Blues Fest preview
THUNDER BAY -- Trevor Hurtig probably won’t get a chance to relax until Sunday night, when Jacob Dylan and the Wallflowers hit the Marina Park stage.
Hurtig, a key cog in the Thunder Bay Blues Festival’s well-oiled music machine, says it looks like this year’s crowd could rival that of last year’s, one of the best in the Festival’s decade-plus long history.
“Ticket sales are actually right where they were last year at this time, which is fantastic,” said Hurtig, the festival’s director of marketing and development.
“Last year was a great year for us. But yes, we definitely rely on those last-minute ticket sales to make the event a success.”
No surprise that Hurtig and his colleagues are keeping a close eye on the weekend weather forecast, which is looking pretty good at this point, with a possibility of scattered showers on Saturday, but sun and temperatures in the low to mid-20s expected.
That’s good news said Hurtig, convinced the lineup is as strong as any other year, if not stronger.
With Melissa Etheridge slated to headline Friday night, up-and-coming rockers Rival Sons the main act on Saturday and the aforementioned Wallflowers closing the festival out, there’s plenty of star power at the top of the bill to draw fans out.
And that doesn’t take into consideration this year’s undercard.
Among the highlights are ‘90s favourites the Spin Doctors, blues legend Jimmie Vaughan and Canadian siren Serena Ryder.
There’s plenty of buzz about a lot of bands, perhaps none more so than the Saturday night headliners.
“People seem to have a lot of interest in Rival Sons,” Hurtig said. “They’re an up-and-coming band, but definitely have that Led Zeppelin sound and I think you’re going see big things out of them.”
As always, the festival bookers have made sure to land some of Thunder Bay’s top talent to open each day, including James Boraski & MomentaryEvolution, The Chain and Tracy K.
“That’s definitely a mandate of the festival, to showcase the incredible local talent here in Thunder Bay,” Hurtig said.
Asked who he’s most looking forward to seeing, Hurtig said on the rock side, the Wallflowers have long been on his bucket list, while on the blues side, Jimmie Vaughan one of his most anticipated acts of the weekend. He’s also excited to check out 17-year-old Matthew Curry, fresh off a six-city tour with the Steve Miller Band earlier this year, a must-see act in Hurtig’s mind.
Etheridge, best known for hits like Come to My Window and Bring Me Some Water, is receiving plenty of love from ticket buyers, as are the Spin Doctors, whose 1991 debut Pocket Full of Kryptonite spawned a trio of hit singles, including Two Princes, which peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard charts.
The album hit No. 3 on the U.S. charts and sold more than five million copies.
Site preparations are well under way, he added, with one notable change to the stage area – a newly added catwalk that will allow performers to step out a little closer to the crowd if they choose.
“It will allow the artist to connect a little more with the audience because there is a little bit of a berm between the stage and where the front row of the audience is,” Hurtig said.
“This allows them to interact, come right out and be right where the audience is. That’s something new we’re trying this year and we think we can have some fun with that.”
Festival goers will be permitted to bring along an empty water container which they can fill up at the city-provided water station. Other outside food and beverages are not permitted. Lawn chairs are permitted, but organizers discourage larger ones with canopies, which might obstruct the view of other patrons.
Tickets are $69 per day, with three-day passes going for $109 and VIP passes for $159. They’re available at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium box office until Friday at 3 p.m., at which time ticket sales will transfer to the festival’s entrance gates.