Posts Tagged ‘Blues Festival’

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a huge fan of this weekend’s Santa Blues festival in Santa Cruz which, for me, is the highlight of a summer packed with music.

It’s not just the artists who make this festival so special, although I have seen some truly memorable performances at this gig – Robert Cray in 2008, The Deans in 2009 and Kenny Neal in 2010 – it’s the venue too. Standing beneath the flowering branches of the flamboyance trees at the foot of the clock tower of Iglesia de Concepción has to rank as one of the most atmospheric venues in the Blues calendar. Throw a sultry night into the mix and you’ve got the perfect Louisiana setting for artists to exploit.

Well, with midsummer’s Eve almost upon us and calima in full flow keeping the Tenerife thermostat stuck on ‘hot’, the stage is set for another great year of live Blues. The festival opens on Thursday 23rd with local boys Lightnin’ Blues kicking off proceedings and bringing a welcome local flavour to the event. They’ll be followed by the Andy J. Forest Band all the way from New Orleans.

The organizer’s haven’t done this charismatic little festival any favours by holding the opening night on Noche de San Juan when much of the local population will be decamping to their nearest sand for the biggest beach party of the year, so opening night is going to need all the help it can muster to ensure the continuation of this very special annual festival.

On Friday night Emerging Sound take to the stage followed by Red House Blues and Saturday rounds off with the Spanish Three Bones and Mississippi’s Zac Harmen.
Be there – or miss one of the best music events of the year. Your call.


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Well the nights are sultry, the stage is set beneath the ‘flame of the forest’ trees at the foot of the iconic tower of the Church of La Concepción and JC Murphy’s have stocked up on the Guinness. That all means it must be time for the Santa Blues Festival.

This year, instead of spreading the music out over three consecutive Fridays, Santa Blues is going to be held over the coming weekend with three nights of cool, Blue sounds carrying on the mid summer night air.

Santa Blues 2008

Santa Blues 2008

Here’s the full line up;
Thursday 25th June 2009, Galway’s answer to Rory Gallagher; ‘The Deans
And the beautiful sultry Santana sound of ‘The Vargas Blues Band

Friday 26th June 2009, the Canaries own Laskina and the emotive Blues/Gospel voice of New Yorker Michele McCain.

Saturday 27th June 2009, local heroes The Santa Blues Band and the ‘Sacred Steel Guitars’ of  The Campbell Brothers.

Be there or be sorry.

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The Deans

The Deans

I’ve just had a tip-off from a comment on ‘Santa Blues’ that The Deans are going to be playing this year’s festival in June 2009. Three young lads from Galway, brothers Gary and Gavin Dean and friend Martin Sheanon, these guys play like veterans of old school Blues and Rock. Gavin Dean’s Stratocaster was clearly raised on Rory Gallagher, Jimmy Page and Gary Moore. By all accounts their gigs crackle with raw energy so they should raise the Santa Cruz summer night a few more degrees.

They’ve already made a name for themselves in Ireland and their reputation is spreading in the UK and Europe.

If this is the standard of what we can expect at this year’s Santa Blues, roll on June and tell JC Murphy’s bar to stock up on the black stuff.

There’s no agenda yet so I don’t know which night they’ll be playing but if you want a sweet, soulful taster of what’s to come, check out their sound here:

PS. I’ve now been corrected by two different sources who assure me that Martin Sheanon is not actually a band member anymore and in fact Gary Keon is on drums. So there, consider my research skills well and truly found wanting and the real Deans line-up now put straight.


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The Robert Cray Band play Santa Blues in TenerifeThe Tinerfeños are an incredibly easy going bunch of people. Other than when they’re behind the wheel of a car, they appear in no particular hurry to do anything and are quite happy to watch visitors (particularly those from a northern European country beginning with the letter G who are known for their penchant for queue jumping) make arses of themselves by jostling for position at every venue that requires waiting for service. It’s one of the endearing features of Canarios and long may it remain so…unless they’re waiting to be served at the bar of JC Murphy’s when The Robert Cray Band is about to take to the stage and I happen to be standing behind them.

This weekend was the opening of the annual Blues Festival in Santa Cruz, ‘Santa Blues’; a FREE festival financed by the City, and The Robert Cray Band were headlining the night on a stage below the iconic 18th Century tower of Iglesia de la Concepción at the start of the trendy Noria District of the city.
I arrived just before 10pm for a scheduled 10.30pm start which I was fairly sure would fit the usual pattern of Tenerife timekeeping and kick off somewhere around 11/11.30pm.

Having spotted a nice little gap underneath the tulip tree within touching distance of the left side of the stage, I set off to find the beer tent.

There were already a couple of hundred people milling and chatting around the venue, plastic beakers of beer in hand. As I made my way through them I noticed how ‘cool’ they were; here was long hair, dreadlocks, tattooed feet, hippies old and young, Boho chicks and students. Laid back styles, laughing eyes and languid hips belonging to people who were behaving as if they were at an open air party amongst friends. The warm night air carried the unmistakeable scent of good grass and I felt myself relaxing and smiling as I headed around the corner in search of a beer.

After much confused wandering and a failed attempt to get to the backstage beer tents, I finally discovered that the beer was being dispensed from inside JC Murphy’s and joined the queue for the bar. Unfortunately, the man I was standing behind was being resolutely Canarian and letting any number of people push in before him so I moved to the other side of the bar where a couple of lads appeared to be ordering drinks for the entire festival. By the time I got served and headed back to the stage area, the band was already on stage and had begun their opening number; clearly no-one had briefed them on the ‘mañana’ culture; not the first time such an oversight has occurred on this island.

Amazingly, my little spot by the side was still there and I had an uninterrupted view throughout the set which included ‘Poor Johnny’, ‘I’m Walking’ and ‘Twenty’ from the album ‘Twenty’; ’12 Year Old Boy’ and ‘Phone Booth’ from the album ‘Live – from across the pond’ and the classic ‘Right Next Door’ and ‘Smoking Gun’ from the early ‘Strong Persuader’ album.

Robert Cray’s voice was as strong as ever and his fretwork had the audience in raptures. Although looking like someone’s dad and doing a distinctly ‘dad dance’ to the Memphis rhythms, the keyboard player Jim Pugh provided sublime backing while Karl Sevareide kept a funky bass riding the air waves.

Ironically, although they clearly loved the set, the audiences here on Tenerife seem unaware of the need to ‘persuade’ the band to do an encore and my hands were sore by the time I’d illustrated the practice hard enough for those around me to take up the chant. But they soon cottoned on and shouts of “¡Otre!” (literally ‘again’) brought the band back for a three number encore ending with ‘Time Makes Two’.

In that intimate setting amongst those cool people, I had to keep reminding myself that it was real; that I really was watching these Blues legends from my formative years, live in Santa Cruz on a Friday night and I was just feet from the front of the stage. No jostling, no crowding, no idiots, just great Blues.


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