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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Megan Poe
Opinion Editor

My name is Megan Poe and I’m an English (writing concentration) and Philosophy double major at Northern. My concurrent experience with being published in and interning for literary magazines has landed...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

An American Art Form

To Lorrie Hayes, lead vocalist of the Flat Broke Blues Band, the blues is more than just another genre of music, it embodies something much bigger, something that all Americans can relate to.

“It’s a true American art form,” Hayes said. “If you get into the history of the blues, you get into the history of America.”

Now, Hayes has been given a rare opportunity — to perform in front of a hometown crowd and give others a chance to become inspired by the blues the same way she was some 25 years ago.

That opportunity is the Fifth Annual Marquette Area Blues Festival. Hayes, along with other blues heavy-hitters such as Tab Benoit and Watermelon Slim and the Workers, will take the stage August 30 and 31 at Mattson Lower Harbor Park. The event is being put together by the Marquette Area Blues Society (MABS), a group started by local musicians to raise awareness for the blues in the U.P.

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April Lindala, who serves as both the director of Native American studies at NMU and promotions chair for MABS, said it was her love of the blues and her passion for putting together events that gave her the opportunity to put on a show such as the one in Marquette.

“In 2003, my husband and a friend of ours were watching the Fourth of July fireworks at the International Food Fest,” Lindala said. “The number of people (at Mattson Park) was amazing. It just seemed like the perfect spot for a music fest. One of [my friends] said out loud something like ‘This town is ripe for a blues fest.'”

Shortly thereafter, Lindala and some of her closest friends put together MABS. Currently, the organization has 160 paid members from all across the U.P. The annual Blues Festival is the group’s largest event, bringing in nearly 2,000 blues lovers to the area each year.

Lindala said that part of their goal was to help raise awareness of the blues, and pass this American treasure on down to younger generations.

“The feedback has been rewarding,” Lindala said. “I am constantly approached by folks I don’t even know who thank me and our society for putting this together. I believe the community really appreciates another event like this in town.”

In recent years, the festival has begun attracting more nationally recognized artists. Saturday night headliner Tab Benoit was given the 2008 Contemporary Blues Artist of the Year Award at the Blues Music Awards. Watermelon Slim and the Workers, Sunday night’s headliner, has been nominated for 12 Blues Music Awards in the last two years and was named the Blues Band of the Year at this year’s award show. Lindala said that the festival attracting such renowned artists is a sign that popularity is increasing.

“Year after year the lineup gets stronger and stronger,” she said. “Both of these headliners are award-winning musicians/performers in the blues world, but they will appeal to everyone in attendance.”

Despite the stereotype that the blues attracts a more mature audience, Lindala said that, as the festival grows in size, she sees more NMU students attending and getting involved, both as attendees and participants in the festival.

“(The) students that I have spoken with have a blast. It’s a good time. These artists might be unknowns to the general public, but by the end of the weekend, the audience wants a photo and CD of main stage performers.”

Other than a solid line-up of musicians, there are plenty of other activities at the festival. There will be a silent auction, as well as plenty of food vendors and various workshops. The Delta Jets will be hosting a guitar workshop, which will take place between acts later in the evening.

Senior Nursing major and vice president of NMU’s Swing Club Katie Goodfellow will be leading a dance workshop at the festival. The workshops will last approximately 30 minutes and will be held once per day. Goodfellow said they’ll be teaching an East Coast Swing that she hopes will get people up and moving.

“We’re going to teach some basic stuff,” Goodfellow said. “People can actually do [East Coast Swing] on the dance floor (at the festival).”

If you want to take a more active role, MABS allows both individual students and groups to volunteer at the festival. Lindala said that those who volunteer can receive a 2008 blues fest t-shirt after one shift and up to $40 for two shifts. She added that those interested should come down to Mattson Lower Harbor Park Friday at 6 p.m.

With a dedicated team feverishly working behind the scenes for both the artists and the fans, this year’s festival promises to be better than ever. The idea that both local and national acts get to share the stage gets Lorrie Hayes excited for this event.

“Everything we do, we always bring 110 percent,” Hayes said. “(But) there is some extra emphasis on this festival.

“What they (MABS) do backstage is class A,” she added. “They’re passionate about what it is they’re doing.”

The price of admission is $25 per day, or $40 for the weekend. However, NMU students that purchase their tickets in advance at the Superior Dome can do so for $10 per day. Lindala said that the tickets must be purchased at the Dome by Friday, Aug. 29 in order to receive the discount.

To learn more about the festival, visit www.marquetteareabluessociety.com.

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