Ninth annual music fest kicks off today

Marc Bence/for Metro edmonton


Jeff Knight of Production Lighting prepares the The Heritage Amphitheatre with lights yesterday for the ninth annual Edmonton Labatt Blues Festival at Hawrelak Park.

Hawrelak Park will be a feeling a little blue beginning today.

As the ninth annual Edmonton Labatt Blues Festival kicks off tonight at the park’s Heritage Amphitheatre at 5:30 p.m., its co-producer says the city has become a heartland for R & B music in Canada.

“Since back in the mid 1980s, Edmonton always has a strong blues crowd, a strong blues presence and a strong blues fan base,” said Cam Hayden.

“Edmonton has been a blues town since (co-producer Carrol Deen) and I have been booking music for an old blues club for over 20 years.”

With Edmonton’s love for the blues, Hayden says the festival has grown to include big acts over the years and for the first time ever advanced tickets for Saturday’s and Sunday’s acts have been sold out.

The festival was also one out of four North American blues festivals featured in a recent edition of the New York Times.

“Out of the 600 blues festivals in North America that are held throughout the year, that’s pretty damn good I’d say,” said Hayden.

Today’s list of acts includes Elvin Bishop, a veteran bluesman who has been playing since 1959.

Acts on Saturday include Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentleman. Cleary is an English-born artist known for his voice and sweet piano skills.

Los Lobos, with their 1980’s hit La Bamba, will be among the featured acts on Sunday’s performances at the festival.

Despite selling out of tickets for Saturday and Sunday, Hayden says 50 to 100 more tickets will be released at the gate on both days that will cost $45. Tickets for today’s performances are $35 and are available at the gate or through Ticketmaster.

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