On Saturday, August 18 in River Falls, Wisconsin, the best festival of the summer will take place. No, it’s neither Pitchfork fest nor Lollapalooza nor Burning Man nor ACL moved to Wisconsin. No. The first annual Deep Blues Festival will take place. I have had a boner for this show since I read the lineup:
Scott H. Biram, Robert Belfour, Black Diamond Heavies, Elam McKnight, Sweet Velvet C (Chet of the Immortal Lee County Killers), Mark “Porkchop” Holder, Left Lane Cruiser, Moreland & Arbuckle, Hillstomp, William Elliott Whitmore, Radio Moscow, Chris Cotton, Brimstone Howl, John Schooley, The BirdDogs, KM Williams, The Texas Country Blues Preacher and the Trainreck and Johnny Lowebow
Seriously, and anyone who frequents this site knows this to be true, it’s like they made a lineup just for me. One of my top 3 favorite artists of ever, Scott Hiram Biram…probably the best live show I have seen this year in Radio Moscow….William Elliott Whitmore whom I fucking adore and I know is never coming to Florida…Black Diamond Heavies who I still regret missing when they came through town…the boogie woogie machine that is Hillstomp…and I have Brimstone Howl and Moreland & Arbuckle pieces in the works….WTF? This was made for me. The only way it could have possibly been better would have been if they’d have booked Jawbone.
Sadly, unless someone wants to buy me a plane ticket to the show, I will not be making it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t. This thing in gonna rock so hard it will curl attendees’ butt hairs. For more information, you can check out the Deep Blues Festival’s Official Site or their Myspace site, which includes links to the profiles of all the attendees.
Here is the Deep Blues Festival Sampler:
09 – William Elliott Whitmore – One Man’s Shame
15 – The BirdDogs – White Lightnin’
16 – KM Williams The Texas Country Blues Preacher and the Trainreck – I’m Rollin’
Below the cut is an interview with the organizer of the festival (aka: my hero) that he did for Honest Tune Magazine.
1. What or Who inspired you to put this party together?
The short answer is that I was asked by the booking agents for Scott H. Biram and The Black Diamond Heavies if I wanted them to play for another private block party this year. They were here last summer, and we had a really fun evening in our neighborhood. Of course, I wanted them back.
Ill give you a little longer version. Ive become a big fan of a genre of music I guess Ill call the Deep Blues. Ive never been able to describe it properly. Rick Saunders has a website with that same title. The introduction at the top of that page ends with Its about what MOVES me. Rump, Mind and goodfoot. The collection of bands he lists on that page move me as well. Individually, you would probably put other labels on them; rock, blues, hillbilly, punk, or whatever. Together, I see a connection between them. Rick does, and I know a few others that do too.
I stumbled upon Ricks site a few years ago when I was trying to learn more about artists on the Fat Possum record label. I saw T-Model Ford open for Johnny Winter at a Minneapolis club. That got me to the Fat Possum website where there was a link to the Set You Free video by the Black Keys. That was an epiphany. I was hooked in an instant. I learned that they encouraged audience taping and I quickly got into recording and trading live shows. Ive met the best people through sharing this music, and one of the benefits has been hearing their recommendations of other bands I would enjoy.
Over the past several years Ive been involved with a few charity events, and Ive brought in bands I enjoy. When Mississippi blues musician Jessie Mae Hemphill was being evicted from her home, I brought Richard Johnston up to our neighborhood and we collected several thousand dollars to help her find a new place to live. Last summer Scott H. Biram and the Black Diamond Heavies played for an event to help a family that was a victim of a severe car accident. Moreland & Arbuckle played here recently to raise funds for The Bridge, a local charity that works with disabled youth. Ive been able to bring a new audience to the bands I enjoy so much, get them a good paying gig, and also try to do some good works for others. There will be a local charity involved with this festival, and soon well be able to make that announcement.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel to a new festival put on by Kenny Brown, The North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic. No one had ever gathered so many of the hill country blues artists together for such an event. I guess that may have been the real inspiration to try to bring together something similar for the Deep Blues bands. When I was given the chance to bring in Biram and the Heavies, I immediately thought of making it a larger event and inviting more bands.
