FARGO — Every August for the past 24 years, Dan Bredell has been singing the blues, and that’s a good thing. Bredell, who started Mother’s Music 50 years ago, still organizes the Fargo Blues Festival.
This weekend, he should be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the musical gathering — but instead, he’s singing a worried man’s blues.
The coronavirus pandemic has shut down most festivals and concerts this summer, but Bredell is trying to overcome obstacles to put on the two-day show Friday, Aug. 7, and Saturday, Aug. 8.
"All of the other festivals have been canceled and we thought, 'We can do this for our fans. We can give them something to get out of the house and not worry about the pandemic,'" Bredell said.
Festival organizers are working with city of Fargo officials and the staff at Newman Outdoor Field, where the event is being held, to create a safe environment for music fans.
The biggest change this year is right in front of the stage. Usually, fans can cram in tight in front to dance or get an up-close look at the act. This year, that won’t be the case. Bredell says people can bring up their lawn chairs and sit in front.
Groups will be limited in size and spaced out 6 feet to allow social distancing, he says.
Fans can also sit in the stands, which the RedHawks employees have already marked off for social distancing during baseball games at the field.
"The Blues Festival is spread out pretty good anyway with all of that grass," he said, referring to how the stage is set up in the outfield.
"We want everyone to social distance," he adds. "Even the port-a-potties are more spread out."
Bredell says masks are not required, but suggested for when people are walking around to go to the bathroom or going to get concessions.
Getting the acts lined up was another issue, he says.
"Bands are usually touring and there’s not a lot of that this year. That was my biggest worry, but we got a lot of good acts for this show," Bredell said.
The music starts at 2 p.m Friday with the 3rd Street Blues Band and closes that night with singer-guitarist Anthony Gomes’ set, which starts at 9 p.m.
"Anthony Gomes is one of the hottest blues acts in the county," Bredell said.
He says similar things about other acts on the bill, including Nick Moss, Albert Castiglia and Saturday’s headliner, Albert Cummings.
"Albert Cummings is one of the biggest blues artists in the world," he said.
That may be, but in the middle of a pandemic, even the biggest blues acts aren’t getting a lot of gigs. After Gomes’ set on Friday, he doesn’t play again for a month, one of three shows booked through October. The situation is similar for Cummings. This will be Castiglia’s first show outside of Florida since March, and he has no future dates booked.
Singer-guitarist Johnny Rawls, who plays Saturday afternoon, has been a little more active on the road.
"We lucked out and got him because he happened to be playing a bar in Minneapolis the night before," Bredell said.
While there will be some other vendors this year, Bredell says it was harder to convince as many shops to come up from Minneapolis for this year’s fest.
Bredell says he stepped up marketing in the Twin Cities in hopes of offsetting the loss of Canadians, who can’t come down because the border is closed as a health precaution. He estimates about 400 people from Canada attend the festival every year.
"Canadians are so much fun. Usually, when our tickets go on sale, they’re on the phone ordering right away," he said.
Blues Fest usually drew between 1,500 and 2,000 people, Bredell says. He adds it is hard to predict crowd size this year since, as an outdoor event, 70% of tickets are sold the week of the event.
Friday, Aug. 7:
- 3rd Street Blues Band, 2 p.m.
- Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames, 3 p.m.
- Shawn Holt & The Teardrops, 4:15 p.m.
- Larry McCray, 5:30 p.m.
- Nick Moss Band, 7 p.m.
- Anthony Gomes, 9 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 8:
- Heart & Soul, noon
- Scottie Miller Band, 1:30 p.m.
- Johnny Rawls, 3 p.m.
- Shannon Curfman, 4:30 p.m.
- Albert Castiglia, 6 p.m.
- Albert Cummings, 8 p.m.
If you go
What: Fargo Blues Festival
When: Friday and Saturday, Aug. 7 and 8
Where: Newman Outdoor Field, 1515 15th Ave. N., Fargo
Info: Tickets are $30 a day (through Thursday, Aug. 6); $35/day or $50 for two days at the gate; fargobluesfest.com or 701-287-7775