George's Music Springing The Blues

by Liza Mitchell
Whether on foot, by bike or by surfboard, this year is all about celebrating 20 years of oceanfront blues in Jacksonville Beach. The George’s Music Springing the Blues Festival sprouted up against the sea oats at the SeaWalk Pavilion in 1991 as a way to showcase “America’s indigenous art form,” according to festival founder Sam Veal. From its modest beginnings this annual music event and evolved and been embraced by the City of Jacksonville Beach and now ranks as the nation’s #1 Outdoor Blues Music festival, “…and the only one that’s oceanfront”, adds Sam.
Before the festival itself gets underway, the title sponsor George’s Music will host a Q & A and free in-store performance featuring the Georgia-based blues band Mile Train at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 8 in Jacksonville Beach. Mile Train will also appear later that evening at 10 p.m. at Mellow Mushroom in Jacksonville Beach.
The Beaches Museum & History Center will host “20 Years of Blues at the Beach,” a retrospective exhibit featuring all 20 framed Springing the Blues posters that will be exhibited and auctioned off along with photographs and performances that capture the spirit of the music festival. The opening night reception will start the weekend off on the right note at 7 p.m. Friday, April 8 with music by Alphonso Sanders and Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry. The event is free and open to the public. Also featured at the exhibit will be the works of local artist David Lee, who created the promotional posters unique to each year’s festival. The signature posters are a visual marriage of the beach and the blues with images ranging from a sea turtle in a fedora to a palm tree-shaped guitar. Video highlights of past performances filmed by exhibit curator Mitch Kaufmann of Atlantic Video will also run during the reception.
Over the last two decades, STB is billed as one of the top 50 music festivals in the world by Downbeat Magazine and has expanded in sheer size as well as the caliber of performers. A west stage was incorporated several years ago to help familiarize audiences with a more intimate portrait of the artists.
Mile Train is among the artists that will grace the west stage both Friday and Saturday with an appearance on the festival’s main stage Saturday afternoon. For a list of all of the performances visit www.springingthe
As the festival itself grew, many outer fest activities were created as a way to encompass the distinctive attributes of hosting the country’s biggest free outdoor music festival by the sea. The Surfing the Blues Spring Surf Fest combines great live blues at a prime oceanfront venue. Participants kick off the event at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 11 at the Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier.Then Running the Blues 5K Run and 2.5K Walk begins at 10:30 a.m. on the beach at the American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps station at the foot of Beach Boulevard.
Capping off the Friday and Saturday night performances will be an after-fest jam hosted by festival veteran Shane Dwight at 10 p.m. Saturday, April 10 and 8 p.m. Sunday, April 11 at Mojo’s BBQ Kitchen and Blues Bar. Several festival performers are expected to sit in.
Mellow Mushroom will also highlight festival performers Willie Randolf at 10 p.m. Friday, April 9 and Skinny Legs and All at 10 p.m. Saturday, April 10 for an after-fest party.