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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Review: Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival, Ontario, Canada

By Ken Wallis. ----- Photo Credits: Ken Wallis.

Pictured: Ken Wallis, Festival Artistic Director Larry Kurtz and Patrick Monaghan

If you input the word FANTASTIC into Google, I’m sure pictures of the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival will pop up. The 19th Annual Festival, June 2nd though 4th was a roaring success.

Festival founder and Artistic Director Larry Kurtz told us how it all started: “A long time ago my wife and I were going to Toronto a lot to see our favourite blues bands and I tried bringing some of them up to Orangeville. I started making plans to do a full-blown festival. We set up a stage and the first year Jack de Keyzer headlined. We had an overall attendance of about 2,000 people. People really enjoyed what they saw and wanted to get involved so it grew pretty quickly.”

Read The Full Interview With Larry Kurtz HERE

This year’s festival featured some of the top music artists but it’s not just about the music. Downtown became a pedestrian only area and the weekend featured a Blues Cruise on Broadway of over 200 beautiful classic cars, a wide variety of produce and crafts in the Orangeville Farmers Market, a number of music workshops, blues and bikes highlighting over 500 motorcycles, and a multitude of food trucks that offered a bellyful of tasty food.

The festival is almost like Halloween ‘cause you can go from one area to another to get a treat of great music.

Larry Kurtz commented on this year’s festival: “We had 3 amazing days of sunshine, great music, food and fun. There were over 40,000 people who enjoyed the festival this year. This was our most successful festival to date.”

Let’s walk through some of music acts we got to see, and one disclaimer, we just couldn’t get to see all of them.

First up we grooved to Voodoo Pawnshop, a four piece band that rocked some classic blues tunes.

Next we caught Rosie’s Smokehouse Deluxe named after bassist David G. Rose, aka: Rosie. They featured some hard-driving electric blues.

Then taking the stage was Danny Marks, who’s an accomplished musician (formerly Edward Bear) as well as a celebrated radio host.

Then it was time to head over the Main Stage to see Larry Kurtz and The Lawbreakers featuring Larry blowing harp that had the audience up and dancin’.

And speaking of harmonica, Rick Estrin and the Nightcats spotlighted Rick as a master of the harmonica. The Nightcats feature a tight band of veteran musicians and the highlight was drummer D'mar MusicOnline (Derrick Martin) who went out into the audience to play, even playing columns on the stage.

Wow what an opening night of the festival!

On Saturday, it just kept rolling.

The Main stage started to roll out early afternoon, and in between we snuck over to the Opera House to catch award-winning Brandon Isaak from Whitehorse Yukon.

And Jake Chisholm playing riveting music matched by his insightful lyrics.

The main stage opened up with harp virtuoso Guy Belanger from Quebec in one of his rare Ontario appearances. You can’t meet a nicer man or a more polished musician.

Then it was time for some rocking boogie-woogie keyboard music with Kenny Blues Boss Wayne with Brant Parker in support.

The focus then switched to dynamic vocals with Sandra Bouza who followed up last year’s appearance with a powerhouse performance.

Chris Antonik strapped on his guitar and laid down some rocket-fuel blues. If it weren’t for

Fresh off a European tour, Bywater Call led by vocalist Meghan Parnell and guitarist Dave Barnes kept the audience captivated. I’ve seen them several times this year and somehow, they just seem to get better and better, if that’s possible!

Closing out Saturday night was MonkeyJunk with Steve Marriner and Tony D on their 15th Anniversary Tour This band has garnered 23 Maple Blues Awards, 2 Indy Awards, 1 USA Blues Music Award, 2 JUNO AWARDS! They certainly showed why.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t attend on Sunday and missed such great artists as Suzie Vinnick, JW Jones, and Shakura S’Aida. From what I’ve heard Sunday was just as good as the first two days of the festival.

The Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival is a well-organized first-class event. The reputation is well-earned due to the dedication of many music lovers.

Larry Kurtz: “You’d think it would be just a well-oiled machine after all these years, but it's still a lot of work. We have to coordinate 250 volunteers for this event and then there's the fundraising."

As we look to the future Larry says: “Next year is our 20th anniversary and we will be working on plans to make it spectacular!”

I for one, and thousands more, can’t wait!


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