‘Amazing afternoon’ opens blues festival
Thousands of music fans spent their warm and sunny Friday afternoon leaning back in their lawn chairs, sipping a few cold drinks, while bobbing their heads and tapping their feet to the sound of smooth blues music played by the Kansas City band Trampled Under Foot at Bayfront Festival Park.
“I just got here, but I can already tell it is going to be an amazing afternoon,” Maureen O’Hehir said. “Trampled Under Foot is pretty awesome … I can only imagine how great the other bands will be.”
Ecstatic blues and rock fans from all over the region gathered for the 26th annual Bayfront Blues Festival at Bayfront Festival Park. Attendees were able to listen to Dan Phelps, Mitch Woods & His Rocket 88’s and the Déjà vu Drifters among others.
The American soul blues and rock band Trampled took over the stage Friday afternoon. People danced to the beat with their loved ones, munched on footlong corn dogs and captured the event with pictures and video.
Even a few people jet skiing out on Lake Superior stopped by to listen to the band perform their popular hit “Mary.”
O’Hehir, 48, who hummed the words to “Mary,” said she faithfully travels to the blues festival annually from Prior Lake, Minn. She has missed only one festival, and that was the year her father died.
“Coming to the event year after year is totally worth it,” O’Hehir said. “This is the best blues festival; I can’t tell you how much fun I have.”
Blues slowly started to become a part of O’Hehir’s life as a young adult. She was introduced to the genre while attending college at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
“It’s crazy because I never really listened to blues music growing up,” O’Hehir said. “When I heard it in college, I instantly got hooked, and I’ve been listening to blues music ever since. I really enjoy Susan Sandusky.”
Earl Brooks and his wife, Cindy Brooks, both 50, also are festival veterans. They have attended the festival for the past 15 years from Red Wing, Minn. The Brooks were off to the side of the stage taking pictures.
“We aren’t able to get together with our friends that often,” Brooks said. “So we usually all meet up during the festival and hang out, it is something we always look forward to.”
The Brooks’ said they have been to a blues festival in Fargo, N.D., but nothing compares to the one in Duluth.
“The one in Fargo is not as good as this one; this one is way better,” Brooks said. “There is good energy and vibes from the crowd, bands and festival as a whole.”
Ronnie Anderson said the crowd is one of reasons he really enjoys the festival. Anderson, 36, drove up to Duluth from the Twin Cities. He said this is his second blues festival.
“This is so different from any type of festival I have ever been to,” Anderson said. “I love how nice everyone can be and it is so relaxing.”
Anderson carefully observed Trampled guitarist Nick Schnebelen hit every note perfectly.
“I’m really digging the music, I enjoy watching him play the guitar,” Anderson said. “He is doing an incredible job; this band is really talented.”
While many guests were from out of town, there was still a large number of Duluthians at the festival.
Close friends Abbey Karich, 32, and Kelsey Mills, 31, both of Duluth, playfully waltzed to the music. They both decided to volunteer at this year’s event.
This is Karich’s second year at the festival and she said she absolutely loves it. Karich grew up listening to blues singers B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“Majority of my family is from New Orleans, so blues is pretty big in our family,” Karich said.
Mills calls herself a rookie when it comes to blues music; this is the first blues festival she has ever attended.
“I’m pretty impressed with the music, I’m discovering a lot of new bands,” Mills said. “I think this is a wonderful location for the festival because people get to view the beautiful lake and all the different ships, too.”
Trampled, who announced they were splitting up later this year, played for an hour before they concluded their performance with a big thank you to the audience.
The band received a standing ovation as fans screamed, clapped, cheered and whistled for them.
“It really doesn’t get any better than this,” Brooks said. “This festival never ceases to amaze me.”