The Maine Blues Festival’s name is simple, yes, but full of deeper meaning as well.
It’s a festival held in Maine featuring blues music, that’s true. But unlike some festivals, the place in the name isn’t just the location.
The Maine Blues Festival focuses on Maine blues musicians, people who work day jobs at the local community college or in the supermarket, but who live to play the blues on nights and weekends.
The festival, in its ninth year, will feature about 50 Maine blues acts at 10 venues Friday through Sunday. The venues, mostly clubs and restaurants, are spread out along Route 302 in the Lakes Region town of Naples.
The festival’s co-founder, slide guitar player and Southern Maine Community College physics teacher Kevin Kimball, said the festival has remained Maine-centric on purpose. He says to introduce national blues acts into the festival line-up would “diminish the perceived status” of Maine artists.
“We subscribe to the belief that blues begins in the neighborhood. We believe that blues at its most fundamental level is a local art form,” said Kimball, who plays in the band Blue Steel Express.
Kimball, who grew up in Sanford and spent 20 years in the Navy, said he fell in love with the blues after listening to Eric Clapton. His band puts on a sort of “blues revue” show, featuring a wide range of blues standards and some originals. But the 50 or so artists lined up to play the festival offer a very wide range of examples of what the blues can be.
Here are just a few:
The Blues Mafia, a six-piece band that combines funk, swing and Latin flavors and even features a violin.
The Bellamy Jazz Band, a Chicago-style jazz band that’s been together 28 years and has played frequently in New Orleans and Chicago.
Barry Dumper, a vintage finger-style guitar picker playing a lot of early 20th-century acoustic blues.
Juke Joint Devils, an old-school jump and swing band featuring some blasting harmonica.
The Roy-Hudson Band, specializing in “roadhouse boogie” music designed to get people dancing.
Though there are events all weekend, organizers consider Saturday “festival day.” One admission, and a wristband, entitles you to all the venues that day. Some of the venues include: Freedom Cafe; Sandy’s on Long Lake; Captain Jack’s; Rick’s Cafe; Lost Lobstah; Merced’s on Brandy Pond; and Bray’s Brewpub.
The entertainment kicks off Saturday at the Village Green, with vendors, artisans and children’s activities and music. A little later in the afternoon various performances at the restaurants and pub begin, and last into the night. And everywhere you go, you’ll see local talent.
“Ultimately, this festival is about putting as many of Maine’s blues artists in front of as many people as possible,” Kimball said.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday; Most shows are noon to late night Saturday
WHERE: Ten clubs and other venues throughout Naples along Route 302
HOW MUCH: $12 in advance and $16 on day of shows, for Saturday only; Friday and Sunday events don’t require festival admission, but some venues may charge a cover; free for children 12 and under.