scott Ainslie heard Virginia Bluesman and grave digger, John Jackson play a couple of songs in the middle of a Mike Seeger concert just outside of Washington, DC, at Groveton High School back in 1967. Things haven’t been the same since.

Scott started playing guitar a month later and has now spent nearly forty years studying and playing traditional music, visiting and documenting senior musicians in America’s old-time banjo and fiddle music, Blues and gospel traditions.

With four CDs, a teaching DVD on the guitar techniques of Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson, and a book on Johnson’s music “Robert Johnson/At The Crossroads” (Hal Leonard, 1992) to his credit, as a performer and a teacher, Ainslie continues to present programs that are vital and entertaining. He currently makes his home in of Brattleboro, Vermont after transplanting there from North Carolina.

Ainslie’s deep voice and powerful slide guitar technique command attestation and pull the listener back in time, back before amplifiers and top-40 radio, to a time when the blues was a mirror of the lives working familes lead.

“I’ve played house concerts and sold out 1800 seat auditoriums,” reflects Ainslie, “and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d enjoyed them both. But, if I had to choose my favorite setting, it would be something in between:  a small theater whose stage has seen generations of my brothers and sisters over the years where, rather than separating the audience and the artists, the stage is a place where we come together and get to know each other. The Rivoli is one of those places. It has soul, a history, and when it’s filled up with people and artists, a living presence. It is going to be a real pleasure to join the ranks of musicians and performers who have walked onto that stage.”

“I spent a week with the Carolina Chocolate Drops years ago and had a ball,” continues Ainslie. “We’ve all spent time with Joe Thompson and we have interests in Old-Time music as well as Blues. We are going to have a ball.”

Ainslie will also be leading the second of two guitar workshops at the Buchanan Center for the Arts on the morning of the festival (Saturday, October 23rd, approximately 11am). Ainslie is a deeply dedicated teacher and historian and will bring his wellspring of knowledge to local musicians and blues fans.

“Back in 1967, when I began to play guitar I had no teacher,” says Ainslie.  ”No lessons, no workshops, no TAB, no YouTube videos: just a cheap guitar and a book of folksongs with chord diagrams (many of which were wrong). I spent some time wandering in the wilderness, falling into every muddy ditch, bumping into every tree. I can spare you a good portion of that walk. Having been there, I’m  a good guide. You’ll still have to walk the walk, of course, but it’s a big help to know which paths are dead ends and what you need to know to move forward.”

“Over the past 43 years, I’ve built a body of knowledge about roots guitar styles and acoustic blues and slide guitar. Robert Johnson, David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards, Muddy Waters, Blind Blake, Rev. Gary Davis, and Mississippi John Hurt and many other relatively unknown musicians have all shaped my understanding of this instrument, its expressive power and flexibility. Sharing that knowledge is one of the ways I honor them. It is a part of my responsibility as a link in a chain of human knowledge, culture and musical tradition.”

“And whenever I need to reconnect with those first few months and years with a guitar in my hands, I simply turn it around backwards and ask my left hand to do my right hand’s job and visa versa. The brain knows, but the muscle patterns necessary are discrete, handed knowledge. In a workshop, I can show your brain. You still have to develop the hand knowledge, the muscle patterns, which take time and repetition.”

“The beauty of having a teacher is to have them look at your hands and how you are playing a guitar and suggest ways to expand your playing and make what you are aiming to do simpler, easier and musically more effective. I always enjoy being allowed into someone’s musical life and being able to be useful. It can be difficult here in America for an artist to feel useful. When it happens, it is always a good thing.”

The workshops are free and open to the public, but seating is limited, so please RSVP using the contact for on the MonmouthBlues.com site.

To learn more about Scott Ainslie, check out his website.

Jimmy Thackery at Fat Fish on Thursday!

Hot guitarist and found member of the Nighthawks Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers will descend on the Fat Fish Pub this Thursday. Tickets are $25 at the door (opens at 4pm) and the show starts at 6pm.

Thackery comes by his six-string brilliance honestly, having learned from the very best sources. Besides Buddy Guy and Jimi Hendrix, Thackery cites Chicago axe master Otis Rush as a primary influence. Moreover, he learned quite a bit from playing on stage alongside such blues legends as Muddy Waters, James Cotton and Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson.

