Eric Clapton once called him “… by far and without a doubt the best guitar player alive…if you see him in person, the way he plays is beyond anyone.”
You will see what Eric Clapton was referring to in Courtenay this July, as Vancouver Island MusicFest presents the legendary Buddy Guy.
In the blues guitar world, Buddy Guy is among the elite. He stands alongside Muddy Waters, BB King and Eric Clapton as one of the most influential guitarists since the invention of the amplifier.
He is on every blues fan’s bucket list, and this year, Island MusicFest attendees will be able to check that one off, as he closes the show on Saturday, July 11.
“Buddy Guy was, in my eyes, the first ‘wild man’ electric guitar player,” said MusicFest artistic director Doug Cox, who chose to announce the first batch of MusicFest acts a little early this year, recognizing that “this is a hard one to keep quiet.”
Cox said he has been trying to land Guy for a few years now.
“He is one of those guys, as Bonnie Raitt was last year, that is just on the list every year,” said Cox. “And the agents kind of know now – some of those guys who we are interested in. And it just worked this year, for him to come.
“If you’re a fan of blues guitar, it just doesn’t get any better than Buddy Guy. There is just no one else around today that has his history and is still playing at as high a level as he has ever played at. He is still right at the top of his game, absolutely, 100 per cent. His playing is so intense and his attack is just so extraordinary.”
For a sneak preview of what to expect, go to bit.ly/1JqkA29 for his Live at Red Rocks 2013 performance. Also, watch the Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, when Buddy Guy will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bill Payne and Leftover Salmon
Another musical legend is among the first set of acts announced for MusicFest, as Bill Payne – co-founder and keyboardist for Little Feat – will be in Courtenay, with his jam band, Leftover Salmon.
“There is a huge cult jam band following in North America, which we have never celebrated at MusicFest before,” said Cox. “Jam bands basically have groups of people who follow them all over the world as they tour – it’s like a sub-culture… and Leftover Salmon is easily one of the top two or three of the jam bands out there. And the fact that Bill Payne is coming with them makes it special for me, because of MusicFest’s history with Little Feat. We had Richie Hayward perform his last concert ever, with Little Feat at our festival, and Richie was living here at that time, so when you ask me about the best-ever moments at MusicFest, that’s one of them. And Bill, he’s one of the most influential keyboard players in rock ‘n’ roll.”
One description of Leftover Salmon is a cross between the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Grateful Dead.
“They really take a bunch of the traditions of different styles of roots music and mix it all up,” said Cox. “It’s got blues, it’s got rhythm & blues, it’s got country – you’ll hear a it all in their set.”
Leftover Salmon will take to the main stage on Sunday.
Maddy Prior and Steeleye Span
English folk group Steeleye Span is still playing live shows and recording, 46 years after its inception, in 1969.
With Maddy Prior and her charming, pure voice, this UK mainstay in the folk scene is sure to have the audience rapt.
“There were basically two bands in the history of British folk music – one was Fairport Convention, the other was Steeleye Span,” said Cox. “From the perspective of popularity from that genre, it’s a pretty big deal that they would be coming to MusicFest, especially with Maddy Prior in the band.
“I never thought I would get to see them, honestly. We signed on as soon as we heard they were coming (to North America) because it’s one of those that it’s probably the last chance to see them, kind of thing.”
Steeleye Span will be featured in Saturday’s main stage lineup.
In keeping with the diversity that makes Vancouver Island MusicFest what it is, the final band of the first announcement batch also represents the fourth genre of the first announcement batch.
Hot Rize is among the top touring bluegrass bands, and they will be part of the Saturday lineup.
“Hot Rize didn’t play any concerts together for a few years, but now they are back together,” said Cox. “Each guy in that band has a pretty amazing history of his own. Tim O’Brien (mandolin/fiddle/vocals) is kind of the leader of the band – the lead singer of the band and he completely has his own career. People have been begging us to bring O’Brien in for years.
“Brian Sutton, the guitar player is, I think it would be fair to say, one of the hottest, contemporary flatpickers on the planet right now. And Pete Wernick is one of the most recognized banjo players as well – Dr. Banjo, they call him. So each one of them really has their own (repertoire).”
MusicFest goers will have ample opportunity to see Hot Rize, as they also perform under the name Red Knuckles and The Trailblazers – an alter-ego, so to speak.
“It’s a country swing band, and they will be doing a dance in the barn. Then Hot Rize will be on the main stage (Saturday). And they will be doing the Sunday morning Gospel show as well. So there will be a lot of chances to see them.”
First four acts announced, and already, the 2015 Vancouver Island MusicFest promises to be, once again, a collection of musical genres rarely duplicated at any summer festival.
“I sure hope so – (appealing to the masses) is always the goal,” said Cox. “We try to create an evening of music that is truly varied, on all three nights of the festival, in terms of the headliners.”
Cox said there are still some big, big names to be announced for MusicFest (the entire Friday lineup is yet to be announced). Additional acts will be added on a daily basis to the MusicFest website (www.islandmusicfest.com), starting Jan. 30.
Tickets on sale now, also at www.islandmusicfest.com