Out & About: 9/17/2022

The 2nd Annual Best Dam Blues Fest (BDBF) was held on Friday September 16th and Saturday 17th, 2022 in Thiensville, Wisconsin. The Village Park is a beautiful setting, sitting right along-side the Wisconsin River. Numerous musicians and fans mentioned the great setting. Billy Flynn said that he “loved the festival site” and how he felt such a “good vibe”. Billy also went on to say that BDBF was one of the best festivals he’s played in a long time. 

The Wisconsin Blues Music Hall of Fame had a table right up front near the Main Stage. We met and signed up some nice folks from all around the Midwest for the mailing list, sold a lot of t-shirts and had a lot of interest in the “Hall” from festival attendees. Thank you to board member John DeStafanis who coordinated the volunteers and manned the table all weekend long. Also,thank you to our volunteers Katy, Mark and Marlys for all your help and hard work. 

Friday kicked off with a set in The Pavilion Stage by The Mighty Ms. Erica & The Sound Production. Ms. Erica and the band played three sets over the course of the evening performing such classics as “Clean Up Woman”, “Drop That Zero” and “Midnight Train to Georgia”, as well as a few originals like “The Whoop” from her soon to be released debut CD. Ms. Erica ended her show with a foot stomping, show stopping version of “Proud Mary” that had the crowd up and dancing. 

The Main Stage opened with a great set from Rev. Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys. Good solid Chicago style Blues. The Rev. will be going into the repair shop for some work soon and myself and everyone else at The Wisconsin Blues Music Hall of Fame wish the Rev. a speedy recovery. 

Next up were The Cash Box Kings. The CBK’s always put on a great show. Oscar Wilson is the real deal, a great singer and a very cool dude. The CBK’s mixed songs from their Alligator CD’s as well as a few new songs that will appear on their next Gator release. 

The next generation, Ivy Ford and Stephen Hull headlined the show. They each played a set with their own bands and then joined forces for an exciting jam to close out the night. For the finale they called up another young blue blood Big Al Dorn to blow some harp. What a great night of music. 

Saturday started off once again on The Pavilion Stage with a set by the dynamic Cameron Webb and his Markee’ Blues Band. Cameron and his fine band worked hard playing all day long between Main Stage sets. Miss Brenda Taylor and Bob O sat in with Cameron’s band on his third set for a rousing version of “Sweet Home Chicago” and a powerful version of “Smoke Stack Lighting”. Cameron also did a great mini set on the Main Stage. 

The Main Stage kicked off shortly after noon with a very nice show by Billy Flynn & His All-Stars which featured the ageless, always dapper Mr. Bob Stroger on bass and Kenny Smith on drums with special guests Milwaukee Slim, Miss Brenda Taylor and Willie Buck. Billy played both guitar and harmonica on the set. He opened the set with a few songs including one of my favorites “The Lucky Kind”. Billy then called up Milwaukee Slim for a few numbers including “Blow Wind Blow”. Then it was Brenda Taylor’s turn, she turned in a highly charged version of “Help Me”. Now it was “Star Time” as Willie Buck was called to the stage. Wille worked his way through a set of tough Chicago Blues ala his hero Muddy Waters. 

After a nice mini set by Cameron Webb, Chicago young blue blood Jamiah Rogers hit the stage and proceeded to tear the place apart! Jamiah’s frenzied, sometimes over the top guitar solos had the audience screaming and hollering throughout his blazing set. Jamiah and his band tore it up! Hot guitar fueled by heavy rhythms and tough, yet soulful vocals. Jamiah got the first standing O of the day. 

Milwaukee area favorites The Bel-Airs took the stage next and proceeded to deliver their usual highly satisfying set of American roots music. It’s always a guaranteed good time. Highlights included “Can’t Give you Up” and “Nadine”. 

After a brief stage turnover, Chicago Blues legend Mr. John Primer & The Real Deal Blues Band featuring Steve Bell on harmonica took the stage. Despite a few sound issues John and the band dug in and presented a fantastic set that featured lots of Johns great slide guitar work and Steve Bells excellent, high energy harmonica playing. John showcased a number of songs from his new CD “Tough Times”. 

The 2022 BDBF closed out with The Jim Liban Harmonica Blowout. This years featured guests were Steve Bell, Omar Coleman and Matt Skoller. Each artist was featured on a few songs, then they all converged on the stage for the grand finale of “Tell Me Mama”. Steve Bell surprised everyone by taking a vocal on “I’m Ready” (Good for you Steve!). Omar Coleman had the crowd rocking with his own “Slow Down Baby” and “Two Headed Woman. Skoller was solid as usual. The finale had all three artists on stage trading verses and harmonica solos much to the honoree Jim Liban’s  and the crowds delight! Special mention needs to be made of the fantastic backing band led by Paul Stilin on guitar and featuring Marc Wilson on drums and Jeff “H” Harrington on bass. Can’t wait until next year!

- Jim Feeney