ROCKLAND — Rockland was once again host to the North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 and July 11 following a year off due to COVID-19.

The festival opened July 10 with Memphis Lightning.

Lead guitarist and vocalist Darren Thiboutot thanked the crowd for coming out to support local music, and said it was great to get back to some normalcy.

Thiboutot is originally from Topsham, Maine, though the band is based out of Florida currently.

During an interview after Memphis Lightning’s performance on the main stage, Thiboutot expressed his excitement to be at the festival.

Thiboutot said the band had previously played at the club crawl 12 years prior.

While the band has played other festivals for Paul Benjamin, one of the organizers of the North Atlantic Blues Festival, Thiboutot said performing on the main stage Saturday was a dream fulfilled.

The lineup for Saturday was Memphis Lightning; Gumbo, Grits & Gravy; Tennessee Redemption; Jason Ricci and Johnny Rawls Soul Revue.

Anne Harris of Gumbo, Grits & Gravy was excited to be at the festival as well. Harris said she has always wanted to play the North Atlantic Blues Festival.

After her performance on the main stage, Harris filmed part of a music video in front of the Maine Lighthouse Museum.

Harris, who plays violin, said this was her first time visiting Maine.

The volunteers and the festival crowd were all delighted to be back after the forced hiatus as well.

Missy Poulin of Thomaston and Ed Socker of Camden have volunteered at the festival for multiple years. Both expressed their happiness to be back.

“The excitement is palpable,” Socker said. “It was like coming home.”

Poulin said just walking on to the festival grounds felt like a big sigh of relief. “It feels so good to be back here,” she said.

Neal and Royan Bartley of Camden have worked security and sold band merchandise on the grounds since 2010. This year the husband and wife duo convinced friends Chris Choate and Randi Lamkins of Thomaston to join them as well. All four Midcoast residents were enthused to be at the festival and around other people.

Paul Ware of Rockland, Mass. said the festival was so overdue. Ware enjoyed the return of the festival by capturing the excitement with his camera as well as dancing to the music.

Festival organizer Jamie Isaacson said he was pleased with the turnout and that it was just great to be back.

Downtown Rockland hosted the annual club crawl after the show at the park on Saturday.

Main Street was closed to traffic while regional bands performed inside restaurants and outside in the streets. People of all ages danced and socialized into the night.

Bonnie Edwards & The Practical Cats played in front of Key Bank, while Downeast Soul Coalition performed on Lindsey Street.

The Eric Green Party played at Myrtle Street Tavern and Rigometrics performed at The Pearl.

Matt and the Barnburners performed on Museum Street. Their bass player, who asked to be called Daddy-O in the press, said the band performs at the crawl every year.

“It’s the highlight of the summer,” Daddy-O said. It was especially exciting this year because the Maine Blues Festival had been cancelled in June.

Festival opening act Memphis Lightning played at Trackside Station for the club crawl.

By 9 p.m. the restaurant was at capacity, and patrons listened to the music from outside while waiting to be admitted.

The July 11 lineup was Thornetta Davis; Tullie Brae; Ana Popovic; Coco Montoya and Ronnie Baker Brooks.

More information on the North Atlantic Blues Festival can be found at northatlanticbluesfestival.com.

 

The crowd is ready for a show at the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 Rockland. Christine Simmonds

 

From left: Royan Bartley, Chris Choate and Randy Lamkins work security at the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 Rockland. Christine Simmonds

 

Memphis Lightning warms up at the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 Rockland.

 

From left: Missy Poulin and Ed Socker work the merchandise table at the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 Rockland.

 

Crowds stretch all the way up the hill for opening day of the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 Rockland. Christine Simmonds

 

Memphis Lightning opens the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 Rockland. Christine Simmonds

 

Darren Thiboutot of Memphis Lightning comes into the crowd during the band’s show at the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 Rockland.

 

From left: Tony “T-Bone” Nedik, Darren Thiboutot and Terra Nedik after Tiboboutot’s performance at the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 Rockland. Christine Simmonds

 

Tenessee Redemption performs at the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 Rockland. Christine Simmonds

 

Anne Harris records a music video off festival grounds following her performance with Gumbo, Grits & Gravy at the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10 Rockland. Christine Simmonds

 

Matt and the Barnburners play on Museum Street during the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival club crawl July 10 Rockland. Christine Simmonds

 

From left: Susan Belanger of Maine, Marie Greener of Maine, Marianne Hillmann of Pennsylvania and Christy Balliett of New York wait to get in to Trackside Station during the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival club crawl July 10 Rockland. Christine Simmonds