CHIPPEWA FALLS – Riverfront Park will once again host the Northwood Blues Festival (NWBF) this weekend. Event organizers expect at least 1,500 music fans per day.
NWBF used to entertain blues fans in the Spooner area between 2012 and 2015. In 2017 the festival moved to the Chippewa Falls Fairgrounds. Then in 2019, the festival moved to its new home at Riverfront Park in Chippewa Falls.
“The backdrop for the shows is beautiful – right along the river, and the food is going to be fantastic,” said Northwood Blues Festival CEO Steven Rheaume.
“I think this year’s performers are second to none in the blues genre,” Rheaume said. “Most people look at our lineup and say we’re the best blues festival in the Midwest.”
Rheaume couldn’t be more excited about the weekend lineup. He is eager to share his passion and his love of the Blues.
“There will be great music all weekend,” Rheaume said. “Our Saturday headliner, for example, Mike Zito just won Rock Blues Artist of the Year.”
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In June 2021, Zito received two Blues Music Awards at the Blues Foundation’s 42nd Annual Blues Music Awards in Memphis. Zito won BMAs in the Blues Rock Artist as well as Blues Rock Album of the Year categories for Mike Zito and Friends – Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry.
Zito performs Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and again at 10 p.m. with a host of others joining him on stage for a Blues jam.
Rheaume said the band he was most excited to see this weekend is Bob’s of the Blues, made up of blues legends Bob Margolin, Bob Corritore and Bob Stroger and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith. The band performs at 9:30 p.m. Friday.
“The name Bob’s of the Blues doesn’t mean a whole lot to anybody because I don’t think you can go out and find an album by these guys, but they’re really good,” he said. “If you know Muddy Waters, he had a Caucasian guy in his band and his name was Bob Margolin. He’s one of the guys in the group.
Another performer in the group is Bob Corritore, considered one of the best traditional blues harmonica players on the scene today. He is a Grammy-nominated harmonica player and producer.
“He had the number one blues album in the country for four months last year called Spider In My Stew,” Rheaume said.
The third “Bob” is Bob Stroger. Over his 39-year career, Stroger has played with a long list of blues legends, including Otis Rush, Jimmy Rogers, Eddie Taylor, Eddy Clearwater, Sunnyland Slim, Louisiana Red, Homesick James and Snooky Pryor.
“June 10 at the Chicago Blues Festival, they just had Bob Stroger Day — he’s of that caliber,” Rheaume said.
Last but not least in Bob’s group of the Blues is Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith – a Grammy Award-winning drummer and songwriter.
“I’m just really excited to see these guys, and John Primer,” he said.
Primer is another Chicago great – he was bandleader and lead guitarist for Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Magic Slim & The Teardrops.
In American Blues Scene Magazine, the NWBF was named one of the top five new festivals in the country in the summer of 2015 and was the only festival in the Midwest to receive this accolade.
Chicago Magazine, in the June 2016 issue, called the Eau Claire area home to an emerging music scene. The area has an active Chippewa Valley Blues Society which sponsors Tuesday Night Blues all summer.
For more information on the Northwood Blues Festival, visit: https://www.northwoodsbluesfest.com/
Photos: Blue Ox Music Festival