Blues & Views returns for 12th festival in Westport
Westport gets the blues, big time, over Labor Day weekend. That’s when the 12th annual Blues & Views Festival returns to the Levitt Pavilion, located on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in downtown Westport. Concert days are Saturday, Aug. 31, and Sunday Sept. 1, and this year’s lineup features nationally touring headliners like Lawrence, the Neville Jacobs Band, with Ivan Neville and Chris Jacobs, The Main Squeeze, Flow Tribe, the High & Mighty Brass Band, Southern Avenue, The Commonheart, Kat Wright, The National Reserve, Jake Kulak and the Lowdown, plus festival favorites Anders Osborne and School of Rock.
The Jesup Jam, on the grounds of the Westport Library parking lot, has additional local music offerings, plus activities for the youngsters, like “bouncy” amusements, arts and crafts and face painting, a specialty food marketplace and a food court with wood-fired, grilled and roasted food, handcrafted beer, premium liquor, wine and other refreshments.
The Blues & Views Festival would not exist without Bob LeRose, a restaurant owner and music enthusiast who originated the event over a decade ago, when his establishment, Bobby Q’s, was located in downtown Westport.
“We initiated the festival through the Downtown Merchants Association (DMA) as a way to creatively introduce people to the great Levitt Pavilion and obviously drive traffic to downtown Westport,” said LeRose. “The town has always been very receptive and supportive for this project. We built a nice coalition and made it happen. As leadership evolved for the DMA, the festival was a little bit influx. The Levitt Pavilion took ownership of the entity and the Chamber heavily supported the event last year. This year we are focused on getting the festival back to its simple mission — bringing people together through great music, food and fun.”
Although LeRose needed to move Bobby Q’s out of Westport in 2016, due to landlord redevelopment plans, he opened another establishment, Bobby Q’s Cue & Co. in Norwalk — he also owns Bobby Q’s Pit Stop, an eatery in Old Greenwich — and music has always played an integral part in his makeup. He features live jams and local bands weekly in his Norwalk establishment, and his affinity for the music he’s bringing to the festival is evident when he describes who’s coming.
“There are so many favorites. Of course, Anders Osborne with his electric band is always special at our fest. The last time he and Ivan Neville were on stage together, they did a ten-minute-plus ripping version of Neil Young’s ‘Down by the River.’ We always expect cool collaborations and special moments. I can’t wait to see what’s in store this year, with both of them back on the bill. I’m particularly excited for Southern Avenue,” he continued. “This is a band that has it all working for them — the sound, the look, the stage presence and the message. The more I listen, the more I love them. We snagged Kat Wright for an early set on Saturday. People should get there early and plan to stay late. Our team is super-excited for the emerging bands on Sunday, led by the brother-sister team of Lawrence. They have a big sound, are very talented, and are a breakout band in the very near future. The Main Squeeze is coming off tour with George Clinton and will absolutely bring the funk. Add the soulful sounds of The Commonheart from Pittsburgh, the rootsy National Reserve, and the musical interpretations of the High & Mighty Brass Band from Brooklyn and you just have a perfect festival day.”
The event takes place rain or shine, and kids 12-and-under are admitted free.
“This year, our second ‘stage’ under the dining tent in the Jesup Jam area will feature dozens of performers organized by Ed Train who coordinates our jams at Bobby Q’s. We are very happy to showcase these talented artists from our local area,” said LeRose, adding, “Somebody sent a ‘thank you’ to Bobby Q’s recently that said ‘thank you for spreading love through music and food.’ That struck a chord for me and our new festival team, which includes Peter Propp from the CT Ukulele Festival and Crispin Cioe from the Uptown Horns. And we try to carry that energy forward to our festival crowd, team, vendors and partners.”
Tickets to the Jesup Jam and Levitt Live access to the Main Stage are being sold separately. A portion of the proceeds will go to Staples High School Tuition Grants and Wakeman Town Farm. For tickets and information, visit BluesViewsCT.com.