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Blues Fest blows Harbor Park out of the water

By Ryan Martin | Jul 13, 2019
Photo by: Michelle Hopkins Locals dance along during Rick Estrin & the Nightcats July 13 at the beginning of the Blues Fest in Rockland.

Rockland — The first day of the North Atlantic Blues Festival at Harbor Park in Rockland, Saturday, July 13, featured performances from the Midcoast Music Academy Kids Blues Camp, Joe Moss, Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, Carolyn Wonderland, Annika Chambers and Sugaray Rayford.

Harbor Park was packed with blues fans dancing, jamming and singing along through the heat. With talent traveling from Florida, Canada, Philadelphia and overseas, this year’s Blues Fest is a natural who’s-who of the blues world for fans and musicians alike.

Locals could be seen floating in the water behind the stage on kayaks, canoes and floaties, the only way to properly cool off from the 80-degree heat. Those who filled the lawns in front of the stage had tons of options to choose from for food and concessions. Cookie Mama, Camden’s Smoothie Shack and lobster rolls were among the various food trucks scattered throughout the park. Merchandise was also available, designed by festival organizer and co-founder Paul Benjamin.

Midcoast Music Academy Kids Blues Camp was set to open both days, featuring kids from ages 11 to 17. The camp is held Monday through Friday the week of the festival, with the campers getting to showcase their new skills in front of Rockland’s most loyal blues fans.

Joe Moss electrified the crowd with his morning performance leading off the festival proper. Playing covers, originals and hits, his guitar skills were a perfect match for his band’s steady and improvisational grooves. Bouncing from up-tempo jams that energized the crowd to softer mid-sections, Moss had the crowd eating out of his hand from beginning to end.

Moss first met Benjamin, his manager and adviser, while playing a gig at the Time Out Pub. Originally from Chicago, Moss’s band includes Greg Sefner on keyboards, Dana Thompson on drums and Dwane Denton on bass. “The crowd was awesome; I’ve wanted to play the Blues Fest forever, and after I finally got the opportunity, the experience was absolutely amazing.” Moss said after his performance.

Following Moss was Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. Originally scheduled to play from 3:15 to 4:30, the band swung an earlier set to cover for fellow act Annika Chambers, who had to postpone her set until later in the evening because of a family emergency. Nightcats lead guitarist Chris “Kid” Andersen went on to play lead guitar for Chambers later in the day.

Estrin and his Nightcats put on an amazing and energetic set accompanied by Estrin’s signature harmonica. The four-piece band included Alex Petterson on drums, Lorenzo Farrell on keyboards, along with Andersen.

The lead guitarist blew the crowd away with his recognizable and impeccable guitar licks and at one point even played the guitar with his teeth, much to Estrin’s playful shock. The band has won five blues music awards and including the 2018 Blues Music Award Band of the Year. After their set, those in attendance could see that the award was well deserved.

The day continued with Carolyn Wonderland from Austin, Texas,, Annika Chambers from Houston and Sugaray Rayford, also from Texas, closing out the day.

The Club Crawl, sponsored by Machias Savings Bank, will took place on Main Street starting at 8 p.m. Blues musicians of all kinds filled the street with their sweet sounds until roughly midnight. Restaurants such as Ada’s and FOG featured acts, as well as bars like Time Out Pub and Myrtle Street Tavern.

The Blues Fest was set to continue Sunday, July 14, starting at 10:30 a.m.

Carolyn Wonderland performs July 13, the first day of the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland (Photo by: Michelle Hopkins)
Rick Estrin performs with harmonica in hand; along with his Nightcats July 13 at the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland. (Photo by: Michelle Hopkins)
Chris "Kid" Andersen plays his guitar with Rick Estrin's Nightcats. (Photo by: Michelle Hopkins)
Locals float in Rockland Harbor during the first day of Blues Fest. (Photo by: Michelle Hopkins)
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Comments (2)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 14, 2019 16:38

I remember one of the first Blues Fest days and it surely was fine for we natives. And am sure the tourists loved it too!

I am so glad it is an annual event now and the Mainers get to celebrate with out-of Towner guests.

Posted by: Patricia P Weaver | Jul 14, 2019 09:13

Just a wonderful day, great music,great friends.

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