Amuse Bouche in the First State - by chefjimi

Posted on 9/01/2010 by Chefjimi

It is simply amazing at the high quality Blues festivals that are within a good days driving distance from almost anywhere out here. Case in point, The Riverfront Blues Festival in Wilmington, Delaware which is in it's 13th year put on one spectacular three-day event for fans from all over. This year set an attendance record of over 7000 for the weekend.

Local Selections from the First State
Kudos to the Tina Betz and others at the Wilmington Mayor's Office Department of Cultural Affairs and to Gene Fontana of the Diamond State Blues Society, and to all the volunteers (A.J., gets special thanks) who year after year put this festival on. A very nice thing, and something more should think about doing - have it downtown in the heart of the city. Hotels close, beautiful Christina River backdrop, holy crab cakes Batman, this place was very close to Blues heaven.

lower case blues. In case you haven't noticed my affinity for e.e.cummings (in my name ?) this power trio from Newark (New- Ark) Delaware fell immediately into favor with me. Featuring lead guitarist Jake Banaszak, B.J. Muntz on bass-vocals and Rick Webster on drums and muggs ! These boys were the local International Blues Challenge winners and are way too good for their age.

Gary Allegretto (2 time Grammy Nominee) a super harp player from Wilmington made a repeat appearance at the festival. He turned the 'second' stage into the main stage as he displayed some superb harp-attack sensibilities and threw some

heat with a local song entitled 'Dela-where' dedicated to his home state. Gary has been on the main stage three times prior and there was fear they might change the name to the Allegretto Blues Festival.

Firsts in the First State
First time seeing Bernard Allison, John Lee Hooker, Jr., Skyla Burrell, The Nouveaux Honkies and Mitch Kashmar. Not a disappointing act in the group.

My darling bride's mother, Geri, joined us for the Friday night show, we trekked her down from Devon, PA and she was the belle of the ball.

Meeting our friends, musicians and (her best moment) meeting Sugar Mae and Robert Jr. from Big City Rhythm & Blues Magazine. Geri knows no strangers, just friends she hasn't met yet !

The Delta Groove Harp Blast's Mitch Kashmar was cool in his white shirt and nicely coiffed hair, but hot on the harp and vocals as he had the crowd bringing presents to him after the closing set on Friday night.

The Nouveaux Honkies partnered with veteran Blues Man, Matt Guitar Murphy for some dazzling and varied forms of Blues. It was good to see Matt out there playing again, this man is clean, I tell ya, note for note each one rings true and clear.

On a hot Sunday afternoon (95) John Lee Hooker, Jr. & the Hooker Band were incendiary. Having lost their trailer on the way with their clothes and stuff, they hit the stage and grabbed the crowd by the scruff of their necks and shook

them till they had enough. Ok like if that wasn't enuf, John Lee, Jr. had a 'booty shake call' - wherein he brought up four women to dance and shake their booties and the crowd voted with applause to select the winner. That was just a hoot - a whole lotta shakin' going on !

Travellin' Bands
OK, so to show how well thought of this festival is by the artists, we had Mike Zito come in from Colorado on the red-eye. Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers from California. Deanne Bogart flew in mid-afternoon Sunday from Des Moines. But the wildest travel schedule was any the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Review band (a good part of them) as they flew in from Norway – yeh THAT Norway, not Norway, Michigan (look it up).

Each of these performers – all of these performers – gave outstanding shows. I had been contacted about Zito Band just slaying them in Colorado, well they repeated the gesture in Delaware. Rod and the Mighty Flyers brought that West Coast Swing style and transplanted it on the shores of Delaware. Deanna & the LRBR band brought a little bit of the Legendary Cruise Jam sessions with them and closed out the festival with such high-energy that people were left slack-jawed by the energy level and musical talent they displayed.

Senior Discounts and Kids Play Free

Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin, point man for The Perfect Age of Rock & Roll Band brought with him none less than the storied Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Williee 'Big Eyes' Smith, Mojo Buford, and Bob Stroger. These legendary artists are among our last links to The Wolf, Muddy and others who are gone but not forgotten. In spite of the defibrillators, oxygen tanks and a noticable slowed pace these gentlemen of the Blues just know how to play it right.

