SOUNDS OF BLUE
2014 Tremblant Blues Fest
First Class Blues! July 4th – July 6th
By BOB PUTIGNANO
This is my sixth consecutive Festival International Du Blues De Tremblant Festival. For twenty-one years the Festival International Du Blues De Tremblant has been assembling Blues festivals that are one of the best Blues Fests in world. This year's most known event headliners featured: Shemekia Copeland, JJ Grey & Mofro, Tommy Castro, Smokin’ Joe Kubek with Bnois King, Victor Wainwright, The Mannish Boys, Doyle Bramhall II and tons more. Needless to say it’s a deep lineup and there’s no charge for any of the outdoor shows.
Tucked away in the Laurentian Mountains approximately ninety minutes northwest of Montreal is this gorgeous chalet town of Mont-Tremblant which looks somewhat like Quebec City with cobblestone streets, old world architecture, with gondola rides for all! Yet for almost two intense weeks, the Blues rule in the cool and fresh mountain air. The Canadians are quite rabid about Blues music. Not only were they enthusiastically involved with the performances, they proved to also be quite knowledgeable. Plus, I also heard a lot of great Blues music spewing from cars that drove by as I wandered the grounds.
I attended the first three days from Friday, July 4th through Sunday, July 6th. The initial performance of the ’14 fest showed how international this festival is as Finland’s Erja Lyytinen’s band dazzled the crowd with her masterful slide guitar playing. Erja is just thirty-eight years old and her future looks bright, and her performance at Tremblant will only add to her already well-known European popularity. For further evidence you can find out more details at: www.ErjaLyytinen.com
Eric Sardinas & Big Motor closed out the first night, and immediately had me and many others running from the stage. Not for his performance, but from the ridiculously piercing volume that emanated from the stage. Over the years I’ve seen my share of loud concerts, but this has to rank as my most recent and perhaps the loudest show I can ever recall. About a month prior I had been to the docs for an ear checkup, and I think I am now due for a quick follow-up visit as my ears are still ringing! Sardinas’ bio states that his band will leave a lasting impression on those that see him perform; it certainly did for me, but not for musical reasons. Turn it down man! More (calming) details can be found at: www.EricSardinas.co.uk
On the second night of the festival I witnessed what seemed to be the largest crowd I ever saw assembled at either of the two large stages at the Place Saint-Bernard Scene Casino Stage. Shemekia Copeland had the crowd eating out of her hands as she pranced and danced through a superb set of music that traversed her ever-expanding career. The daughter of the great Texas Bluesman Johnny Copeland has fully blossomed into her own, as evidenced by her latest album “33 1/3” that was Grammy nominated. I had not seen Shemekia in some years and the most notable band lineup change is that there’s no longer a keyboard player. Now there are two guitarists giving the band and Copeland a much harder edge that seemingly works well for her, the audience and for yours truly. For more information be sure to check into her site at: www.ShemekiaCopeland.com
Last day, my first highlight was lunch at La Diable Micro Brasserie Brew Pub & Restaurant where not only were the freshly made brews sophisticated, wildly complex and tasty, the food (especially the one and a half pounds of BBQ Baby back ribs) were some of the best and most tender ribs I’d ever eaten, and not what I expected to find in the wilds of Quebec. www.MicroLaDiable.com
With our stomachs bulging it was time to take in some music. Steve Strongman had a party going on with harpist Guy Belanger. Strongman is now a well-known commodity for me and always delights. Strongman’s showcasing tunes from his latest “Let Me Prove It to you.” By the way Strongman is a four time Maple Blues Award winner, see more at: www.SteveStrongman.com Layla Zoe wowed us all with an authoritative and artful display by her band and her powerful vocals. Zoe is coming off as a semifinalist at the prestigious 2013 International Songwriting Competition, and her latest album “The Lily,” for more go to: www.Layla.ca
My final stop was superlative as JJ Grey & Mofro captured the hearts and soul of the audience with their soulful and jam like excursions throughout their captivating set. Grey is definitely made for the stage as his mannerisms and vocal styles are magnetic. I’ve seen these Mofro’s in the past, but never saw them put on a show as good a show as it went down here in Tremblant. Grey’s status continues to expand especially with their latest “The River.” Learn more at: www.JJGrey.com
So there you have it, a fabulous three night musical fling in the country with abundant amounts of outstanding Blues music. Congratulations and thanks go to Program Director Guy Primeau, Talent Director Brian Slack who continues to impress me with his knack for attracting talent and his golden ears. Until next year, keep checking for 2015 updates at: http://www.tremblantblues.com/home
Photography by and courtesy of Bob Putignano.
For fifteen years Bob Putignano has been pivotal at WFDU http://wfdu.fm with his Sounds of Blue radio show: http://www.SoundsofBlue.com ; Previously a senior contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, and Music Editor for the Yonkers Tribune, The Westchester Guardian, and Making A Scene. Putignano can be directly contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org