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January 23, 2013

Providing a cure for the winter blues

Ferndale Blues & Music Festival returns for 12th year

By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer

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Providing a cure for the winter blues
Renowned blues guitarist Bobby Murray rips out a solo at Rosie O’Grady’s during the 2011 Ferndale Blues & Music Festival. This year’s event will run for 10 days between Jan. 25 and Feb. 6 and feature 75 concerts at 27 venues in Ferndale, Hazel Park and Royal Oak Township.

It’s been around for over a decade now, but the Ferndale Blues & Music Festival continues to find new ways to expand its reach, with this year’s festival promising to be the biggest one yet.

The 12th annual musical celebration and fundraiser has grown to 10 days and will feature a record 75 concerts and events at 27 venues in Ferndale, Hazel Park and Royal Oak Township. Running from Jan. 25 to Feb. 2, with a final event to be held Feb. 6, the 2013 Ferndale Blues & Music Festival aims to provide a cure for the “winter blues” through the power of music and camaraderie.

Although last year’s festival broadened its musical palette to include more than just the blues, this year will offer even greater variety with everything from jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and disco, to country, big band and electronic music.

“This is the biggest number of concerts that we’ve ever had, and we’re really excited about the wide variety of styles that people will be able to hear,” said Craig Covey, founder and co-chair of the event. “This is the first year that the music has really taken off, in terms of giving people a lot of different options to choose from.”

Blues Festival favorites like the Bobby Murray Band, the Sun Messengers, Albert Young and the Straight 8s, Barbara Payton and Chris Brantley are returning this year, along with a slew of newcomers. In addition to stalwart bars and restaurants like Dino’s, New Way Bar, Como’s, Rosie O’Grady’s, Max Dugan’s in Hazel Park and the Royal Oak Township Community Center, new participating venues include One-Eyed Betty’s, Easy Like Sundae, John D Bistro and Ferndale’s Kulick Community Center.

Covey pointed out that this year’s festival has more performances at alcohol-free locations than ever before. These include teenage rock band The Fine Line, which is made up of Ferndale High School students, playing at Easy Like Sundae during a Jan. 25 kickoff event, as well as the jazz bands from FHS and Ferndale Middle School performing with members of the Ferndale Seniors group at the Kulick Center to help close out the festival Feb. 6.

“I’m really excited that we’re bringing our seniors together with our young people,” Covey said. “I think it will be neat to have some cross-generational mixing with that concert.”

Another highlight of the festival will be the sixth annual Blues Barbeque and Ribs Burn-Out hosted by Dino’s on Feb. 2. Held from noon to 7 p.m. underneath a 4,000-square-foot heated tent in the Ferndale Public Library parking lot, it will feature eight local restaurants competing for the best barbecue ribs in town. There will be a panel of celebrity judges that includes members of the Detroit Red Wings alumni to help determine the winner, as well as the presentation of a People’s Choice award and live music from the Sun Messengers.

The Ferndale Blues & Music Festival also serves as an important fundraiser for two local nonprofit groups: Ferndale Youth Assistance and the Michigan AIDS Coalition. Numerous volunteers will help collect donations at each concert by passing around the “blind blue piggy banks” that have become icons of the festival. Last year’s event generated nearly $25,000 in gross proceeds, and this year, Covey is hoping to achieve a record-setting goal of $30,000.

“I feel like the fundraising could hit an all-time high because the economy is coming back a little bit and people are feeling a little more generous,” he explained. “We spent about three or four years in the doldrums with the amount of money that we were raising, but I think we’re ready to break out of that this year.”

Dino’s owner Dean Bach will be competing to win his 10th consecutive Blue Pig Award — which is presented each year to the venue that raises the most money — but he will be facing a stiff challenge from One-Eyed Betty’s.

“We’re going to give him a run for his money this year,” said Beth Hussey, co-owner of the popular new downtown establishment. “I have all of my employees working hard to raise as much money as possible.”

One-Eyed Betty’s will also boast an impressive lineup of musicians, including Rollie Tussing, a renowned country-blues slide guitarist who recently relocated to the Detroit area after years spent living in Portland, Ore., and Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys, a popular rockabilly band from Saugatuck.

“I’ve always had a huge love for music — I’m really a big dork about it, and I just know what I like,” Hussey said. “I think our place is a great environment for live music, and I suspect that we’re going to be one of the most popular venues of the Blues Festival because we have so many fun things going on.”

Covey is looking forward to seeing crowds of people make their way to downtown Ferndale to enjoy not only 10 days of great live music, but also the pleasure of each other’s company.

“This festival really energizes me every year,” he said. “There’s something innately human about music that I think we all need more of in our lives. It’s great to have an event like this in the dead of winter because it gives people an excuse to come out and spend some time together instead of being holed up in their own little cocoons at home.”

To view a complete schedule of events for the 2013 Ferndale Blues & Music Festival, visit www.ferndalebluesfestival.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jeremy Selweski at jSelweski@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5004.