The Sound Cafe
A Conversation With Larry Kurtz, Founder/Artistic Director Of The Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival
The Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival has won a ton of awards honouring it as one of the top festivals in Ontario. For three days in June, Orangeville is treated to some of the best artists the music world has to offer. This year, marks the 18th year of the festival and it’s cram packed with music, workshops, motorcycles and events that will keep you entertained non-stop.
Ken Wallis interviewed Larry Kurtz, Founder and Artistic Director of the festival, for the radio show BluesSource Canada. The following are edited excerpts from that interview.
Live music is coming back and that means festival season. Joining us is Larry Kurtz, the artistic director of the Orangeville Blues And Jazz Festival. Larry thanks for coming on the show.
Ken it's so great to be back talking to you again about blues music.
I think everybody's excited about it and I understand you've got one heck of a lineup for this festival. Tell us all about it.
Coming back after two years of not being on, we're all a little bit rusty but I think we're getting the hang of it again. I've tried to hire back as many of the artists that we had booked in 2020 that we had to cancel so I probably got a good 95 of those artists are available and coming back.
Just to give you a rundown of how we do the festival. We start on Friday evening and the dates this year are June 3rd to 5th and we always start on the Friday evening with a classic car show; we call it our Blues Cruise on Broadway so there's about 300 cars up and down the whole main street of Broadway, which is closed down to traffic and new this year we have an actual stage on the street so it's sort of like a main stage. It's not our main stage, it's the main stage of that street and we have bands playing on that stage with Danny Marks, Erin McCallum, and Toronto Blue Society Talent Search winner Sandra Bouza.
We also have some other bands playing right on the street mixed in with the cars. We're excited to have C.J. Lee, the Australian blues man. We have Alfie Smith and Nicole Christian. We also close a side street called Mill Street as we have so many cars, we don't have enough room on Broadway and down that side street we have another stage that will feature Voodoo Pawn Shop and another band out of Wasaga beach called Boomerang. So that's what's happening on the street on Friday night that goes from five until nine.
Then at night at Eight p.m. on the main stage, in Alexander Park, which is the grassy park behind our town hall. Our festival is located centrally within walking distance downtown. We have my band Larry Kurtz And The Law Breakers; we're opening up with special guest Harrison Kennedy. So super excited about that and the headliner that evening is Downchild Blues Band. They’ll be making a return to our festival after many years, we're quite pleased about that and that's just scratching the surface.
On Saturday and Sunday, again we have the street closed all weekend so there's music on the streets. The main stage behind Alexander Park is a ticketed venue; it's ten dollars a day. We also have a weekend pass for twenty dollars, super deal and the street has acts that are no charge so you can see lots of local bands playing on the stage. We also have a farmer's market happening. At 1:30 p.m on Saturday we're going to have a brass band doing a New Orleans style jazz march through the downtown. Also we use our town hall opera house with 250 seats when you come into the main stage that ticket gets you into the opera house as well. In the opera house we have Adam Karch from Montreal and Rick Fines. We have the LTZ Band which is Rick Taylor, Cheryl Lescom, Chucky Zehr. Also on Sunday, Carlos Del Junco is playing in there with his band. So, lots of fun stuff inside the opera house. The main stage that day is Mackenzie Blues Band, James Anthony with Danny D, The Mike Goudreau Band from Quebec. We also have Chris Whitely and Diana Braithwaite with the full band plus Angel Forrest and her band and headlining on Saturday night is Blackburn.
That's a fabulous lineup for that day, and Sunday caps it all off.
On Sunday, we again have the street closed and it’s our Blues And Bikes Events. Every year it's growing and growing. The last festival in 2019, there were over 2000 motorcycles parked on the street on display, so it's quite the spectacle. And again we have music on the street and music in the opera house Sunday on the main stage, Emily Burgess and her band, The Dylan Wickens Band and we're doing a special show right after that with a band from Memphis Tennessee that people may not be familiar with. It's Tony Holiday, harmonica player, doing a show called Harp Attack, featuring four harmonica players, Tony being one of them. I'm going to join them and then we have Steve Mariner joining and Carlos Del Junco. It should be quite the harmonica blowout. And on Sunday headlining to close out the festival we have Miss Emily.
You've got The Who's Who of the blues world. It’s going to be a fabulous weekend Larry. It must be an awful lot of work for you.
It's a lot of work and it's a lot of fun. We've been fundraising and gathering our volunteers together. It takes over 200 volunteers to do this and we've had good support from the town of Orangeville and the B.I.A. We've applied for funding from the federal government and the provincial government. We're an interesting festival because being one of the first of the year, we're not quite in sync with the government's schedule for funding so sometimes we're waiting to the last minute to know our funding. We're going on faith that everything's gonna work.
At most of the stages, are there chairs for people to sit or do they bring their own?
At the main stage area, you can bring your own chairs. Most people sit on blankets; we do have bleachers as well at the back. We're trying to make it so the seating is where everybody can see the stage. The stage is elevated, and it has a good view. At the new stage on Broadway, there will be seating. We also have a lot of vendors and if you need to take a break either in the park or on the street there are picnic tables around places where you can stop and have a bite to eat. We have restaurants and pubs and clubs involved so over the weekend there's over 20 restaurants and clubs with music every night. You can go on our website and just click a link and you can find out who is playing at every restaurant and club.
It sounds like it's going to be a fabulous weekend and Larry as a blues lover, I’ve got to thank you personally and all of your committee for the hard work you put into making this happen.
We certainly have a good crew, our board of directors and their staff that help us out. It’s certainly not a one-man show. It takes a lot of effort from a lot of people. We have some really good volunteers that have been with us for so long and then we keep attracting new volunteers, but the ones who have been with us a long time, they're so valuable to us. They have so much knowledge.
Well, I can't wait. I will be there and Larry, thank you so much for your time it's been great chatting.
I really appreciate this chance to come on and talk to you about it Ken, thank you very much.
Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival Website: orangevillebluesandjazz.ca
Larry Kutz Website: www.larrykurtz.ca