Red-whiskered ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons once described the blues as “a mighty long road. Or it could be a river, one that twists and turns and flows into a sea of limitless musical potential.”
And though the “Tush”-picking Gibbons won’t be playing, his quote makes the Silo City riverfront setting for the Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival—set for 1 p.m. July 8—that much more appropriate.
Featuring six nationally renowned acts and staged off the winding banks of the Buffalo River, the fourth edition of the annual affair promises to offer all the unpredictability of its American art against one of the Queen City’s grittiest backdrops.
Orchestrated by a Blues Society of Western New York now celebrating its 25th year of membership, the all-day event will be headlined by Grammy-nominated Buffalo native Lucky Peterson.
Raised inside his father’s Governor’s Inn—the since-deceased Queen City club that once hosted the likes of genre luminaries Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed—Peterson became a protégé of blues legend Willie Dixon while he was in elementary school, scoring a hit with Dixon at age 6 with the single “1-2-3-4.”
Eventually, his keyboard and guitar-orchestrated amalgamation of soul, gospel and R&B earned him appearances on "The Tonight Show," as well as a career that’s spanned decades. His latest album, the smoky and stripped-down “Long Nights” was released in 2016.
Leading into Peterson will be an eclectic list of visiting blues virtuosos. The 2016 B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Victor Wainwright has earned acclaim for his manic, Savannah, Ga.-born piano playing—only matched on stage by his wild backing band, The Wild Roots.
Memphis natives and Stax recording quintet Southern Avenue—featuring the gospel wail of vocalist Tierinii Jackson—has made a national impression with its soul-infused style of blues. Sweden native Sofie Reed brings harmonica-enabled blues in unconventional packaging, with stomping tunes exploding via the blonde’s effusive performance style.
Rounding out the day’s bill will be the Chicago-influenced style of Reverend Raven and the Chain-Smoking Altar Boys and English slide guitar maestro Jack Broadbent.
Aside from scheduled acts, the festival will host its Education Tent—complete with a vocal workshop featuring blues artist Marsha McWilson at noon and additional performances during main stage intermissions—food vendors and beer tents, and various raffles to support the ongoing education and enrichment efforts of the Blues Society of WNY.
The Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival is at 1 p.m. July 8 at Silo City (199 Silo City Row). Gates open at 11:45 a.m. Tickets are $12.50, and $5 for Blues Society of WNY members (Eventbrite.com, Blues Society of WNY).