Blues Festival returns
By Reid Posey
Mississippi is widely known as the “birthplace of America’s music,” largely thanks to the state’s role in cultivating the style of music that came to be known as the blues.
This weekend, the Oxford Blues Festival will be hosting its seventh annual installment, celebrating the music and culture of the state of Mississippi across two days filled with fun, interesting events designed to honor the traditions and the history of blues culture.
On Friday, the festival will kick off with a free tour of the Blues Archive on the campus of the University of Mississippi from 3 to 4 p.m., led by curator Greg Johnson. Participants on the tour can meet on the Square in the parking lot across from the Graduate Hotel or in front of City Hall and hop on a double-decker bus for the ride to campus.
Blues Archive a natural fit
Festival co-organizer Darryl Parker said that including the Blues Archive in the weekend’s events was an easy decision in attempting to provide the best possible weekend for the festival’s attendees.
“The Blues Archive is a treasure in our backyard, and I just couldn’t see not doing something with them,” Parker said. “There’s some interesting things there that people are going to see on Friday.”
From the Blues Archive, the double-decker bus will then carry the tour participants either back to the Square to be dropped off or to beloved local soul food joint Mama Jo’s to partake in a “Food of the Blues” dinner from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m, at which dishes such as fried pork chops, fried chicken, neck bones, pig’s feet, turnip greens, cornbread, and more will be served to festival-goers.
“There are so many blues songs that talk about food, so we thought, why don’t we put together a ‘Food of the Blues’ dinner?” Parker explained.
Parker also pointed out that the dinner, which features an all-you-can-eat buffet, desserts, and drinks for $19.99, is a great way to provide people who might not be familiar with the regional cuisine an authentic experience to sample this integral part of the blues culture for themselves.
Following the dinner and closing out the night will be performances at the Shelter on Van Buren by Kern Pratt and the Accused, featuring Denise Owen. The cover charge for the event is $10 for advance tickets and $15 at the door.
Panel discussion and music
Saturday’s festivities will begin at noon with a blues panel held at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics on the UM campus, featuring a discussion with artists such as Leo “Bud” Welch, Tullie Brae, and Jontavious Willis. The event is free to the public and will be hosted by DeWayne Moore, a UM history Ph.D. candidate.
Parker said that through his times at a Celtic Music Festival in Chicago earlier in his life, he grew to love the storytelling aspect of the festival’s panel discussions, so he decided to integrate them into the blues festival, where artists can come together and talk about their influences, styles, and history.
Following the panel discussion, the musical acts will begin in the Grove around 1:30 p.m., featuring performances by the Zediker Brothers, the Mississippi Traveling Stars, Jontavious Willis, Doc Prana, and the Blues Doctors.
Headlining performances are scheduled to begin around 6:30 p.m. with sets by Leo “Bud” Welch, Tullie Brae, and the Mosley and Johnson Band.
Plenty of vendors
Parker also mentioned that in addition to the musical acts, there would be several arts and crafts vendors with merchandise for sale as well as food vendors such as Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Bullard Concessions, the Roadkill Grill food truck, and Happy Foods, which specializes in lighter options such as wraps and salads that Parker said can often be easier on festival-goers during the hot summer days.
Parker said that the festival tries to avoid overlap in offerings from the food vendors to promote good business for all the vendors involved.
Parker also mentioned that although the festival doesn’t sell alcohol, festival-goers are more than welcome to bring coolers for no additional fee, provided that they contain no glass products.
Tickets for Saturday’s events are $10 in advance and $15 at the gate, with an option to upgrade to VIP tickets for $75, a package that includes a signed festival poster, complimentary food and drinks, a dessert bar, and preferential seating.
Admission is free for UM students with the presentation of their student ID as well as for children and teens age 18 and under.
According to Parker, the vision for the festival is less about creating a cash cow and more about providing a fun, relaxed time for the community and visitors to gather and celebrate the culture of the blues together.
“Just bring sun protection, a lawn chair, and be ready to hear some good music,” Parker said.
To purchase tickets in advance or simply to learn more about the Oxford Blues Festival, visit their website at www.oxfordbluesfest.com.