Lake Placid Blues and Heritage Festival: Four days, more than 20 blues acts

LAKE PLACID – Do you ever find yourself lamenting, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all?” Do you often find yourself wearing sharp suits and frequenting smoke-filled, neon-lit bars in search of “relief?” Ever contemplated signing a contract with a strange man you met at the crossroads? If so, you might be a fan of the blues, and this weekend’s Lake Placid Blues and Heritage Festival might be right up your alley.

Now in its second year, the festival, which runs from Thursday, June 18 to Sunday, June 21, features over 20 blues acts from around the country. That means attendees have the chance to see The Vanessa Collier Band, Mikey Jr., Soul Sky, Sven Curth, Connor Kennedy Band, Mr. Revelator, Professor Louis and the Crowmatix, Rhett Tyler and Early Warning, Alexis P. Suter, the Roxy Perry Band, Dave Keyes, Fade to Blues, Jerry Dugger, Delta Roots, Griz, George Kilby Jr. and Phil Wiggins, The Bobby Kyle Band, Murali

Coryell, Michael Powers and Frequency and ZydeGroove in a single weekend.

In short, it’s a little slice of blues heaven.

“We’re as excited as ever about it,” Festival Co-Founder and General Manager and owner of the Hotel North Woods Garrick Smith told the Enterprise. “This will be our second annual event, and it continues to grow and grow.”

Roots

Even before last year’s inaugural festival, Smith has been a big supporter and promoter of the blues.

“I own and operate the Delta Blue, the blues club, if you will, on Main Street here,” he said. “My wife is from Lafayette, Louisiana, which kind of inspired the whole concept.

“We were working on trying to establish a great blues scene up here in Lake Placid, and we wondering how in the heck we were ever going to find blues bands to fill in the evenings, and, then after about a year and a half, we found ourselves saying, ‘No’ far (more) often than we found ourselves saying, ‘Yes.’ … It was just overwhelming, the positive response that we got.”

After the club hosted what Smith describes as around 15 blues hall-of-famers, he said he and his father and business partner, Gary, began to think bigger.

“How cool would it be if we brought all of these bands together in one weekend and just blew this thing out?” he said. “We think Lake Placid,as a venue, is the perfect backdrop for that size of event. We kind of stuck our necks out last year and pulled the trigger, and we’re glad we did.

“The response last year was just terrific, both from the musicians, from the sponsors, and, I think, especially from the town. We didn’t know what kind of support we would get.”

Smith explained the festival promotes not only the blues, but also the economic development of Lake Placid as a whole.

“I think the overall goal for the timing was to expand summer by a week and launch it the week before Horse Show (to) give everybody a chance to ramp up their staffing permanently for the summer. We think this has a lot of legs.”

This year’s model

Smith said there are a few new additions to this year’s festival.

“It’s evolved,” he said. “We’ve added more venues. We added a seminar this year called “The Class of 1915,” which highlights some of the top blues musicians ever that happened to be born in 1915, so it’s kind of the hundred year anniversary of these folks.”

In addition to the performers listed above, the festival will also feature two performances of “The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith,” a stage show chronicling the story of the legendary “Empress of the Blues” at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

“All of these things will be … included in the festival pass that’s for sale on lpbluesfest.com.”

Smith said the festival will feature 14 venues, up from last year’s 10. A last minute addition to the festival comes courtesy of the Rev. Jim Koenig, the pastor of the Lake Placid Baptist Church. According to a press release, the church will host “Blues Sunday,” a blues worship service with music led by Damon Boogaart.

“The blues worship service is an opportunity to dig into the roots of blues music and its spiritual traditions,” Koenig wrote in the release. “Blues music at its heart is a lyrical lament, a crying out about the suffering and injustice of this world and man’s struggle to come to peace with himself, his neighbor and his God.”

As for the turnout, Smith is hoping to attract more people than last year.

“We had probably … about 350 tickets out last year,” he said. ” We think we’ll be in the 500-600 ticket range (this year).”

Although he is excited about the festival as a whole, Smith said he is looking forward to one particular type of performance.

“I think the thing I most look forward to are the jam sessions at the end of each night,” he said. “A lot of these musicians come together, and they share a stage in I won’t say an unorganized event, but these jams just sort of happen.

“Many of these folks (have been) old friends for decades. (They) get back together, and they’re just having fun. It comes out in the quality of the music.”

Through the festival, his venues’ consistent promotion of live acts, and the Open Mic nights held at Delta Blue every Wednesday, Smith has done a lot to encourage the live music scene in Lake Placid.

“I think, from a destination-location standpoint, we’ve got to do everything we can to not only support the arts and the art of blues, we need to show that we’ve got a thriving nightlife here in Lake Placid, which we hope will contribute to the overall appeal of the destination,” he said. “We’ve seen sort of the demographic of our entertainment move to 35 to 40 years and up, which, I believe, there was a void in that market before we came, or at least (before we) launched this new venue. I think it continues to do an awful lot for the salability of Lake Placid as a tourist destination.

“Above all else, boy, I just love, love the blues, and it’s fun supporting live music in a small town like this.”

Individual tickets to most shows can be purchased at the door for $10. Friday or Saturday only passes are available for $30. Festival-long passes are available for $40. VIP passes, which include a festival pass, preferred seating to “The Devil’s Music: The Life and Times of Bessie Smith,” a complimentary zydeco brunch at the Cabin Grill Sunday, a 2015 festival T-shirt, open access to the artists’ green room throughout the weekend at the Hotel North Woods, preferred seating to “The Class of 1915” Sunday, a cookout at Camp Bearberry with Samuel James June 21, a commemorative video of the festival and a festival button, are available for $150.

For more information, visit lpbluesfest.squarespace.com.