The Stage Is Set For The 27th Blues Fest

By: Tyler Murphy

The stage is set for the 27th Blues Fest The Chenango Blues Fest got an unofficial kickoff on at 6 p.m. Thursday with Nate Gross opening for Tommy Castro and the Painkillers in Norwich's East Park, appearing as part of the NBT Free Thursdays concert series. (Frank Speziale photo)

NORWICH – The 27th Chenango Blues Fest takes place this Friday and Saturday in Norwich.

Chenango Blues Association President Eric Larsen said people enjoyed the music because, “It brings up all the themes of everyday life. It's sometimes glad, sometimes sad, and everything in between. It speaks to the human experience, a lot of music doesn't speak as deeply to people as the Blues does.”

The gates officially open at 4 p.m., on Friday, at the Chenango County Fairgrounds, with music starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday’s gates open at 11 a.m.

“After 27 years we're one of the longest running Blues festivals in the country,” said Larsen.

Asked why the local festival had proven so successful over the years he said, “The real source of it is we are an all volunteer event. This is really rare today. If you go to any kind of music event from the biggest festivals on down, you know these are for-profit deals.”

“I think people really get the vibe of an all volunteer and not-for profit,” he said.

“What does the Blues mean? I think it's the basis of all modern music. When the Rolling Stones landed in America for their first tour in 1964, Kieth Richards got off the plane and his first question was where can I go and see Hubert Sumlin?' The guitar player for Howlin' Wolf.”

The Blues Fest is expected to attract thousands to downtown Norwich, about 3,500 attended last year's festival. The intimate venue at the Chenango County Fair Grounds, with its campgrounds and open stage seating, has proven popular with attendees.

The festival was nationally recognized in 2016 as the recipient of The Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive award.

The Chenango Blues Festival has asserted itself as a destination for lovers of the Blues every summer since 1993. The first Chenango Blues Fest had 200 attendees. As the event's popularity has grown the Chenango Blues Association has attracted bigger acts over the years.

Headlining the Friday performance is Blues Music Awards Entertainer of the Year, Rick Estrin and the Nightcats.

Preceding them will be Joanna Connor and, Gabe Stillman, winner of the International Blues Challenge Gibson Guitar Award.

On Saturday the Blues Fest features its premiere performance on the Kerry Infield Stage, Tab Benoit.

Benoit has won several Entertainer of the Year Awards from the Blues Foundation, and has been nominated for three Grammys.

“He's the one most folks might be buying their tickets for. He's pretty much at the top right now," Larsen said.

"We also have the Downchild Blues Band on their 50th anniversary tour. They were an inspiration for the Blues Brothers.” Larsen said Dan Aykroyd, who famously played the Blues Brother, Elwood, learned his dance and style from the group.

“He loved their music and the style they played and he was just channeling them when he did the Blues Brothers thing with John Belushi,” said Larsen.

Downchild’s moves and Blues style has made them one of the most popular Canadian Blues bands ever.

Larsen also noted Blues artist Danielle Nicole, who was nominated for a Grammy last year. Another show Larsen anticipated to be popular was Pokey LaFarge. “He's interesting. Ragtime, western swing and bluesgrass old time. He's all over the map not just a straight-on Blues thing,” said Larsen.

There will also be plenty of food and craft vendors, and Saturday there will be free children’s activities.

Saturday tickets for the Chenango Blues Fest are $25 in advance, $35 at the gate and can be found at a number of locations in Chenango County, all of which are listed at


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