Blues Fest to spotlight loads of local talent

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What does Natchez sound like?

Is Natchez’s sound the thump of a bass, the smooth soul of an electric guitar, the vibrato of a harmonica or the story-telling words of poems set to music and called The Blues?

Eric Glatzer, organizer of the Natchez Bluff Blues Fest, said Natchez’s sound is a mix of sounds that gives it a unique musical personality.

“We have a rich musical base here like the base we had when the Rhythm Night Club was here. We were a little Memphis then,” he said. “When we lost the Rhythm Club, we lost some of that sound, but we are trying to regain, recapture our musical heritage.”

That is why this year’s Natchez Bluff Blues Fest will celebrate local musicians. The theme for the event is “The Natchez Sound.”

The festival, which begins Friday with an crawfish boil and continues through Saturday and Sunday, features a lineup of more than two dozen musicians and bands.

“We aren’t denigrating the festival at all by not bringing in national acts,” Glatzer said. “We are really highlighting the fact that we have such talent here.”

The festival is headquartered on Broadway Street behind the Natchez Grand Hotel.

The majority of this year’s events are free. The Friday night crawfish boil is $15 per person, but Saturday’s festival happenings are free. Glatzer said that change is one he hopes will draw a large, diverse crowd.

Saturday’s full day of events gets started at 9 a.m. when a spring flea market opens. The music starts at 11:30 on the main stage. This year’s music will be “jam-session format” meaning there is a not a strict time schedule for artists to follow.

Instead, Glatzer said, there will be three two-hour sessions featuring at least 10 artists per jam.

“With this festival, we really want to bind the community together and use the music as the tape,” he said. “There is a little something for everyone, from beginning to the end of it.”

Saturday’s line up includes nationally acclaimed blues artists like Hezekiah Early, YZ Ealey and Grey Montgomery and local musicians including Alvin Shelby and the Pilgrim Baptist Church Choir, Stan Smith, Jon Borum and Ben Lewis.

In addition to the music, there will be a rock climbing wall, a horse demonstration by the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and the No. 39 Nascar race car will be displayed.

Friday and Saturday night, music will move from the outdoor stage into local clubs and restaurants with select club performances.

The Natchez Manor, Pearl Street Pasta, Doc Big Love’s and Under-the-Hill Saloon are just a few of the nine establishments that will host musicians in conjunction with the festival.

Sunday features the City of Vidalia Gospel Sing from 2 to 5:30 p.m., at the Riverfront amphitheater.

“We should really be able to liven up the downtown area Friday night and all day on Saturday,” Glatzer said. “Everything continues on Sunday, too. We want to get as many people out and about as possible. That is why we have so many venues.”

Glatzer said music is one of the venues that has the ability to bring communities together. He said blues music is even better at connecting people.

“Music is something we all share a love for,” he said. “Especially blues music because it is rooted in the soul.

“Everyone has had a bad time and the blues is the celebration of the survival of those bad times. Blues music is internationally well-received because it touches something that is basic to all of us.”