Local blues legend Steve Kelley said it Friday night. “Blues is the Truth.”
A couple thousand people were feeling that truth last weekend at the 9th annual Flathead Lake Blues and Music Festival. Locals and out-of-towners, baby boomers and young rockers, first timers and “blues groupies” who follow the circuit all summer — all were taken in by the irresistible good vibes and hot licks in the cool Flathead music scene. Campers filled the Polson Fairgrounds, and dancers filled the stagefront of Regatta Shoreline Amphitheater, busting out everything from bootie-shaking to the tango.
Promoter and organizer Steve Pickel builds on the old Muddy Waters quote, “The blues had a baby and they called it rock & roll,” pointing out how country and other genres also followed from the blues. He loves to feature the whole blues family with a variety of styles and talent at this end-of-season show. The giant stage, built three years ago by Anderson Broadcasting, filled with giant sounds, from giants of the blues world.
Friday showcased some of the immense talent from right in our own back yard, including Native American hoop dancer Robert Perot, Jr., Polson High School’s Taylor Owen singing the national anthem, and guitarist/comedian Jordan Albert.
Unique for this show was bringing together a dream team, combining local blues the man Steve Kelley and his band “Big Daddy and the Blue Notes” with John Kelley, of north Idaho’s “Atomic Blues Band,” calling themselves “The Kelley Brothers.” Three outstanding Missoula bands, The Pleasure Kings, Ticket Sauce (yeah, they nailed Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin), and MoneyPenny laid it all out on Friday. Usually a four-person band, MoneyPenny brought seven by combining members from three bands, including two drummers, and powered the crowd into the wee hours.
Saturday brought in the “Smokey Smooth Jazz and Blues” of Missoula’s Blue Moon Band with the sultry vocals of Mary Place; the Inland Empire Blues Society’s multiple-year “Best Blues Guitarist” Bobby Patterson; the funky and amazing Zach Cooper Band; the Michelle Taylor Band with a Janis Joplin-like fire; and the oh-so-sweet sound of last year’s Washington Blues Society “Best Band,” The Stacy Jones Band. The final jam fest brought musicians out of the woodwork to blow the night away.
Pickel expressed heartfelt thanks to all those who came to listen and dance, the volunteers, vendors and sponsors, and three contributing Blues Societies — Flathead Valley, Inland Empire and Washington.
The Flathead Lake Blues and Music Festival was a beautiful climax to a gorgeous Flathead summer.
The Blues Festival drew number of people like it has in previous years to Polson, and also boosts of a strong lineup of talented bands across the Pacific Northwest.