The Blues Are Back

Michael+Wilson

Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson

This Labor Day weekend, with blue skies and clouds, sunshine and rain and the aroma of fried food and Lake Superior, the Marquette Area Blues Society (MABS) returned to Mattson Lower Harbor Park for its 14th annual Marquette Area Blues Festival.

Friday through Sunday, the festival brought a stocked lineup of performers and vendors. New and returning blues artists came from not only Michigan, but from all over the United States, like Erin Jaimes and Dylan Bishop from Austin, Texas, who headlined Friday.

The first day, which was open to the public for free, had the most diverse turnout with community members of all ages and NMU students in attendance. The more dedicated attendees bought tickets to return every day, even throughout the cold, rainy haze of Saturday. Citizens came together to express their love for blues music and commitment to community enrichment by supporting vendors and grooving on the dance floor to some of the best performers the Blues Society could find. Detroit’s “Queen of the Blues” Thornetta Davis headlined Saturday and Chicago’s Toronzo Cannon brought the festival to a conclusion Sunday.

Michael Wilson

A variety of vendors set up shop at Lower Harbor to give festival fans a selection of food, merchandise and, of course, some of Marquette’s favorite beers. The vendors exhibited a passion for community service beyond Marquette and the festival. One of which brought handmade jewelry and other goods from Kenya through a program that teaches women the craft, as well as the marketing and business skills needed to become economically independent. Another tent featured a close-quarter workshop that consisted of a four-piece blues group that performed a variety of covers and explained the history and stories behind them.

Hiccups are expected and weather such as what was seen Saturday afternoon can be concerning, but these are prepared for in the planning. However, a much more sinister event than that had some festival officials worried about Saturday’s outcome. On Saturday, Aug. 26, a week before his scheduled performance at Blues Fest, supporting act Marquise Knox was hospitalized for an incident in St. Louis where he was allegedly stabbed in the neck returning home from another performance. To the relief of Knox and festival officials, the performer persevered and was still able to deliver an impressive set Saturday night.

The success of this festival has provided much optimism for years to come
and will ensure an impressive lineup in 2018. Adequate profits each Blues Fest is crucial for the continuation of this Marquette tradition, as profits from each Blues Fest go toward paying acts for the following year. Mark Stonerock, president of the MABS, went as far as to say that at any given festival a disastrous profit outcome could mean the end of Blues Fest for good.

Michael Wilson

Luckily every festival has been a hit in the Marquette community. After the dust settles every year, the passionate volunteers help clean up and go back to live their lives wherever that may be only to return the next year and do it again. Walt Lindala, the director of Blues Fest, witnesses the process every year. “These people come from all over the U.P. and the United States and only come together for Blues Fest… and we’ve grown into a family,” Lindala said. Marquette surely wouldn’t be the same without this tradition. Nothing, not the weather, or even the horrible things experienced by Marquise Knox this year, have been able to get in the way of it, and with the signing of a two-year contract with the city, the Marquette Area Blues Society assures the community that they’re not done yet.