This year’s Brantford Blues Festival is kicking things up a notch.
After starting in 2011 as a one-day event, the second annual festival is expanding to three days filled with local musicians and big name talent.
The Brantford Blues Festival runs from July 20 to July 22 in downtown Brantford.
“It is going to be a blast,” said festival communications director Adam Meery. “There’s going to be great bands, great food, great entertainment.”
Canada’s best-known and best-loved blues band, Downchild, headlines the event with a performance at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts on July 20.
The band, which includes harpist Donnie Walsh, singer Chuck Jackson, tenor sax player Pat Carey, drummer Mike Fitzpatrick, bassist Gary Kendall and pianist Michael Fonfara, celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009 by releasing its 16th studio album.
Its years together have helped perfect the band’s sound, said Walsh, who is also known as “Mr. Downchild.”
“We’ve been together long enough to know just how everything fits, every groove, every note, every piece of punctuation,”
Walsh said. “It’s not as if we have to go looking for hooks – they just happen. That’s one of the great things about a band that’s been together for as long as we have. It just gets better and better.”
Downchild will perform with special guests Johnny Max and the Jesse O’Brien Trio.
The music heads outside on Saturday and Sunday, with nine acts performing free concerts in the Market Street promenade.
Two-time Juno Award winner and seven-time Maple Blues Award winner Jack de Keyzer headlines Saturday’s show, accompanied by the Fraser Melvin Blues Band, Delta Shakers, Duane Laforme Boogie Blues Band, Lumberjunk and Cheryl Lescom and the Tucson Choir Band.
Downchild singer Jackson returns to the stage to headline Sunday’s performance with his Big Bad Blues Band. The band will perform songs from its latest album, A Cup of Joe.
Local acts the Connor Gains Band and One Bald Tire will also perform on Sunday.
“It was important for us to include local talent,” Meery said. “We wanted to bring in a few acts that were going to draw a crowd – Maple Blues Award winners, Juno Award winners – but Brantford has an amazing pool of incredible artists and we wanted to showcase that.”
During the festival, the Market Street promenade will be filled with barbecue vendors and beer tents, as well as face painting for children.
Festival organizers have also teamed up with the eighth annual Telephone City Car Show, which takes place on Sunday, July 22 in Harmony Square.
“On Sunday, you will be able to go see a few bands and then go view the cars,” Meery said. “It’s going to be a really seamless process.”
Tickets to see Downchild at the Sanderson Centre cost $35 in advance or $40 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at the Sanderson Centre box office at 88 Dalhousie St., by phone at 519-758-8090 or online at www.sandersoncentre.ca.
Visit www.brantfordblues.com for more information.