Workshops are little-known part of blues festival

Posted: August 28, 2014 at 2:04 a.m.

Guitar Shorty

Guitar Shorty

Successful festivals tend to grow and expand, and the Hot Springs Blues Festival, marking its 18th year this weekend, is no exception. The fest began as a one-day gathering and is now spread out over four days, and it has added some other blues-related flourishes, such as workshops and after parties in local venues.

The Spa City Blues Society sponsors and produces the event, and the society's board president, David Hughes, is quick to explain how this festival differs from others.


Hot Springs Blues Festival

Today through Sunday, Hill Wheatley Plaza, 629 Central Ave. (Bathhouse Row) and various clubs, Hot Springs

Admission: $10 Friday; $15 Saturday-Sunday; $30 for weekend pass; free for children 12 and younger

(501) 815-2939

"We have a great lineup for the fest this year," he says. "Not a lot of household names but there is a lot of great music, a lot of award-winning music. This will be one of the best festivals in terms of true musicianship that we've put on.

"People should check out our workshops. We have everything from building your own diddley bow to music photography to blues songwriting. I think people overlook the educational aspect we provide at our festival."

Hughes notes that the festival will mark its fifth year at the Hill Wheatley Plaza; before that, it was held in an open area south of the Transportation Depot that now includes the home of the Hot Springs Farmers Market. The festival's host hotel is the Austin Convention Hotel and Spa, 305 Malvern Ave.

A festival kickoff will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. today in the Silver Fox Lounge of the Austin, featuring The John Calvin Brewer Band. From 6 to 8 p.m., there will be a reception at the Quapaw Bath House for the festival's poster artist, George Hunt, who has designed the festival's artwork for three years.

Guitar Shorty will perform a free show at 8 p.m. today at an official Festival Kickoff Party at the Ohio Club, 336 Central Ave. A recording artist since 1957, Guitar Shorty is credited with having influenced Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy.

The festival gates will open Friday with a "Happy Hour" event at 5:30 p.m., followed by music from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Heavy Suga & the Sweetones will start things off, followed by Steve Hester & Deja VooDoo and the Hump Night Band with guests.

Saturday, the festival gates will open at 2:30 p.m., with music ongoing from 3:30 to 10 p.m. The Blues in the Schools Band will open the show, followed by The Beckham Brothers, Tim Williams, Mr. Sipp, Barbara Blue and JP Soars & The Red Hots.

Hughes says that Soars is returning for a second time, but in a different act.

"Last year, he came with his band, Southern Hospitality," Hughes says. "All three guys in that band front their own bands and come together occasionally to record and tour under that name. JP is very popular around here, and he's an Arkansas native, raised in Cedarville, around the Van Buren/Fort Smith area."

Sunday, the festival gates will open at 3 p.m., with music from 4 to 9:30 p.m., and will feature Little Roy Gene & Grayson Goff, Charlotte Taylor & Gypsy Rain, Brick Fields & The Chosen Ones, Ghost Town Blues Band and Larry Garner.

"Garner is from Baton Rouge and has been touted as one of the best songwriters in the genre today," Hughes says.

Workshops will be held in the Austin's Mountain Tower-Pageant Room.

Workshops on Saturday include Make Your Own Diddley Bow with Charles Ragsdell from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., $25 (limited to the first 15 people who register); Manage and Market Your Music Career with Steve Hester from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m., free; and Blues Songwriting with Tim Williams from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m., free.

Workshops on Sunday include Blues Gospel with Rachel Fields from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., free; Blues in the Schools with Sheree Hughes, from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m., free; and Music Photography with Jen Ocken from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m.

Volunteers are needed for the festival, and those who work a shift can attend the rest of the festival for free. There will be a volunteer appreciation party Sept. 21, featuring Nick Moss & the Fliptops.

Weekend on 08/28/2014