St. John Tradewinds News

Twice the Fun: 9th Annual Johnnie Walker St. John Blues Festival; Blues concert in Coral Bay will feature two main concerts on Saturday and Sunday

Aaron Moreland and Dustin Arbuckle, above, will close out the second night of the 9th Annual St. John Blues Festival on Saturday, March 19.

Get ready St. John!

The ninth annual Johnnie Walker St. John Blues Festival is this weekend and Blues Boss Steve Simon is kicking things into high gear this year.

Presented by Steve and Jeff Simon, the festivities kick off on Wednesday, March 16, and don’t slow down until Sunday, March 20. There are concerts scheduled at bars and restaurants across St. John starting on

Wednesday, March 16 (see full Blues Festival Schedule below).

And Simon is packing in twice the fun this year. Instead of the traditional culminating sole main concert in the Coral Bay ball field on Saturday night, this year’s festival will include two amazing concerts in the field.

The Friday night, March 18, concert will feature the musical stylings of Albert Cummings, Candye Kane and Grady Champion. On Saturday night, March 19, Curtis Salgado, Reba Russell and Moreland and Arbuckle are set to rock the crowd at the Coral Bay ball field.

“For many, many years, so many people who attend the Blues Festival have told me how much they love it and enjoy it,” said Simon. “But the common denominator statement I always hear is ‘You go through all of this energy and effort to set up the ball field why don’t you do it for more than one night.’”

“It really is a tremendous amount of work to set up the infrastructure for the festival and we tear it all down right after the show,” Simon said. “After last year’s show, we were tearing it down after the concert and I turned to my crew and said ‘This is so much fun, we really ought to do this two nights.’ I’m so happy about it and we’re really taking it to a whole different level.”

Not only is Simon taking the festival to new heights with two nights of concerts in the Coral Bay field, but he’s upping the ante with the level of talent in this year’s festival as well.

Friday night’s lineup is sure to impress. Hailing from Massachusetts, Albert Cummings will kick things off, opening the first show. His particular style of blues packs a soulful and explosive punch sure to get the crowd in fine form.

Taking the stage next will be Candye Kane, who was nominated for three 2010 National Blues Foundation Awards for BB King Entertainer of the Year, Best Blues Contemporary CD and Best Contemporary Blues Female, the highest honor for blues artists.

Originally from East Los Angeles, Kane has 10 CDs, six record labels and millions of international road miles to her name and her energetic live shows are the stuff of legend.

Mississippi blues man Grady Champion will have no problem keeping the energy high in the Coral Bay ball field. Wrapping up the Friday night concert, Champion will show off his distinct blues voice which earned him the crown of the Blues Foundation 2010 International Blues Challenge.

The blues don’t even come close to stopping on Saturday night. Curtis Salgado will get things started right with his impressive vocal talent and his jaw-dropping harmonica skills. The man who inspired John Belushi to create “The Blues Brothers” certainly knows how to get a crowd going, so don’t miss Salgado on Saturday night.

Reba Russell, known as the reigning Queen of Memphis, will keep the ball rolling with a voice that has captivated many a blues fanatic. Taking the stage last on Saturday night will be Moreland and Arbuckle.

Guitarist Aaron Moreland, harpist and vocalist Dustin Arbuckle and drummer Brad Horner are certain to keep the crowd on its feet and wrap up the ninth annual St. John Blues Festival like none before.

After meeting at an open mic session in Wichita, Kansas, more than a decade ago, Moreland and Arbuckle are just hitting their stride, putting out amazing blues tunes without painting themselves into a corner. That means the blues crowd is in for a treat on Saturday night.

“The crowd should expect something different from us,” said Arbuckle from his Kansas home before heading down to Love City for the first time. “We like to listen to a lot of different music and we’re all influenced by a lot of different things. Our core stuff, what we started the band to play years ago, was kind of this electrified Mississippi blues, delta blues stuff.”

“That early Chicago sound, like Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, that is really at the core of what we do,” Arbuckle said. “But as time has passed we have kind of let other influences creep in. We all love a lot of music.”

From bluegrass, heavy rock and soul to classic rock and jazz, Arbuckle listed the band’s influences as many and varied.

“I think that you can hear pieces of all of that come through at various times in our music, especially on our last record,” he said.

Moreland and Arbuckle’s latest release, “Flood” deeply plants the band’s roots in the blues while sounding a few new bells as well.

“We talked for a long time about how the record has a little earthier vibe to it than what we’ve done in the past,” said Arbuckle. “In certain ways it is true to the whole Mississippi blues sound, but in other ways the record gets as heavy as anything we’ve ever done before.”

“The earthiness comes from the fact that the roots vibe is really strong, but other influences are coming out in a strong way too,” he said.

While the guys are sure to blow away the audience in the Coral Bay field, the band never plays with a pre-determined set list, choosing to play off the vibe of the audience instead, Arbuckle explained.

“We always do our best to make sure our passion for the music comes through and in our performances we definitely feel like it comes through,” he said. “We’ll play some things off ‘Flood,’ and some newer stuff that we’ve written since then and some older stuff. We like to work on traditional songs live too.”

“We never make set lists, so what we play on a given night is real up in the air,” said Arbuckle. “It can be anything, and is often a surprise to us even.”

After rocking the crowd on St. John, Moreland and Arbuckle will join Simon on his upcoming Bluzapoalooza tour, playing for the troops in Afghanistan. Shemekia Copeland will also join the April tour of Krygyzstan, Afghanistan and Qatar, with most of the shows being played at forward operating bases within the war zone of Afghanistan.

“Our tours with the troops are the most important work I’ve ever done,” said Simon. “I am thrilled and excited and I can’t wait to go.”

Simon isn’t slowing down when he gets back to the states either. The Blues Boss will get right to work on Bluestock, at Hunter Mountain, New York, from August 26 to 28. Featuring Greg Allman, Buddy Guy, Elvin Bishop and more, the festival is sure to  put Simon on the New York music map as well.

All that concert production might sound like work, but don’t tell Simon that.

“For me, it’s like a fantasy camp for boys,” he said.

Tickets for the St. John Blues Festival are $25 for one night or $45 for both nights in advance. Tickets at the gate are $30 for each show. All kids 18 years and older will be admitted free. On St. John pick up tickets at Connections in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay, and Chelsea Drugs at The Marketplace.

For more information on Bluzapalooza, check out myspace.com/bluzapalooza. For more information on Bluestock, visit bluestock.com. For more information on the St. John Blues Festival check out stevesimonpresents.com.

9th Annual St. John Blues Festival Event Schedule

Wednesday – March 16
The St. John Blues Festival Opening Party

Thursday, March 17

Friday, March 18

The 9th Annual Johnnie Walker St. John Blues Festival

Saturday, March 19

The 9th Annual Johnnie Walker St. John Blues Festival

Sunday, March 20
The St. John Blues Festival Closing Party