Thackery has been acclaimed as one of the hottest live acts around, with his jaw-dropping performances becoming the stuff of legend. As the Boston Globe put it, “Jimmy Thackery is a four-hour performer. That’s not how long he plays, but how long one should travel to see him. He’s a phenomenal guitarist, one of the best we’ve seen.”

Coming In From Out Of Town?

If you are coming from out of town to see the 2010 Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival, then plan on having a wonderful day. Remember that there will be blues guitar workshops starting at 10am on the festival day (Saturday, October 23rd) and the fest doors open at 2pm. The fest generally runs until around midnight. If you plan on coming in on Friday or staying Saturday night, here are the best local accommodations:

The 2010 Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival

Kellerman Rocks MVBS Festival

We trekked up to the IH Mississippi Valley Blues fest on July 4th and enjoyed an amazing day of live music. Standouts included Bill Sims and Mark LaVoie, playing old school Delta blues with some sweet harmonica. We also spied harmonica wizard Matthew Skoller in the audience catching the grooves.

The Shawn Kellerman Band ripped up the main stage just as folks were starting to freak about the rain. A few drops fell and the radar looked dire, but the festival was spared and Kellerman destroyed the set. We had a chance to stop by and talk with them after the show – it was Kellerman’s birthday and the MVBS provided a huge cake for him.

Other standouts were Kim Massie, belting out with an amazing voice, and for the headliner, it was the Tommy Castro Band featuring Debbie Davis on guitar, Magic Dick (of J. Geils Band fame) on harp and Sista Monica on vocals. The rythm and blues revue tore up the stage and Sista Monica riveted the crowd with an amazing parformance.

All in all, another great year of music for the MVBS. Great job guys – keep the blues flowing!

Mississippi Valley Blues Festival This Weekend

The awesome Mississippi Valley Blues Festival is this weekend in LeClaire Park in Davenport. It looks to be an amazing three days of music, and I hope to see you there!

Some standout performances include 2008 Deep Blue Innovators alumni Lurrie Bell on Friday, 2010 DBI performer (and workshop leader) Little Joe McLerran on Saturday, 2009 DBI performer Shawn Kellerman on Sunday as well as Tony Castro and the Nighthawks.

For a full lineup, click here.

See the Bruce Katz Band at Fat Fish

See this amazing, energized piano-based band on Tuesday, June 22nd at the Fat Fish Pub in Galesburg.

Bruce Katz is a legendary keyboardist (Hammond B3 and piano), and besides leading his own band is currently a member of the Gregg Allman Band. Based in Woodstock, NY, he has appeared on nearly 70 other CDs with the likes of Ronnie Earl, Duke Robillard, Little Milton, Jimmy Witherspoon, John Hammond, David “Fathead” Newman and many, many others.

The Bruce Katz Band blurs the lines between blues, soul-jazz, rock and New Orleans inspired roots music – their trademark instrumental jams with an equal number of vocal tunes as well. The band has a trademark sound, blending the B3 organ and guitar. Bruce has been nominated for the past 3 years in a row by the Memphis based Blues Foundation for their “Piano Player of the Year” award, which is the equivalent of the “Blues Grammys”.

For more information, see the Fat Fish Pub website… click here.

2010 Festival Lineup Announced

MonmouthBlues.com is pleased to announce the lineup for the 2010 Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival. This year’s festival, to be held on Saturday, October 23rd, will be the best yet. We’ll see you at the show!

Starting the festival off will be our old friends Hayes and Fleming.

Next, we’ll enjoy the old-school, energized guitar mastery of Oklahoma’s own Little Joe McLerran.

Blues troubadour Scott Ainslie is trekking down from Vermont and will take the stage and deliver a set of powerful slide guitar blues.

Master guitar virtuoso Dave Specter will bring his band to present a set of eclectic jazz-inspired blues.

…and headlining this year’s festival will be the one and only Carolina Chocolate Drops! We’re very fortunate to have this internationally-recognized group make a stop in Monmouth to thrill us with their high-energy, toe-tappin’ deep roots blues. This is not to be missed!

Before the festival, we will once again have a guitar workshop, this time featuring both Little Joe McLerran and master-teacher Scott Ainslie.

Tickets will go on sale online later this month and will be available at local outlets by mid-July.

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