Gator by the Bay Presents Blues to Feel Happy About

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By Wendy Lemlin

Proving that there is nothing sad about the blues, the Gator by The Bay 2018 festival’s lineup has plenty to put a smile on any blues lover’s face. The 18-year-old music festival, happening May 10-13, 2018 at Spanish Landing Park, began primarily as a showcase for Louisiana-style zydeco and Cajun music, but these days has grown to feature 7 stages with over 100 musical acts of many genres. With over 25 Blues artists on the schedule, Gator By The Bay’s Blues game is sure to be super strong again this year.

Headlining the kickoff concert on Thursday evening, May 10, Southwest Louisiana-based slide guitarist, songwriter, and singer Sonny Landreth is known as “The King of Slydeco” for the zydeco influences in his unique guitar stylings. The noted slideman started out in The Red Hot Louisiana Band of zydeco legend Clifton Chenier, and his unorthodox guitar style comes from the manner in which he simultaneously plays slide and makes fingering movements on the fretboard. A musician’s musician, Landreth has collaborated with the very top names in guitar over the years: Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Eric Johnson, Derek Trucks, John Hiatt, John Mayall – the list goes on. In June 2017, Sonny released Live In Lafayette, his first live album in 12 years, which earned him his second GRAMMY nomination.

Opening for Sonny Landreth are Shana Morrison & Caledonia. Although Shana’s music doesn’t exactly fit into any predetermined genre, her musical approach has been called pop with sides of blues, rock, and other ingredients, such as country, R&B, and jazz. Her unique and wide-ranging voice is always a captivating constant, however. She began her career as a vocalist in the band of her legendary father, Van Morrison, and has been with her own San Francisco Bay Area group, Caledonia, since 1996.

Carolyn Wonderland has been called a musical force, equipped with the soulful vocals of Janis and the guitar slinging skills of Stevie Ray. Along with the guitar and the multitude of other instruments she plays – trumpet, accordion, piano, mandolin, lap steel – Wonderland’s ability to whistle remains one of her signature sounds. She has co-written with such fellow Austin locals as Marcia Ball, Ruthie Foster, Cindy Cashdollar, sat in with Los Lobos, Levon Helm, Vintage Trouble, Robert Earl Keen, and Ray Wylie Hubbard, and toured relentlessly for the past two decades. She will play on Sunday afternoon, May 13.

Mr. Sipp aka “The Mississippi Blues Child,” is the alter ego of gospel-guitarist-turned-bluesman Castro Coleman, and he’ll take the stage on Saturday afternoon, May 12. Growing up in small town Mississippi, his first musical focus was gospel, but in 2012 he was bitten by the Blues bug. In 2014 he won the International Blues Challenge and was given the Bobby Rush Entertainer of the Year Award by the Jus’ Blues Foundation. He then went on to win the Albert King Gibson Guitar award, and, in 2015, he won several Jackson Music Awards including International Male Blues Artist, Blues Artist of the Year, and Entertainer of the Year. In 2016 he was the BMA Best New Artist Album winner, and The Spirit of Little Walter Award. And, fyi, Mr. Sipp was the first blues artist to have his handprint inducted into the Wall of Fame in Fredrikshavn, Denmark.

The Louisiana Cajun and Zydeco headliners include four-time GRAMMY nominated Pine Leaf Boys (don’t miss frontman Wilson Savoy’s hot boogie-woogie piano skills on songs like “Great Balls of Fire”!), GRAMMY nominated The Revelers with their wide repertoire of Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Pop, quintessential zydeco dancers’ band Horace Trahan & the Ossun Express, Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Band carrying on the generations–old family tradition, and Dexter Ardoin, scion of a family known as Zydeco royalty.

Of course, Gator By the Bay always shows local blues artists lots of love. Seventeen-year-old guitar prodigy Anthony Cullins, aka “The Fallbrook Kid,” and 14 year old dynamic shredder Benji Davis will both return to amaze with their abilities to play well beyond their young years. Other local blues artists scheduled include the Bill Magee Blues Band, Bubba McCoy, Casey Hensley, Chickenbone Slim, Chris Fast Band, Earl Thomas, Fuzzy Rankins, Harmonica John Frazer, Brazilian bluesman Igor Prado, Johnny V Vernazza, Mercedes Moore Band, Michele Lundeen, Robin Henkel, Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers, Whitney Shay, and the Sarah Rogo Band.

In addition to all of these, Gator By The Bay will showcase local talent presenting Cajun Zydeco, Roots & Americana, Rockabilly, Salsa and Latin, and even a smattering of Country, Jazz, and R&B.

All this and 10,000 lbs of live crawfish just ready to be cooked, a bustling food court, free dance lessons and cooking demos, covered wooden dance floors, top quality shopping, and musical and cultural workshops? You got it! Plus, an activity area for the kiddos, Mardi Gras-style parades, and more fun than you can throw a bunch of beads at? Mais, oui!

Get all the ticket and festival info at the website.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!



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