The Sound Cafe
My Five Favourite Blues Events
By Ken Wallis. Photograph - Ken Wallis with Jimmie Vaughan
Ken Wallis has retired ... well not really ... since leaving his position as the Associate Dean, Media & Entertainment, at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Ken has kept busy with his big love in life, Blues music. Ken's company, Blues Source Entertainment, promotes Blues artists in the Southern Ontario region.
Ken also hosts two radio shows, Blues Source Canada ( Formerly Blues Blast ) and Blues Source International which air on Blues and Roots Radio and The Hawk weekly, the Blues Source Canada shows feature music and interviews with Canadian based artists such as Steve Hill, Samantha Martin, Miss Emily, Steve Strongman and many more, and, on Blues Source International Ken has interviewed artists such as Victor Wainwright, Grainne Duffy, Lachy Doley, Mary Stokes & Brian Palm, Catfish just to name a few.
You can listen to Ken's Shows as a Podcast on The Sound Cafe HERE
The Mont Tremblant International Blues Festival
Nestled in the picturesque Laurentian's, the Mont Tremblant International Blues Festival is the must-attend festival for blues fans. The festival features 10 days of blues music in early July and spotlights nearly 100 indoor and outdoor shows, most of them in the beautiful pedestrian village. There are 4 outdoor stages, numerous participating resto-bars, shows in a historic church as well as in the Casino de Mont-Tremblant. The festival attracts over 100,000 music fans and I liken attending this festival to Hallowe’en, 'cause wherever you go in the village, you’re going to find a blues treat that’ll thrill you.
The festival spotlights an international line-up of stars from Canada and around the world.
Hats off to Brian Slack and his team of volunteers who put on a terrific lineup. Sadly, due to Covid, the festival has been postponed two years in a row but will be back in 2022. I was able to catch these two stars at my last visit to the festival.
The Kitchener Blues Celebration
Downtown Kitchener is where it’s at for a terrific festival that is normally held right after the Civic Holiday in August and the best part is IT’S FREE!
This celebration features six stages in Kitchener’s downtown core which also boasts non-stop shopping, services, and restaurants. Hotel accommodations put your right in the heart of the action and the line-up consists of headliners from around the world as well as up-and-coming performers. Unfortunately, the festival will not run this year due to the pandemic but last year the organizers put together the True Blue Summer Series, live music streaming from Bobby O’Brien’s Pub. I caught some great blues with the likes of Miss Emily, Lachy Doley from Australia, and Wicked Grin.
Tim Hortons Southside Shuffle
The Shuffle Train Keeps On Rollin is the catch phrase for this year’s Southside Shuffle. Last year the Shuffle presented a 4-day virtual concert experience. Traditionally the extravaganza is held at the Port Credit Memorial Park in early September. The festival features close to 150 bands on for different stages – the two ticketed main stages, and two free stages. It’s an-out celebration of music with entertainment that never stops. When one stage ends its set, another stage starts up immediately afterward. Great organization. Not only will you discover your favourite bands here, but you get the opportunity to see some newer artists with a ton of talent. A tip of the blues fedora to Artistic Director Chuck Jackson and over 300 volunteers. I’ve enjoyed seeing one of my all-time fav bands Savoy Brown and the powerhouse voice of Angel Forrest. And every year, Downchild wraps up the festival.
Canal Bank Shuffle
The Canal Bank Shuffle is an annual blues festival that runs for 4 days in October, the week after Canadian Thanksgiving. The annual event brings the finest in blues artists from around the world to Thorold Ontario Canada. The Canal Shuffle’s slogan is that it Stays True to Blues music and boy does it ever. There are numerous venues featuring the blues such as Club Capri, Holy Rosary Hall and many pubs and restaurants showcasing artists. A reasonable entrance fee gets you a wrist band that allows you entry to all the venues in town. It’s a great way to spend the fall with top-notch blues artists from around the world. Jack de Keyzer holds the record for continuous appearances as he’s performed at every Canal Bank Shuffle since its inception. I especially enjoyed watching Dawn Tyler Watson perform. She’s the only Canadian to ever win the International Blues Challenge in Memphis
The Mighty Duck Blues Band
For many years I’ve enjoyed Saturday afternoons with some freewheeling, get-serious blues music with the Mighty Duck Blues Band. They’re seasoned veterans of the Canadian music scene and they sure know how to crank out the blues. The band features Gary Kendall on bass, Canada Dave Torosian on keys, Dave Curry on guitar and Jim Casson on Drums. Every week they welcome guest artists from across Canada to join them in a thrilling jam that leaves you drooling. The band got their name from the bar, the Duck, in St. Catharines where they originally played. Since then, they have gone on to play at Jo Blo's Rock & Wok backing up the cream of the crop of Canadian blues icons. It’s an up-close, intimate atmosphere that allows patrons to get to know the band and their guest performers. Here’s Steve Strongman performing a few years ago at the last show at the original venue, and Mark Crissinger laying it down at Jo Blo’s.