Last Saturday, the 21st Annual Blues Blast was held in Downtown Phoenix for the very first time. I went to check out the event and asked a few people, both attendees and people involved in putting the event on, what they thought about it taking place in Margaret T. Hance Park instead of its usual spot in Mesa.
Local acts The Sugar Thieves, Common Ground Blues Band, Big Daddy D & The Dynamites, and Dave Riley & Bob Corritore were among the many blues acts that performed throughout the sunny afternoon.
This was Denna Cook and Zachary Cook’s sixth or seventh time coming to the Phoenix Blues Society’s Blues Blast, and they both loved its new digs.
“I think it’s way better. I love all the space, the open grass, the painted fence – in Mesa, it was a little cramped. And I love being able to park for free in the neighborhood.” said Zachary, who lives downtown.
“At first when I heard it would be downtown [instead of in Mesa], I was disappointed. Now, I think it’s way better here,” Denna said. “The beer is cheaper, and the painting thing is cool.”
The “painting thing” was a white paper banner that ran all along the inside of the park’s fence. Children and adults alike were invited to decorate the fence by painting whatever they liked on the paper. I got more details from the people in charge of the fence art later, but first, I chatted with Vickie and K.D. while Ed was painting.
“I’ve been to the festival about three times before,” K.D. said. “I love the new venue. I love this much better than Mesa. It’s closer to my house. It’s close to the light rail, and I like the vendors.”
“The vendors are a big plus,” agreed Vickie. “This is my first year here, and I think it’s awesome. We had no trouble parking, everybody’s got space, and it’s very nice.”
“And we love the blues. Love the blues,” K.D. said.
Next, I chatted with Sandy Zally, the children’s art teacher at the Phoenix Center for the Arts, and Carla Landwerth, a member of the Phoenix Blues Society’s board, to find out more about the live mural and about the event in general.
“When we were planning the blues blast we wanted to see if we could get the Phoenix Center for the Arts involved because people aren’t aware of what goes on there,” Carla said. (The Phoenix Center for the Arts happens to be right next to the park the Blues Blast was being held at.)
“We had to cover fence anyway, so we decided to do it in white paper to turn it into a live mural piece!” said Sandy.
Carla,”People have already come and said to us, ‘Oh my gosh, we love it here, we’re so glad you moved here.’ It’s so nice for us to be in Downtown Phoenix. We’re the Phoenix Blues Society and we had our event in Mesa — it didn’t really make sense,” she said with a laugh. “So we moved it here, and whenever we can involve other arts activities we think it’s important. We also have a theater group (Off The Cuff) over there that’s selling raffle tickets to raise money for their program as well, so we like to have as many arts activities as possible.”
Most importantly, both Carla and Sandy agreed that the music was great. “The music rocks! We have really excellent bands this year. This really gives people the opportunity to come out and hear music that they maybe haven’t heard all year, or introduce them to a local band they might want to go see at their local bar,” Carla said.
If you missed this year’s Blues Blast, don’t worry, you didn’t miss out on all the blues downtown has to offer. You can check out The Sugar Thieves every Wednesday night at Copper Blues. And for all the pictures of this year’s Blues Blast, check out the gallery below!