Feeding the soul

T he onslaught of festivals in and around the city of Dayton is in full swing, but not all of them can make you feel it in your bones the way the Dayton Blues Festival can. Coming back for the 33rd year, this gathering celebrates the history and love of blues, while also introducing the […]

Dayton Blues Festival at Riverscape


The SoulFixers hail from Cincinnati. Photo: Ed Sawicki

By Sarah Monroe

The onslaught of festivals in and around the city of Dayton is in full swing, but not all of them can make you feel it in your bones the way the Dayton Blues Festival can. Coming back for the 33rd year, this gathering celebrates the history and love of blues, while also introducing the genre to generations who might not be familiar with it.

The festival is being presented by the City of Dayton Department of Recreations & Youth Services and will be held at Riverscape Metropark, located at the corner of Patterson & Monument Street in Downtown Dayton. The event will be July 15 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free and the city will also be providing free water to attendees. Pair all of that with feel-it-deep-in-your-soul live music and delicious food vendors, and you can’t lose!

Lamonte Hall, Jr, Recreation Program Coordinator for the Department of Recreations & Youth Services says that he expects an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 visitors that day, depending on the weather. When asked what it is about this festival that makes it so well received, he said “I believe Daytonians love music in general. The fact that Dayton is the epicenter and pioneer of funk music definitely helps. A lot of funk music derives from the blues. Also, so many adults here grew up on blues music, people like my dad, it’s his favorite genre of music.” Lamonte goes on to say “Places like Gilly’s, Tumbleweed, Trolley Stop, and so many more brought great blues musicians here to Dayton. Now, organizations like the Dayton Blues Society continue to help push the genre, and if you look at any of the local venues lineups, you will see they continue to book blues acts. All of these reasons and more are why the blues continues to be popular here in Dayton.” 

The Trolley Stop has a connection with the founding of the festival itself. Lamonte was able to reach out to a previous talent manager for the event and freelance bassist, Martin Romie, who offered up some details on it’s inception: “My understanding is that the first blues festival in 1985 was the idea/collaboration of Jim Nichols and Jill Witherspoon. Jill at that time was managing a weekly blues jam at the Trolley Stop being hosted by Low Rent Blues (the band). The idea was to move the TS (Trolley Stop) event outside to Dave Hall Plaza, hiring bands to perform shows.” Jim Nichols was a journalist in the Dayton Area and also founded the previously known Women in Jazz festival. From this, the Blues and Reggae festivals were born.

The event will be emceed by Earl ‘Southside’ Hayes, who has been the commanding voice of the event for over a decade. He and Martin Romie have known each other for over 25 years. “We became good friends and remain so. He’s a very fine singer/performer with a deep passion and knowledge of the blues,” Romie says of Southside Hayes. “A good emcee is essential to a multiple act event. Earl was the guy to make that happen.”

There will be 7 different bands performing, one on the hour every hour. The kickoff will begin at 1 p.m. with Rachel Litteral and The Abstracts. Rachel possesses a powerhouse voice and the band jams out rhythms that makes you vibrate. Paul Carver & The Final Verdict will follow. Paul is a left-hand guitarist and a Gem City native. According to their Facebook page, “PC and the Final Verdict bring a fresh and innovative sound to the world of music while exhibiting a smooth, yet aggressive style of their own.”

Johnny Fink and the Intrusion will be performing in the 3 o’clock hour. They are known for their enthusiastic performances, so much so, that the band placed in the top 8 of the world back in 2017 for the International Blues Challenge, or IBC.

Larry Humphrey and Friends is up next, a man who is known for being one of the “baddest” bassists in the game, heavily influenced by and close friends with the incomparable Louis Armstrong. His performance is one for the ages.     

Dunbar High School graduate, James “Mississippi Red” Thornton, of Mississippi Red & the Bumble-Bee-Licious Blues Band puts on a knee slapping good act, one that’ll have you snapping to the beat.

The SoulFixers are the second to last performance. They were founded in 2012 in Cincinnati, and includes a 4-piece horn section. The band plays original and classic blues tunes.

Headlining the festival is Bob Margolin joined by The Joe Tellmann Band. Bob Margolin has been playing guitar since 1964 and is known for his performances in a handful of notable bands such as Muddy Waters. The Joe Tellmann Band was founded 3 years ago, and get this: the entire trio is made up of teenagers. Now if that isn’t bridging the gap between generations, I don’t know what is.

The city recommends that you bring your own lawn chairs or blankets to be comfortable during the festival performances. The whole family will enjoy this line-up so don’t miss out, or you’ll be blue if you do.

The Dayton Blues Festival will be held on July 15 from 1 to 9 p.m. at Riverscape Metro Park. More information can be found at http://www.daytonohio.gov/calendar or www.downtowndayton.org/things-to-do/signature-events/

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Sarah Monroe, a native to the Gem City, is currently writing her first novel. Reach DCP writer Sarah Monroe at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com

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