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Well, I Woke Up This Morning...
by Jeffrey Czum
Second Annual Buffalo/Niagara Blues Festival set to shake Silo City
The blues is more an expression of deep emotion than any other musical style, and the five acts set to perform the Second Annual Buffalo/Niagara Blues Festival this Saturday (7/11) at 12pm in Silo City will explore a wide range of feeling that will make you feel everything from despair to determination to exultation.
This is a free all day event that will feature great national acts like Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King (8:30pm-10pm), Teeny Tucker (6:30pm-8pm) and Mississippi Heat (4:30pm-6pm). Buffalo’s own Bobby Militello will be performing with the legendary organ player Tony Monaco (2:30pm-4pm), and Chicago Blues Connection will be kicking off the festival at 12:30pm.
When you think of the blues, you probably think about misfortune, betrayal and regret. You lose your job, you get the blues. Your woman falls out of love with you, you get the blues. Your dog dies, you get the blues. But that’s not always the case. A lot of blues songs like “Mister Your Wife’s Been Cheatin’ On Us” are gut-busting funny. And songs like “My Big Ten Inch” or “Please Warm My Weiner” (yes, that’s a real song title)are sly invites to the bedroom.
The blues is also about overcoming hard luck, saying what you feel, letting your hair down, and dancing to the rhythm of America’s most adored style of music. Dancing is a big part of the attraction to blues and right through the 1950s every small town in America had a dance hall where traveling blues bands pulled in and played.
Blues music has always had deep roots in American history, particularly African-American history. The genre originated on Southern plantations in the 19th Century. Its inventors were slaves, ex-slaves and the descendants of slaves—African American sharecroppers who sang as they toiled in the cotton and vegetable fields. It’s generally accepted that the music evolved from African spirituals, African chants, work songs, field hollers, rural fife and drum music, revivalist hymns, and country-dance music.
The Western New York Blues Society wants to preserve that history.
Since 1992, the mission statement for the WNY Blues Society has been to keep the blues alive any way that it can. The Society provides many music opportunities and educational endeavors for people of all ages throughout Western New York. The Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival is just another way to introduce people to that.
“We’ll have everything from traditional blues to gospel to jazz,” says Chuck Laedke of the WNY Blues Society and Chairman of the festival.
“We’re keeping it diversified so people can hear a wide range of blues music. It’s not just the traditional blues folks who usually perform these types of concerts. We want to expose different styles to people who may not be that familiar with it,” he said.
Laedke joined the Society back in 2012 and has since made it his intention to introduce as many people as he can to the genre of music.
“They weren’t producing enough continuity over the years and wanted to create an event that really showcased the blues to a wide audience. Everyone wanted to become more of an event driven society and since I had contacts at Silo City, I mentioned the idea of having a concert there and eventually we got the ball rolling.”
The Society wanted to create a relaxed and unique setting that stood out from other blues festivals that take place in different cities around the county.
After getting generous grants and sponsorships from various vendors, they were able to bring in performers from Chicago, Toronto, Florida and beyond for last year’s Blues Festival.
It was a hit.
“It turned out better than we had expected as we had just under 3,000 people attend,” Laedke said.
“More than anything, the Blues Festival is a relaxing cultural experience where people can come to enjoy great live music, food trucks, beer tents and vendors we have on site. It’s really like a carnival atmosphere than just a flat out music festival,” he said.
With the success of last year’s event and the anticipation of over 4,000 attendees for Saturday afternoon, Laedke and the Blues Society are showing potential to create something much bigger than just an annual music event.
“I’d like to see the blues be put on the map in Buffalo,” he says.
“It’s always been very popular here, but our biggest goal is to get Buffalo national attention for being a blues city; just like Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans.
“Younger people may not realize that blues music isn’t always the guy sitting on the porch, plucking a guitar while singing about his woes. It’s everywhere. If you go back to classic rock, bands like Zed Zeppelin, Cream, and The Rolling Stones all started out as blues bands. Same thing can be said about a lot of modern bands too. Take a look at The Black Keys and Jack White. Even samples used in hip-hop songs have blues roots. The genre is very popular whether people realize it or not.”
Many young music listeners today may never even recognize the significance the blues had on modern music. Whether you’re a fan of pop, rock, country, folk or hip-hop, they have roots from blues.
“We like to educate younger kids about the blues and do a lot of work with schools around the area with a program called Blues in School,” said Laedke. “Local musicians come in and give lessons, seminars and just get kids involved,” Laedke said.
“Some people in that age bracket have never been exposed to that style of music [that they know of] and we just want to make an impression that will hopefully last.”
The Blues Festival helps keep that vision going strong.
“It’s really how we are able to afford the kind of stuff we do,” Laedke says. “Between our youth programs, we also offer Blues Thursdays at Sportsmen’s Tavern and monthly appearances at Rafferty’s Restaurant on Transit where any musician can come join a live band on stage and jam with them. We really want to keep those things going,” Laedke said.
“I’d love to see people welcome this event with the revitalization of the city,” he says. “It’s really great to see that there’s always something going on no matter where you go and there’s something about the atmosphere of Silo City that makes the Blues Festival appealing.
“We hope to see the festival grow more and more each year and we already have over 160 volunteers who are working very hard to put this all together,” he says.
“People don’t realize how hard it can be to put something like this on, but we have a great team of people making it happen.
“We just want people to explore this style of music and experience something new.”
The blues is visceral, cathartic, and starkly emotional. From unbridled joy to deep sadness, no form of music communicates more genuine emotion.
You can expect all that and more on Saturday afternoon.
For additional info regarding the Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival and the Western New York Blues Society, please visit: wnyblues.org.
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