How to listen to the blues
When people think of the blues, they might first think of the great musicians like B.B. King or Duke Ellington. And they'd be right. Those fine men are blues musicians, but there's more to the blues than just the jazzy trumpets, saxophones, and pianos you might be used to. The Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews, and Blues Festival is here to turn what you know about the blues on its ear and introduce you to some fantastic up and coming musicians, along with some rock favorites.
Blues music is a rather broad genre, consisting of music of many styles, from electric blues, which is more guitar driven, to blues rock, which tends to be very upbeat. In between, there are Memphis Blues and Delta Blues, which are a little closer to their African-American origins and have a more subdued melody and melancholy lyrics. Fortunately, the Festival offers "two stages, which means there's something for everyone," Jennifer Dominique, Eldorado Hotel's Director of Entertainment, said. "The Festival leans toward more upbeat bands — especially electric and blues rock."
Dominique had some tips to offer for people who might be thinking about attending the Festival, but aren't familiar with the blues genre. She believes the most important technique is to just soak it all in. There are two defined stages, one at 3rd Street and one at 4th Street, but the music is also piped throughout the Festival via speakers placed along the streets, so Festival-goers can enjoy the music no matter where they are.
This gives them the opportunity to really listen to the lyrics, another technique Dominique feels is important. "The lyrics of blues songs tend to be very powerful and meaningful," she said. People often relate to the lyrics, if not the whole song, on some level because blues musicians like to write about common life experiences, whether positive or negative, such as happy memories or breakups.
Another great thing about blues music is that listeners can feel the beat. Many of the songs are easy to dance to. It's hard to feel blue when you're listening to blues music. It's ironic, but true. A good technique for listening to blues is to just throw away all your pre-conceived notions about the genre and go with the flow. Let the music sweep you up in its melodies and instrumentals, lose yourself in the beauty of the lyrics and find the songs that move you.
The great thing about the Festival is that there's a variety of blues music to listen to, so you can get a taste of everything, especially if you're brand new to the genre. The lineup this year won't disappoint, either — there are plenty of local and national bands playing. On the local side, there's The Jason King Band has a soulful sound and was voted Best Local CD of Northern Nevada in 2009 and The Buddy Emmer Band is a huge local favorite and they mix it up with all types of blues styles, from the 1930s to more modern tunes.
On the national side is Maxx Cabello, Jr., who has major guitar chops and a soulful voice, mixing a wide range of styles to create electric, soulful slow jams, while Shane Dwight skews toward rocked out blues, while being an excellent guitar player and singer/songwriter, making for a can't miss combo. If you're more interested in blues-infused rock, you'll love getting lost in the familiar sounds of bands like Smash Mouth, Tonic, and Toad the Wet Sprocket. They'll all be bringing their rocking sounds to the Festival, providing the familiar music you're used to hearing.
Dominique recommends giving blues a chance, even if you're not familiar with the genre or have preconceived notions about what blues might sound like. Because there are so many different styles within the genre, it's generally easy to find something you'll like.
If you're planning to attend the Festival, Dominique also recommends taking advantage of the wristbands that are available for purchase in advance of the event and the day of. The wristbands provide access to all the shows, food, and drink and make it a really good deal, considering the size of the event and the number of bands performing.
There's no better way to celebrate summer than with the 20th Annual Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival running from 1 to 8 p.m. June 19 and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 20. One day wristbands are $30 in advance and $40 the day of the event. Two day wristbands are $50 in advance and $60 the day of the event. Room packages are also available.