I believe there will be an audience that wants to see these bands play together, and I was willing to underwrite the event. The offer I made to the bands was that those bands that would accept a minimal guarantee would share the festival profits. They could make a donation to the charity if they wish, but it would be their choice. The festival sponsor money will all go directly to the charity. If the ticket proceeds dont cover the festival expenses and guarantees, I will pay the difference. People may say Im crazy to take all the risk, but I know Ill be there enjoying a great day of music from bands that I selected. I also have the satisfaction of bringing together this collection of bands which has never been done before.
2. How did you choose who to invite?
Since were inventing a new genre, I guess no one can complain that band does or doesnt fit in. I started making a list of those Ive gotten to know and those Id like to see. Most youll find reviewed on Ricks Deep Blues page. Several I had never seen play live, and thought this would be a great opportunity to see them perform. I didnt even consider inviting any bands from outside the country, but there are a large number of bands around the world that are definitely Deep Blues.
After jotting down about twenty names, I sent out emails describing what I was trying to do and asking about availability. Nearly everyone got back to me immediately with a positive response. The few that had conflicts almost unanimously requested to be involved next year. The next thing I had to do was to apologize to all the bands I hadnt even contacted. My original thought was to have ten or twelve bands, and within a day, I had several more than that agree to perform. Ive had to turn down dozens of bands that have contacted me after hearing about the festival. As it turns out, Im extremely happy with our lineup, and I just hope we can make this a larger event in the future.
I regret that we have to give most of the bands only 30 minutes of stage time. With 17 bands, its going to be a big day of music from noon to 11pm.
3. Is there a particular independent blues event that you are a regular attendee of?
I see these bands primarily in clubs. I dont believe they get invited to many festivals. If they do, theyre the token outsider. The one event Im aware of that features these bands is the Not The Same Old Blues Crap festival in London. That runs over a series of nights at the Spitz. Our event will have them all play the same day.
I would like to mention that it is my goal to make this event as fan friendly as possible. Things like free parking, affordable food and beverages, no ticket fees or delivery charges, no long lines, and continuous music are important to me. Were limiting the number of tickets to 1,000 to make sure that everyone has plenty of space. We have facilities to handle twice that many, but we want everyone to be comfortable. The event is for ages 21 and over, but encourage families to bring their kids at no charge.
4. How important or significant was the role that MySpace played in the making and planning of this event?
I think MySpace is fantastic. What a great way to sample and learn about new music. Were certainly using it to promote the event. All of these bands have large numbers of fans with MySpace sites, and it is very easy to make them aware of our festival.
5. How heavily are you relying on grassroots efforts to promote this party?
It would be great to sell out before we have to start purchasing advertising. The only downside to that would be for the fans of these bands that didnt know it was happening.
6. Are you finding River Falls to be receptive of your idea?
The only feedback Ive heard has been positive. I would guess much of our audience will be coming from the twin cities, but I hope we have many people from Hudson and River Falls that will come enjoy the day. The festival site is somewhat remote. Several miles from any town. It also borders the Kinnickinnic State Park, so there are very few neighbors.
7. I commend your choice to include philanthropy in the planning of your event. How did you decide on your beneficiary?
There are several groups I support and would like to work with. Weve offered the opportunity to one, but are awaiting their board approval before we can name the organization.
When I was approached by a few people willing to help sponsor this event, I decided that I dont need them to help fund the event, but we could certainly use their generosity to go to the charity were working with. Sponsors with money donations will know that 100% of their dollars are going to the charity. They will be acknowledged at the event, and in our advertising and festival brochure. Media sponsors that are assisting us with the promotion will also be recognized. All of the sponsors will be able to post their signs at the event.
8. What has been your most pleasant surprise in the planning process? Biggest shock?
The bands have been so enthusiastic and cooperative. I hope they see the opportunities of working together and supporting one another.
My greatest challenge was to find a suitable venue. I wanted an outdoor event where we could have an admission charge and have alcohol available. The obvious municipal parks and bandshells just dont make it convenient to hold such an event. Our event is too big for a neighborhood block party, yet not big enough to afford the large festival grounds. We had to find a private business that could accommodate our goals. I think weve found a great site.
9. This grass roots effort is exciting. Any words of wisdom for the music fans you might inspire to try planning their own event after attending The Deep Blues Fest?
Lets wait until after the event to answer that one. Im more than willing to tell everyone our successes and failures. I really hope people will be encouraged by this.