2015 TROIS-RIVIERES EN BLUES FESTIVAL
2015 Trois-Rivieres en Blues Festival 8/20_8/23 - Ascends to the top of the stack as one of this year’s best Blues Festivals www.3renblues.com
This is the seventh edition of the Trois-Rivieres en Blues Fest, otherwise known as Three Rivers. Trois-Rivieres is located in the province of Quebec, about ninety minutes northeast of Montreal, and approximately seventy-five minutes from historic Quebec City. This special four day event burns and struts for four consecutive days. Many of the performances are free. Like previous years this festival offered a mix of Canadian talent and USA bands. From Canada: Jack de Keyzer, Angel Forrest, Jim Zeller, Lewis Dave, Louis Janelle, Pat Loiselle, Patrick Lehman, Anthony Gomes who now resides in the USA, and others. The United States was represented by: Alvin Youngblood Hart, Blackberry Smoke, Jamiah Rogers, John Nemeth, Roomful of Blues, Tinsley Ellis, Keb’ Mo’, and ZZ Top!
On the first night I was delighted by a potent performance by the Canadian veteran Jack de Keyzer who plays energetic guitar and possesses strong vocals, his band was tight and they were further fueled when Chicago guitarist Jamiah Rogers sat in. de Keyzer is a two time Juno winner, and seven time Maple Blues winner. Find out more at: www.JackdeKeyzer.com
The second night brought us to the brand new Cogeco Trois-Rivieres Amphitheater. It’s gorgeous and is held up by eight columns. A thin and elegant roof takes advantage of the natural beauty of the site framing the majestic St. Lawrence River. Seating capacity is thirty-five hundred orchestra seats, the roof slopes upwards and out to the lawn area that can accommodate an additional fifty-five hundred outdoor patrons, it’s magnificent. See for yourself:
The opening act was from a band I wasn’t very familiar with, their performance was extremely entertaining. The Blackberry Smoke Band www.BlackberrySmoke.com hail from Atlanta, GA and offer Southern rock, alt-country and deep soul that neatly set the table for the legendary ZZ Top. The bearded wonders (though the drummer has cut his beard) smoked the stage with their keen mix of rocking Blues. The music of ZZ Top is often titled Texas blues, and/or Southern rock, but in reality they are their own thing: A classic power trio made distinctive by Gibbons’ searing signature lead guitar, Dusty Hill’s thumping, open-string bass and Frank Beard’s thumping drums. Not your typical twelve-bar, but Southern boogie and funk, that’s blues-infused with a solid groove. They still wear their trademarked black jackets, jeans, cheap sunglasses, the duster hats and, and obviously their two beards. They played in front of screens showing B-movie images of cars, girls and the American South some of which were from their patented videos that many of us saw on early editions of MTV. Yours truly and the audience loved it. Need I say more? http://www.zztop.com
Night three (and back at the amphitheater) I witnessed Roomful of Blues who’s now down to just three horn players and not the band they once were (think Duke Robillard and Ronnie Earl,) but nonetheless their set was invigorating and appealing. For some time they’ve been led by guitarist Chris Vachon, vocalist Phil Pemberton took over the vocal chores five or so years ago, they aptly display a mix of jump, blues, R&B and soul. www.Roomful.com Next up was the effervescent and forever youthful Edgar Winter band. Edgar Winter’s live shows have always been consistent, his music is constantly evolving and he is a master at stretching his skill and imagination. Edgar continues to thrill audiences with his live performances, always remaining on the cutting edge of music and style. This evening’s performance verifies the point that Edgar thrives on the stage and looks like he’ll be fronting and road-testing his powerful band for many years forward.
The finale evening (also at the amphitheater) saw John Nemeth open with his unusual mix of retro-soul and straight-ahead blues. Personally speaking I preferred Nemeth’s soul offerings more than his blues and found it distracting when he shifted genres. www.JohnNemeth.com The Tinsley Ellis (trio) band was next. Ellis is Southern blues-rocker who plays with conviction. Ellis brought his A-game to Trois-Rivieres and unleashed a plethora of dazzling guitar sounds that are steeped somewhere between hard rock and roll with the passion of broiling blues. www.tinsleyellis.com Believe it when I tell you that the best of the weekend was yet to come: The Three time Grammy winner Kevin Moore Better known as: Keb’ Mo’. Over the past two-three decades Keb’ has cultivated a reputation as a modern master of American roots music through the understated excellence of his live and studio performances. His songs have been covered by B.B. King, Buddy Guy, the Dixie Chicks, Joe Cocker and Robert Palmer, and his playing inspired instrument maker Gibson Guitars to issue the Keb’ Mo’ signature Bluesmaster acoustic guitar. I have to admit that Keb’s unique brand of soul, funk and blues really sucked me into his groove, demonstrating that you don’t have to turn your amp(s) up-to eleven at redline. Keb’ crafts his intensity with his superb beautiful guitar tone and tasteful licks, yes guitar-heads you don’t have to overplay! That being said Keb’s closing performance brought numerous (well deserved) standing ovations and concluded the weekend blues fest with (not your typical Blues show comments;) style, grace and warmth that emitted from (both) the audience and stage. www.KebMo.com
So there you have it. My third Quebec, Canada musical adventure of 2015, all of them offered high-quality and memorable moments, but this festival was the highlight of them all. A lot of this has to do with the Canadian go-to promoter Brian Slack who consistently exemplifies that he knows how to assemble attractive talent that rivals any and all blues based festivals on the planet. Slack is also connected to booking some of the Blues shows at the Montreal Jazz Fest, and the Tremblant Blues Fest, as well as Trois-Rivieres. By the way; previously the Tremblant International Blues Festival was rightfully honored by the Memphis based Blues Foundation with a Keeping the Blues Alive award in the “International Festival” category in 2013. Slack deserves another Keeping the Blues Alive Award for this 2015 Trois-Rivieres en Blues Festival. Last but not least: look forward to what Slack and Trois-Rivieres concocts for 2016, until that time keep an eye out for what the Three Rivers Blues Fest has planned for next year at: www.3renblues.com
One sad note: Last year the south Floridian David Shelley’s Bluetone band performed at Trois-Rivieres. I knew David and was aware of his illness, but didn’t know that David recently lost his battle to cancer. His passing was thoughtfully noted with a memorial poster that sat on the side of the stage, see picture.
For sixteen years Bob Putignano has been pivotal at WFDU with his Sounds of Blue radio show (Mon. & Wed. 9am-1pm) www.SoundsofBlue.com – Previously a senior contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, currently the Music Editor for the Yonkers Tribune www.YonkersTribune.com - www.MakingAScene.org & www.wfdu.fm/Whats-Happening/Bob's Music Reviews/bobs music reviews/ Bob was the 2003 recipient of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award (given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis) for his achievements in radio broadcasting.
Putignano can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Putignano:www.SoundsofBlue.com Wed. & Fri. 9am-1pm: http://WFDU.fm Now celebrating 15 + years on the air in the NYC area Music Editor: www.yonkerstribune.com, www.makingascene.org & wfdu.fm/Whats-Happening/Bob's Music Reviews/bobs music reviews/