There’s no doubt the Ann Arbor Blues Festival has a legendary heritage upon which to draw, but this year’s fest doesn’t seek to rely solely on the past. It will explode with the Blues of today and tomorrow.
The three-day event vibrates and gyrates from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17, and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Fairgrounds. An additional show will start at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19, at The Blind Pig, 201 S. First St. in Ann Arbor.
Yes, it is the 49th anniversary of the legendary 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival, which was two weeks before Woodstock and was dubbed the first electric blues festival in North America. Those fantastic yesterdays of the great blues events won’t be forgotten, but there is so much in today’s blues music community to be celebrated. That’s what will be displayed in the 2018 Ann Arbor Blues Festival beginning Aug. 18.
“You can’t go to the Ann Arbor Festival and not think about its history if you know about it,” said James Partridge, an Ann Arbor attorney who revived the event in 2017 after an 11-year absence. “But we’re celebrating not only those blues, but especially the blues of today and the blues of the future.”
General admission tickets start at $40 on Friday and Saturday and are $15 on Sunday. VIP tickets for Friday and Saturday are $150 and include separate VIP entrance and parking areas, reserved seating, access to a VIP tent with catered food and complimentary refreshments and meet-and-greet opportunities with select artists.
General admission weekend passes range from $75 to $90 VIP weekend passes cost $275 for Friday and Saturday and $290 for all three days.
Tickets and further information is available at http://www.a2bluesfestival.com. Tickets are more expensive at the door, so Partridge encourages festivalgoers to purchase tickets in advance.
“We have put together a lineup that is worthy of the heritage of the Ann Arbor Blues Festival,” Partridge said. “We have blues veterans like Benny Turner, modern artists like Shemekia Copeland and Ana Popovic, Jon Sinclair, Detroit native Don Was and a young up-and-comer named Jake Kershaw, a prodigy from Albion who has performed with legends like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Larry McCray and Tab Benoit.
“We’ve got Grammy-nominated performers, and many, many Blues Music Awards along with hundreds of other awards. The people who come are going to be seeing some first-class blues, no doubt about it. We’re really excited.”
Last year’s festival drew more than 1,000 blues fans over the course of the event, and ticket sales have already surpassed that mark for the 2018 fest. The ticket orders are coming in from all parts of the country, Partridge says, proving that the allure of the Blues – and the Ann Arbor Blues Festival – is alive and well.
“We’ve got orders in from California, Georgia, California, Utah and other places,” Partridge said. “Our Facebook page’s popularity has exploded, and we’re looking for a big push on ticket sales leading up to the festival.”
It isn’t surprising that orders are coming in from the far reaches of the country, according to Partridge. He calls the appeal of the Blues, “universal.”
“Their themes affect everybody,” he said. “It’s about love, loss, longing, betrayal. It is instantly relatable for everyone.”
There will be plenty of food catered for the event, as well as food trucks, merchandise, artisans, activities for kids (children 12 and under get in free) and a harmonic clinic on Saturday. When you purchase a ticket, you get a wristband, which give you in-an-out privileges throughout the time of your ticket.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the first-rate lineup we’ve put together, and the atmosphere and ambience that people are going to enjoy,” Partridge said. “There’s so much I could say, but I guess the best thing to say is it’s going to be a damn good time.”