By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
For a genre of music that isn’t typically found at the top of the charts these days, the blues is nonetheless responsible for the majority of today’s popular music.
That’s the position of Chris Gould at least. Gould is general manager of Bluesfest London and has been for the past eight years.
The 13th annual edition of the festival takes place July 13-15 in the northwest parking lot at the corner of Clarence and King streets. As it has for more than a decade, Bluesfest London hosts international artists, Grammy- and Juno-award winners, and a wide variety of national and local talents while bringing thousands of people into the downtown core.
“The blues is the root of 90 per cent of the music out there today. If you break it all down to the basics, you will find a blues riff in just about anything being played today,” Gould said. “A lot of people don’t know that. It might be the smallest segment of popular music, but it plays a tremendous role. People like Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, they all still have incredibly strong fan bases even today.”
This year’s three-day lineup — which includes the first ever family day on the Sunday — will include well-known blues artists such as Edgar Winter and Alto Reed, along with closer-to-home artists such as Alfie Smith and Stevie T & the Kingtones.
Gould said the Bluesfest audience is perhaps the most important part of the festival. If for no other reason, organizers have always taken their opinions to heart when it comes to the music they want to hear.
“Without them (the audience), we wouldn’t have this here. This is an international festival; people come from all over. Our headliners are superstars in their own right,” Gould said. “When it comes to the undercard, we try to find maybe those bands who will be the next big thing. The act that will maybe blow the crowd away and that will lead to them getting their next show.”
It isn’t just the audience’s suggestions on musical talent that Gould said organizers have always been committed to. All their input, he added, is something that has shaped the festival for years.
And this year is no different, particularly around the introduction of the family day. Bluesfest has always been a 19-plus event, but the desire to have a family part to the festivities is something Gould said has been talked about for several years.
However, this year is the first time the organization decided to give it a shot. After all, the next generation of blues fans could well be waiting in the audience.
“We do listen to our customers, we are proud of that. And as the crowd gets older, we have heard they want to bring their kids along. They want to introduce their kids to the blues,” Gould said.
The atmosphere, family day aside, is something Gould said is also created by the fans. As the event takes place in a parking lot, it has been the tradition for people to bring their lawn chairs and settle in for the performances of their choice.
After all, Gould points out the Bluesfest demographic are in that 35 to 65 range, and while it is “a relaxed, educated atmosphere,” there is also the simple factor of age to consider.
“We are a festival, none of us can stand there for eight hours drinking beer,” Gould said. “So they settle in, have a great time. We haven’t had a single altercation in 13 years and that is something we are very proud of.”
Unlike the majority of London festivals, Bluesfest isn’t situated in a park setting such as Sunfest (in Victoria Park) or Rock the Park (in Harris Park). Instead, Bluesfest continues to make its home in the downtown, in a parking lot of all places.
Gould credits the festival’s loyal fan base for having a “much different vibe” than other London festivals. In fact, Gould said that atmosphere is what makes Bluesfest such a popular attraction.
“That is a great little location, no doubt about it. It is easily accessible, it is right in the downtown. We are very proud to bring in 15,000 to 20,000 to the downtown, who spend their money in the core,” Gould said.
The 13th annual Bluesfest London, held in the northwest parking lot at the corner of Clarence and King streets, takes place from July 13-15. For more information please call 519-488-1240 or 1-866-934-6889 or visit the website www.thebluesfest.com.
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