EAST TAWAS – Now in its 18th year, Blues by the Bay returns to the Tawas Bay waterfront in East Tawas this weekend.
Held at the East Tawas Harbor Park, the annual blues festival is set for Friday through Sunday. Admission is a $25 festival button good for the three days of musical entertainment.
The event is put on by the Tawas Bay Blues Society. The tent opens each day of the festival one hour before each opening act. This year’s theme is “Electrifying 18.”
Ken Murphy, Tawas Bay Blues Society president, said the organization is again excited about this year’s lineup.
Scheduled to open this year’s festival on Friday is Sax Maniacs, who are returning by popular demand, at 6 p.m. followed by John Primer and the Real Deal Blues Band at 8.
The Sax Maniacs are a five-piece band out of the Detroit area, performing a mix of Soulful cover tunes and special original material off their latest CD. Their style is a cross between super cool swingin’ sax tunes from the 50s and 60s like Peter Gun, Honky Tonk and Night Train to classic rock and Motown hits like Ain’t To Proud To Beg, Shotgun and I Feel Good by James Brown. The band incorporates four-part harmonies, cool brass, lots of burnin’ guitar with one of the hottest rhythm sections in the Motor City.
Two-time Grammy nominated artist and American blues legend John Primer was the bandleader and guitarist for Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Magic Slim & The Teardrops. Having played or recorded with a who’s who of blues greats including Junior Wells, Gary Clark Jr., Derek Trucks, Johnny Winter, The Rolling Stones and Buddy Guy to name a few, John Primer’s personal accolades, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, reflect his countless contributions to the history of Chicago blues. There are very few fans, critics or musicians who will deny the fact that John Primer is the real deal.
Saturday’s festival schedule gets underway at noon with Rhett Yocom Blues Band, followed at 2 p.m. by Erin Coburn. BlaK Dog hits the festival stage at 4 p.m., Laura Rain and the Caesars will perform at 6 p.m. and the festival’s headliner, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Rhett Yocom started playing guitar at age 15 when he got his first guitar from Larry McCray. Having spent many hours with his grandparents, he grew to love the sounds of the 50s and 60s. However, once he heard the Blues, he knew what he wanted to do: with Marty DeShais on bass and Scott Causley on drums.
Performer and singer/songwriter from Kentucky, Erin Coburn has captivated her audiences since a young age, with her prowess on guitar, her powerful vocals and bringing her own style of Rock with Blues influences into the 21st century. Those that attend Erin’s live shows describe her as having a mesmerizing stage presence with her intricate arrangements and dynamic lyrics that stirs the soul. She commands her band with an effortless confidence while giving the audience something unexpected, like shredding her electric ukulele during a hypnotizing solo.
BlaK Dog is a collaboration of very talented, seasoned Detroit blues and rock performers. They play original material rooted in multiple music styles, from traditional blues to blistering rock anthems. They are very tight with a fresh sound; very energetic and highly entertaining. Each member brings a different flavor to the mix.
Laura Rain and the Caesars are a powerhouse Soul, Blues, and R&B quartet, fronted by the dynamic, soul fire, Laura Rain. Rain has cut her teeth in the trenches of the Motor City, and Los Angeles for well over a decade. Often compared to Aretha Franklin, Rains’s fire, feeling and expressiveness are all her own. Producer, co-writer and guitarist George Friend along with Phil Hale and Ron Pangborn are the Caesars and together, Laura Rain and the Caesars are reclaiming the storied Detroit soul music legacy from the ravages of time, neglect and electronic dance music.
Born in Louisiana, 2018 Grammy award nominee and “America’s Hottest Accordion” winner, Dwayne Dopsie plays a high energy zydeco that keeps you wanting more. Dwayne hails from one of the most influential Zydeco families in the world. Although inspired by tradition, he has developed his own high energy style that defies existing stereotypes and blazes a refreshingly distinct path for 21st century Zydeco music.
Sunday’s performers are Downriver Dan at 1 p.m. followed by Big Ray and the Motor City Kings at 3.
DownRiver Dan is said to be a guitarist, singer and songwriter. “The question is often asked of me, ‘Why did you start playing guitar?’ My answer is, I had to. I began playing guitar and later singing, which eventually led me to writing songs,” he said. The musician said he’s always had an ear for the rock and blues records in his dad’s collection, so it was a natural direction for him to go. “I’ve been performing several nights each week to audiences everywhere from bars and restaurants to street fairs and summer festivals since attending my first ‘open music night’ at age 16,” he said. “Exploring anything that peaks my interest, I’m not afraid to mix things up. My studies have and continue to include, blues, many styles of rock and roll, country and even jazz.”
Back by popular demand for the seventh straight year is Big Ray and the Motor City Kings. Big Ray Harwood is the band’s front man vocalist and musical director. He grew up playing guitar and piano, but it is his saxophone talent that has now become the mark and signature of the act. Band members include Downriver bred guitarist Davey Fender, a strong songwriter, arranger and technician who resides in Westland; Mike Rupprecht, on keyboards and vocals, who was born in Lincoln Park and raised in the back room of a Dairy Queen; and Bobby Baker, bass and vocals, who was born in Detroit in 1955 and started teaching himself music at age 10 in 1965.