Blues festival keeps growing
Beaumont event shines spotlight on big names and local talent
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Jun 21, 2014 06:00 am
Matt Andersen and The Sheepdog
Beaumont Blues & Roots Festival
Beaumont Agricultural Society Fairgrounds
Tickets: $70 per day or $125 for weekend pass at www.bbrf.ca
Wayne Allchin is a marketing manager’s nightmare and a reporter’s dream. The St. Albert singer-songwriter tells like it is. There’s no filter, no shiny spin muzzling his personal truths.
In addition to a manic guitar technique that makes him a go-to musician, it’s his tongue-in-cheek frankness that makes him a charismatic blues and roots singer-songwriter – one of those rare voices who magically weaves an authentic bond with listeners.
High in demand across the capital region, the Wayne Allchin Band is playing at the musically diverse seventh annual Beaumont Blues & Roots Festival, running June 21 and 22. His one-hour gig is Saturday at 3 p.m. Joining him are Bill Fuhrer (bass) and fill-in drummer Byran Bueckert.
Headlining the festival on Saturday night is the East Coast’s popular blues singer-songwriter Matt Andersen. On Sunday, the star billing goes to three-time Juno Award-winning boogie rock band The Sheepdogs from Saskatoon.
In total, 28 national and local musicians were tapped for this three-day event that started Friday at the Beaumont Agricultural Fairgrounds.
There is an undercurrent of frustration flowing among many local musicians that too often festivals tend to bring in big names from out of town while disregarding area talent.
“It’s good to see new influences and what they can do, but when you’re not on the roster because you’re not from out-of-town or don’t have a major label behind you, it makes me angry,” says Allchin.
In the same breath he adds his gratitude to the Beaumont festival organizers for recognizing musicians’ sensitivities and including local area artists. Half the festivals’ acts are Edmonton-and-area talent.
“A festival like this brings out the best. It puts a spotlight on the city and it shows the rest of Canada how much talent there is here,” he said.
Allchin enjoys sitting in the Beaumont audience with equal enthusiasm to playing on stage.
“I love for people to experience the music, but also the environment and the atmosphere. You sit down and somebody brings in a lawn chair and sits beside you. Suddenly you have a new friend and you can commiserate together. It’s very friendly. It’s not us (musicians) and them (audience). It’s just us. And this camaraderie generates so much energy.”
The festival initially started as a tourism venture to promote Beaumont. The first one-day festival roster was stacked strictly with blues musicians from the capital region. About 200 people attended.
By the second year, the festival expanded to two days with 22 acts. At the time, St. Albert drummer Mark Ammar noted that the successful lineups were in part due to Vancouver blues musicians vacating the West Coast scene and setting up shop in Alberta.
“After the third year, we started to go in a new direction. We decided to diversify and brought in talent that sometimes strayed out of the strict blues and roots genre,” says current festival chair Jeremy Kornell.
This year 14 acts are from out-of-town with local singer-songwriters sandwiched in between.
Saturday night’s highlight is returning blues artist Matt Andersen. Although he’s performed numerous times in the area, including at the Arden Theatre, his popularity just keeps rising.
“A lot of people are very excited about him. When you hear him, he has this incredible voice. He’s a great guitar player and he’s very captivating,” Kornell says.
He is particularly excited about The Sheepdogs’ Sunday evening performance. A traditional five-piece, the band’s roots-blues-rock music and blue-collar lyrics are easy for people to relate to.
“By having The Sheepdogs, this confirms a leap in the level of talent from the past. It was a bigger leap financially and logistically, but it will take the festival to a whole other level,” Kornell says.
A couple other acts to take note of are Punch Drunk, a rockabilly/cowboy country band that revs it up a notch, and then there’s the duo Whitehorse with mesmerizing guitar work and smouldering vocal chemistry.
The Raygun Cowboys, a psychobilly rock ’n roll band from Edmonton simply roll up their shirtsleeves and play high-energy rockabilly that gets people dancing.
And the sexy Canadian singer Lindi Ortega, now living in Tennessee, has a voice that’s been described as a blend of Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris.
“If you like good music, come down and see it,” Allchin says.
A complete schedule of events is available at www.bbrf.ca.