River City Blues Festival to rock Marietta Friday, Saturday

Photo courtesy of Anthony Canter From left to right, Eric Lawson, 54, on bass guitar, Anthony Canter, 31, on harmonica and vocals, Andrew Strickler, 32, on drums, and Kent Berry, 57, on guitar and vocals, will perform at the River City Blues Competition on Saturday at the Lafayette Hotel.

MARIETTA — The Mid-Ohio Valley Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society has focused all its efforts this year on Friday and Saturday.

“We got rid of our February show to really focus on March and afford bigger acts,” explained Helen Holt, one of the members of the society.

And so for the 29th year, the society’s annual River City Blues Festival will kick off Friday at the Lafayette Hotel with a free and open show by High Schools that Rock at 5 p.m. and then roll into visiting performances from International Blues Competition winners, and recognized award recipients headed to Memphis in May.

“Annika Chambers has been nominated for the blues music awards in Memphis in May, she’s an upcoming soul artist that’s really incredible,” said Holt of Friday night’s opener. “And The Delgado Brothers, who are performing after the competition Saturday, they’ve never played on the East Coast before so what a treat. They’re a past International Blues Challenge winner, which is held in Memphis each year and the winner of our competition represents our area at that challenge the following year.”

On Saturday, the River City Blues Competition previously held in February will kick off in the late morning with six acts coming from within a 200-mile radius of Marietta.

Photo courtesy of Dusty Scott Micah Kesselring will perform at the River City Blues Competition Saturday at the Lafayette Hotel.

“I’m really looking forward to the competition, specifically to play for people who already enjoy and look for blues music,” said Anthony Canter, 31, of Marietta, who is a member of the Canterberry Blues. “To be in a room with people who love blues and are already on their feet, that’s the energy you love when you perform.”

Canter said while the goal of the six bands performing in the competition is to represent the Mid-Ohio Valley at the IBC, his group is also there to enjoy the music of other visiting bands already touring.

“These guys are already doing it, as we’re trying to make our name,” he said, noting he’s looking forward to seeing the Delgado Brothers’ perform after the competition.

Micah Kesselring, 25, of Athens, previously won the River City Blues Competition in 2015 and has made it to the IBC’s top eight performers.

“Maybe this year I can go all the way,” he said. “It’s been close to five years since I last did the challenge in Memphis where I represented this area, and now I’m working on my third album really inspired by the ancient history of Ohio and that mix of folksy blues and a psychedelic flavor.”

Both Kesselring and Canter said they were drawn to blues because it connects to emotions everyone has felt.

“I think everyone can relate to what we sing about,” said Kesselring. “Everyone has felt the emotions, been a bit blue.”

“You sing just as much with the words as you do with the tune,” added Canter.

Or you jump and dance, added Holt.

“To see Zydeco perform– it’s just such a fun show in itself because they’re so fun to watch,” she continued. “No matter what draws you, the more folksy blues, the soul or the rock — it’s all family-friendly, and kids 12 and under are free — plus there’s food, drinks, fellowship and so much dancing.”

Holt said the two final acts to close out Saturday will take blues back to their roots originating in the deep south.

“Selwyn Birchwood is from Florida and very soulful,” she described. “And Billy Branch is that old-school blues people travel all over for — you know there are so many people who have met at our festivals and shows and later got married.”

She also mentioned post-show strumming and songs from performers of the festival to occur both nights at Over the Moon Pizza, led by former River City Blues Competition winner Dan Holt. Canterberry Blues will also perform at the Adelphia Friday night.

Advanced festival tickets may be purchased by calling Holt at 304-615-7997 or Peggy Bolen at 740-376-0222. More information on the festival may be found at bjfm.org.

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River City Blues Festival

* Where: Lafayette Hotel.

* When: Friday and Saturday.

* Cost: Friday night: $30; Saturday afternoon: $30; Saturday night $40; Weekend pass: $85.

* Advanced tickets may be purchased by calling Helen Holt at 304-615-7997 or Peggy Bolen at 740-376-0222.

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