REGINA — Just when the February doldrums are setting in, things get jumping at the Regina Mid-Winter Blues Festival.
The festival takes place at venues across Saskatchewan's capital city from Feb. 22 to 27. There are free performances Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, as well as Saturday afternoon. Tickets will be needed for shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Greg Mildenberger, president of the Regina Blues Association, says they expect about 2,000 people will flow through the festival.
"They are full houses right from start to finish, so it's a great weekend and a great week,'' said Mildenberger.
The festival started more than two decades ago as a weekend event held in pubs, but Mildenberger says it has grown quite a bit over the last decade. It has been a week-long event for the past three years.
Charlie Musselwhite performs at the Regina Mid-Winter Blues Festival in 2013. (Photo: Regina Blues Association)
Mildenberger says festival organizers are proud that they pump a lot of local artists into the lineup. About three-quarters of the 20 or so performers will be local.
But at the same time, he knows the festival needs some big-name recognition if it's going to draw people to Regina in February.
"We try to bring in blues performers that are playing at the major levels, so these are the guys who are at the Chicago Blues Festival and the New Orleans Blues Festival and Tampa and so on, and it might be the only time they've ever been in Saskatchewan,'' said Mildenberger.
"We had Charlie Musselwhite here two years ago and he won the Grammy four weeks before he got here, so it was like this is sweet. So that's what we're doing to bring people to Regina, is having a really quality festival.''
Friday's show at the Regina Performing Arts Centre features Juno winner Colin Linden and the Rotting Matadors, as well as Juno winner Rita Chiarelli.
Juno winner Rita Chiarelli. (Photo: G. McDougall/Flickr)
The festival culminates Saturday at Casino Regina with Canada's master blues rocker David Wilcox and the Juno-winning Monkey Junk.
"We've been looking for (David Wilcox) for about four or five years, but the timing just never worked out because he just wouldn't be on tour or he'd be somewhere else in the world touring and the stars aligned for us this year,'' said Mildenberger.
Mildenberger says Saturday will be an "upbeat, high-energy night,'' while Friday will have a more cool, acoustic vibe.
"Wow, that's a pretty wide world of what blues is.''
Don't know the difference between swamp blues or jump blues? Don't worry.
Mildenberger says there will be a variety of blues genres and the festival will appeal to all music fans.
"If you asked me 20 years ago what blues was, I would have said it's B.B. King and I wouldn't have known anything else,'' he said.
"And then as I started getting more into blues, I was like, man, there's lots of jump blues and harmonica stuff, bands like Downchild, you know the swing bands, plus the power trios like Stevie Ray Vaughan.
"As you sort of broaden out what all the genres are, it's like, wow, that's a pretty wide world of what blues is.''
If You Go...
For more information, visit the Regina Blues Association website, www.reginablues.ca.
Tickets for night shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Feb. 25-27) are available through the Casino Regina box office or at www.casinoregina.com.
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