Saturday, August 25, 2012

Monday Night Madness

Something special happened several nights ago in Tacoma. Not that every week night on the local music scene isn’t special in some way, but that night was different. Monday nights’ at the Swiss Tavern have always been pretty much dedicated to local blues bands. And they generate a tidy little appreciative audience. This night brought out a larger than usual crowd for Rod Cook & Toast with special guest Sue Orfield. Sue was in town for, among other things, the 15th anniversary of Junkyard Jane.

I always try to catch Rod Cook & Toast (Chris Leighton on drums – Jon Bayless on bass and vocals) whenever I can. It certainly is not totally blues, but always top-notch music. Toast is one of the finest trios in the Pacific Northwest. Throw in Sue Orfield, and, well I had to be there.

Immediately that “special vibe” surfaced when the first five audience members I ran into were other local musicians – Les Merrihew (visiting from his “retirement” to Arizona), Doug Skoog, Dean Reichert, Leanne Trevalyan and Billy Stoops. When other musicians come out to listen to their peers you just know it’s going to be good. Joining the audience shortly thereafter were super fans Reverend Dave Brown and his lovely better half and the late arriving Mark Riley. Add another forty locals or so and there was a nice little “house” to play to.

Then special guest number two walked in with his gear. Jay Mabin. Now almost everyone knows that I pick on harmonica players, so listen up! Jay Mabin is a monster on the chromatic. Incredible tone. Wonderfully melodic. There, I did it. I gave props to a harmonica player. That actually felt pretty good!

The anticipation was palpable. But, when the music finally started (there was a “lateness issue” involving Jon Bayless, but that is another story) it did not disappoint. The opening set was awesome. It was five excellent musicians with their “ears on” coming together and filling the room with some fantastic music. As an avid fan it doesn’t get much better than that. Jay had to leave for an early wake up on Tuesday, so Mark Riley was invited up.

It was a late drive home for sure, but I’d make that drive anytime to hear music like that! Cream of the crop players playing “together”. That is SPECIAL.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Westport Dock of the Bay Blues Festival, September 7th-9th

Picture yourself on the edge of the ocean listening to the surf break against the shore under blue skies. Eagles and pelicans fly above you, and sweet breezes of the fresh ocean air fill your lungs. All of this while listening to top Northwest and national Blues acts in a magical 3 day festival.

Westport, Washington is the home port of the Dock of the Bay Blues Festival. Westport is a wonderful, picturesque fishing village with many nautical treasures to enjoy. The Dock of the Bay Blues Festival opens at the beautiful Westport Inn in the heart of the marina. It is a weekend of great music and memories with the beautiful Pacific Ocean, friendly restaurants, bustling working docks, and quaint shops only a short walk away. It all makes for an exciting weekend of live blues music.

Festival hosts Mark and Desiree Dodson wanted to share their passion for blues music and their love of the quaint coastal community, so they started the Westport Blues Nonprofit which supports the event. Each year the festival has grown, and this year it is expected to be the best celebration of the blues ever.

The festival is held in a huge tent to temper the rays of the sun, or keep you dry, so no matter what the weather you will be comfortable while getting your groove on. Vendors bring unique items to shop for, as well as food and espresso. The Blues Beer Garden will have micro brews to choose from and locally produced wines.

Blues Attitude
The festival brings a wide range of the Blues to Westport. Festivities kick off on Friday night, September 7th with the popular band Blues Attitude known for their jamming blues. The Tim Hall Band takes you into the rest of the evening playing blues that will get your out of our seat and dancing.

Mia Vermillion
Saturday, September 8th brings the Pleasure Hounds to get the party started. Then Mia Vermillion, who has opened for blues legend John Hammond and rocked the main stage at the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival, will bring her fresh unique sound to the stage. Mia is “…One of the best vocalists I’ve heard in a while..." according to Graham Clarke with Blues Bytes Magazine. Following Mia, the Billy Shew Band keeps the afternoon rocking with their sound solidly rooted in modern indie groove and spiced with various influences.

Kim Archer
Next, the Kim Archer Band takes the stage to get you up dancing. Kim brings a raw power-house performance with her guitar in hand. She brings her original songs rooted in old school soul, funk, classic rock, sultry blues and ballads along with her interpretation of many classics.

The stage’s final evening performance on Saturday is the great blues man Mr. Spider Murphy. Spider hails from Colorado and is recognized as the best tenor guitar player in the world. You will be captivated by his down, dirty and gritty blues. Opening for Randy Travis and touring throughout the states, Spider is a well known legend in the music world. Spider Murphy is stopping in to the Dock of the Bay Blues Festival during his West Coast tour.
When the stage closes Saturday night, the Blues Jam and Dance starts at the Coho Hall at the Westport Inn. It will be a night of musicians jamming and the party will go until you can’t dance anymore.

Catch of the Day & Andy Koch
Sunday, September 9th, after you have rested up, the festival starts again. The stage brings Andy “Badd Dog” Koch & Catch of the Day. Andy Koch is the founder and leader of the Badd Dogg Blues Society and will get you rocking with his true blue blues and intense harp playing. Joining Andy, Westport’s own Catch of the Day adds their unique harmonic vocal stylings and will show you how the blues are alive and well in Westport!

Little Bill
The festival is honored to have Little Bill and the Blue Notes back again this year. The history of this band mirrors the history of American rock & roll and you’re assured to get shivers down your back. The festival wraps up Sunday afternoon with the Randy Oxford Band burning up the stage. Sexy, funky, cool blues… Randy plays the trombone as a lead instrument, inventing a path through the chord progressions sometimes mimicking the guitars around him taking them with him on one of his wild rides.

Billy Shew Band
A portion of the festival proceeds go to the Westport Blues Nonprofit to support music and arts in Westport, the south beach and Grays Harbor.

The three day festival for all performances and events, including the Blues Jam and Dance, is only $35. One day festival tickets are $18. For ticket and lodging information go to or call the Westport Inn at 360-268-0111. A complete schedule can be found HERE