Flagstaff’s Blues and Brews Festival is charging toward a landmark year packed with taps ready to flow in time with musical change-makers North Mississippi Allstars, Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, Victor Wainwright and the Wildroots, plus a host of local contributions.
Attendees, too, are about to discover why this festival has settled in as one must-see of the summer.
The 5th annual Blues and Brews takes place Saturday, June 10 at the Country Club driving range. Tickets to this family-friendly event are $35, or $85 for VIP. Music kicks off at 11:30 a.m. See FlagstaffBlues.com for all the info.
Festival producer and Peak Events co-founder Debbi Grogan said she’s enjoying this year’s lead-up more than ever.
“We have it down, we have our timelines and assignments for the team, and we’ve commented each week how we feel like we’re ahead of the game,” Grogan added. “So, I think this will be the year Jennifer [Grogan] and I really enjoy the festival and all our guests. We’re both really excited.”
Ticket sales to northern Arizona’s preeminent blues roundup have just about doubled year over year, with sales so far spiking higher than at the same point a year ago. This attention has attracted sponsors including Naked Mobile, who will be hosting a cornhole tournament, and Pepsi’s free photo booth, plus Russ Lyon’s House of Blues and lounge.
But, of course, the main event of the summer kickoff party is the music — and this year sports a much-anticipated lineup that blends traditional pathways with innovative, fresh approaches and techniques.
And at the top of the ever-changing genre is North Mississippi Allstars.
Luther and Cody Dickinson, the sons of the late, iconic producer James Dickinson, have dedicated their lives learning at the feet of masters, calling attention to the down-and-out, to tradition and to invention.
For more than 20 years, the two brothers have made their own headway in lambasting genre confines by shaking up the blues in their home studio outside Hernando, Miss.
Their disparate ears converge on a sonic maelstrom of backcountry, funk and even a little drum-and-bass.
Cody, the percussion-minded foil to Luther’s traditional slide guitar mastery, said his interest in fusing back country blues with samples and even electric washboard came from witnessing the Memphis hip-hop scene in the late 1990s.
“You don’t want to change it so much that things get lost,” Dickinson said. “But the real magic in the North Mississippi Allstars is in the interpretation. When we take these songs and internalize it and sort of make it our own, that’s when the exciting fun things happen for us. I think if we were to try to perfectly recreate this music or be some sort of hard-core preservationists, so to speak, then we would get into trouble.”
Across some dozen studio cuts, the Allstars now are treading deep into the changes laid bare on 2013’s “World Boogie Is Coming,” and are celebrating a brand new collection, “Prayer for Peace,” that dropped June 2.
For dance fans, jam fans, and those with an ear for worthy messages from eclectic, fearless musicians adept in the ways of pushing instruments’ bounds — well, this one’s a call to you and for the powerful resonance of peace and inclusivity.
In this same spirit, Blues and Brews will honor three Arizona Blues Hall of Fame inductees. As the non-profit’s board president, Grogan noted this important addition will spotlight Mike Howard, Rochelle Raya and Anna Warr.
She also noted an acoustic contest in January lined up three artists — Chris Kane, Kornell Johns and Joe Kopecki — to lend a few licks between the top four acts on the bill.
Dickinson also noted this inclusivity, a common theme for the blues and for the Allstars’ new record, sets him right for the future — where he hopes his band can help spark positive change.
“Music festivals, in a way, are a microcosm of the whole world, and I see unity. I see us coming together. All you have to do is go to Electric Daisy Carnival and these big global festivals and you can see it happening,” he said of festivals spanning size and genres. “I think these music festivals reflect the positive side of what’s happening with people in a big way. Hopefully the North Mississippi Allstars can be a small part of that.”