It was about halfway through a hot Saturday afternoon bluesfest set when Hamilton Loomis got the urge.

He jumped on top of a big sub-base speaker at the main stage, then turned down an of-fer to jump onto a smaller speaker as a step to the ground.

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Instead, he jumped about 15 feet, over the fence and into the crowd.

From that point on, Loomis had the Bayfront Blues Festival crowd in the palm of his hands, and he worked them into a frenzy during a five-minute guitar solo romp through the lawn chairs during his song "Bow Wow.''

It was reminiscent of similar crowd-walking solos by Kid Johnny Lange in 1995 and Slick Ballinger in 2005.

Just a short guy with moussed hair and goatee, Loomis doesn't look the part of a Texas-bred blues man. But the Galveston native surprised many in his first-time bluesfest audi-ence with a strong, 13-song set crammed into an hour at mid-afternoon on another 90-degree plus day at Bayfront Festival Park.

Loomis brought his funkified blues four-piece band to bluesfest with several songs for his new CD, "Ain't Just Temporary'' and several songs from 2003's "Kickin' It.''

Loomis seemed a bit hesitant, or maybe road weary, for an opening instrumental and a tepid version of "Best Worst Day of My Life.'' But he got it going with "Legendary'' and "99 miles'' and his own tale of songwriter's block called "There's Something Wrong with my Pen."

The crowd really got rocking with "Voodoo Child,'' which just happens to be the favor-ite song of Debbie Prentice of La Crosse, Wis.

"I love this guy. I think he rocks,'' said Prentice, who seemed to know all the words to Loomis' songs as she boogied in front of the stage. "He's played at our bar [in La Crosse] and he's danced on the tables there. I have all his CDs.''

Loomis had bluesfest regulars and friends Deb Hall of St. Paul and Kathryn Rod of Du-luth dancing in front of the stage.

"He's my new boyfriend!'' Rod said of Loomis, apparently forgetting about her husband, who was supposed to meet her later. Rod has been to all but one bluesfests.

"I love him,'' Hall said. "He's cute. He can play guitar. That's all you need.''

Loomis, who has been called a prodigy of Bo Diddley after the two became friends in Texas, finished his set with "What it Is'' and "No, No, No'' followed by a smoking version of "Got my Blues On.''

Harps galore

Every bluesfest has its list of incredible guitar players. But this year's festival also seemed to offer a wealth of great harp players as well. On Thursday, it was Billy Branch from Chicago. Friday saw Pat Hayes tear up his harmonica for Lamont Cranston. On Sat-urday, little-known Clint Hoover drew a standing ovation in the acoustic tent during his short, afternoon set with Papa John Kolstad.

Hoover, from the Twin Cities, has a laid-back, melodic style that can break into a blues frenzy in a note. And Kolstad, father of Cadillac Kolstad [who played Friday], has now attracted huge crowds for two years running in the big tent at bluesfest. Between Lead-belly classics, sing-a-longs and his own Minneapolis folk, Kolstad seems to have something the crowd wants more of.

Big Walter coming back for 20th?

Only one performer has made all 19 bluesfests - Big Walter Smith. The Minneapolis-based blues legend turned 77 recently, but he can still belt out the blues like a young buck. Sporting a bright red sport coat and matching fedora, Big Walter sat through another in his record-breaking appearances and reminisced about that rainy day in 1988 when it was he and the late Luther Allison played, for free, with bluesfest concert goers sitting on pic-nic tables at a spot about where the Great Lakes Aquarium now stands.

Asked backstage if he'll be back for the 20th annual Bayfront Blues Festival, Smith just smiled and said, "I sure hope so.''

Fest prices will rise

It's still a great deal if you act quickly, but prices for the 2008 Bayfront Blues Festival are going up. The year-in-advance four-day pass is $65 if you buy it today only, up from $55 this year. The four-day pass increases, starting Monday, to $89. After Jan. 1, the price hits $89. On June 1, 2008, the price goes to $99. Next year's single-day prices will remain $25 on Thursday and $40 each for Friday-Saturday-Sunday.

T-shirts galore

T-shirts are the bumper stickers of music festivals, and the 2007 Bayfront Blues Festival is no exception. Of course, many folks already have been sporting this year's commemora-tive shirt from the festival. But most folks are still showing older models - faded colors but happy memories.

T-shirts from rock concerts, music festivals, concert tours, biker bars and Hog rallies, the Minnesota Twins and UMD Bulldogs are common.

But there are also a few unique shirts, like the group of guys wearing "I'm not a gyne-cologist, but I'll take a look'' shirts. Another shirt sported a picture of the old animated clay character Gumby, stating "Gumby: Buck Naked Since 1956.'' Another group of guys sported "Front Porch Sitting Liquor Pigs'' T-shirts, apparently some sort of mid-life fra-ternity.