This year celebrates the 26-year tradition of sun, fun, and music. Exciting changes are underway for Springing the Blues, the free outdoor blues music festival at the Jacksonville Beach Seawalk Pavilion, April 1-3. It’s now known as Belk Presents Springing the Blues and will spotlight the youngest array of talent ever. As the new title sponsor, Belk will help contribute to a greater talent reach and an increased production value. “They are very, very big into southern music and of course, that’s what Springing the Blues is all about,” says festival founder Sam Veal.
Veal shared some of their excitement about the partnership: “Belk is honored to be the title sponsors of one of the top music festivals in the world. Partnering with Springing the Blues gives us the opportunity to show our commitment to the arts and to the southern lifestyle. Music plays a huge part in the lifestyle of our customers, which is why we began the Southern Music Showcase competition open to solo artists and bands in pop, pop country, blues, bluegrass, Americana, and R&B.”
One of the new highlights at this year’s festival that is the Belk Southern Music Showcase as an addition to the festival lineup. To participate, artists must submit three original songs and a biography that details their affiliation to the south. Two artists from the Belk Southern Music Showcase will receive a cash prize and a performance slot on the festival’s main stage. Winners will be announced March 19.
Some familiar faces will be returning to the festival lineup. This is the youngest, most talented group of performers in the festival’s history. The oldest performer is 50 years old, and the youngest is 21. At 35, Victor Wainwright will headline opening night. The Memphis native is nominated for the 2016 B.B. King entertainer of the year, record of the year, and band of the year. “Man, he is the best boogie woogie piano player in blues,” says Terry Dixon, artistic director for Belk Presents Springing the Blues. Also returning is festival favorite Selwyn Birchwood with two appearances Friday. “I believe Selwyn is changing blues music forever. What he is doing with his arrangements, his techniques, and his songwriting is just amazing,” Dixon says.
Headlining Saturday on the main stage is Samantha Fish, who wowed crowds at last year’s festival. Dixon says he knew she was one to watch. “She’s 27 years old and has already released five records and won several BMA awards,” he says. “I thought she was singularly the best performer of last year, and that’s why I definitely had her back.” The Lee Boys will close out the event Sunday on the Main Stage.
Many new artists will take the stage for the first time, including Chicago bluesman Toronzo Cannon. “The more happy faces I see doing their thing and having fun, the better I feel. When you feel that certain spirit in the air, you just try and give it back,,” says Cannon. “Chicago blues is still alive, and we’re going to do our part to show you. We’re all doing our part to uplift the blues and stand on the shoulders of whoever who came before us.” Read EU’s complete interview with Toronzo Cannon.
Also playing Saturday is Castro “Mr. Sipp” Coleman. The man known as The Mississippi Blues Child is the winner of the 2014 International Blues Challenge and Gibson Best Guitarist. In 2015 he won the JMA Male Artist of the year, National Artist of the year, Blues Artist of the year. “It’s a great honor. I’ve been doing the blues now for three years now. A lot of people think I’m an overnight success, but I’ve been playing music for 30 years. I’m not new to the business. I’m new to the genre, so it’s not an overnight success. It’s many nights, many miles and highways and byways before I decided in 2012 that I wanted to play the blues,” he says.
Sean Chambers, voted one of the top 50 guitarists in the world, is also coming to the festival stage for the first time. Local artists include the Corbitt-Clampitt Experience, Kim Retiguez & the Black Cat Bones, Toots Lorraine & the Traffic, and blues phenom Conrad Oberg, who at 21 is this year’s youngest performer but still the only performer to play at Woodstock 40th anniversary in 2009. “The reason we have such a strong local blues following here in Jacksonville is because of Springing the Blues,” says Dixon. “Forty five hours of music, 20 artists for three days on two stages. The blues world’s eyes and ears will be on us, and we will blow them away.” Catch Springing the Blues April 1-3 at the Seawalk Pavilion. Check out springingtheblues.com for more information.