These guys were the most welcoming to the fans and those of us who were working the fest. Allowing pictures of them with fans, kisses (gentle) and firm handshakes highlighted the back stage occurrences.

As for kids, we did have Bernard son of Luther, John Lee Jr., both of these 'chips off the old blocks' proved that the Blues bloodlines run deep and sturdy. Both of these artists share the award for giving the 'best face' during their performances.

Now kids come in all sizes and ages. Gary Allegretto has an organization 'Harmonikids' that puts harmonicas in underprivileged kids hands and mouths and spread s the blues worldwide. On Saturday and Sunday between main stage acts he workshops on how to play a harmonica. His audience ranged from six to sixty (give or take a few) and everyone came away with a harmonica in the key of C, and a cheat sheet with Hootchie Cootchie Man and other exercises for the grand sum of $5. You can find out more about this organization at this link .

Menu Planning
One cannot live on music and beer alone. Well, wait a second now....
speaking of beer the beer tent had roughly 7 or 8 types of beer on tap ranging from a light beer thru a banana toned weissen, to a thick roasted chocolate porter.

The food was an interesting mix of local chefs, all were quite good. Saturday my breakfast was a Caribbean Jerk chicken plate, with Beans and rice
and cabbage to catch the jerk juice. Lunch

(a short time later) was Fat Ricks BBQ, and good Q at that. Heck, when last seen, John Lee Jr. was carting off a small stockpile of plates from Rick. One fun snack was the Popcorn vendor who had a list of 20 or so options for your popcorn. Dill Pickle, Sour Cream and Chives, and others to compliment those colds drafts that kept appearing in my hand.

Dessert – A Tale of the Tongues
As has become a somewhat regular part of these menus, we now feature the piece de' resistance' or overheard snippets from the Riverfront Blues Festival.

“I want to go up and kiss him, he's so cute” – backstage missus on Pinetop Perkins

“Heck, give him a lap dance, he'd appreciate that a helluva lot more” - male friend to her.

“Why, in every picture of me, I am holding a beer?”

“ Just where will this all access pass get me with you?”

“Dela- who, Dela- what, Dela – when, Dela-why, Dela-where”

Second Helpings
As if the LRBR wasn't enough of a 'land cruise' adventure, there was a massive showing of force by the East Coast Bluescruise family. As the fest grew closer Face Book and the LRBC chat room were abuzz with peeps reaching out to see who was going to be on site at the festival. With the likes of Keb' Man & Mary Beth, Kenny from Long Island, the JoPats, Carrie, KatluvsBlues and many more it was a nice reunion in the warmth of Wilmington. We are all getting ready for the January Cruise, and some are making the trek to San Diego for the friendly confines of the October Blues cruise.

Second Son – Second Base, to First - Double Play !
With Gary Allegretto hailing from Wilmington, nearly everyone in attendance knew him. But none other than George Thorogood is from Delaware (band was 'Delaware Destroyers') and that he played semi-pro baseball in Wilmington in the seventies. Now, of course, everyone knows George, and from the sound of what people were telling me, just about everyone played baseball with him at one time or another. Go figure.
Now George was no slacker, he played second base and was Rookie of the Year in his first year with the Destroyers team. When I spoke to George about this a short while after the festival he only asked one question and it was “did they say I was the best guy playing there? If so then they really did play with me'. That's pure classic George, funny and sly like a fox.

And it would be remiss to not mention the third of the Wilmington Triumverate, Mr. Bill Wax, of Sirius/XM Radio, and recently was elected President of the Blues Foundation.

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease

If you enjoyed this serving of the Blues, you might want to check out my other articles, as I roam around seeking out the Blues wherever they are happening.

all photos used by permission
courtesy of Leslie K. Joseph, chefjimi.

copyright © 2010 – bluesuitspeaks, all rights reserved.

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