After months of planning, the organisers of the 15th Big Wheel Blues Festival, taking place at the Villa Marina next weekend, are putting the finishing touches to a jam-packed programme.
Friday’s (May 10) headliner Larry McCray has arrived from the US and is playing dates all over the UK between now and next week.
‘Unfortunately his keyboard player was rushed to hospital with pneumonia,’ explained festival secretary Pete Christian. ‘But, luckily agent Mike Hellier of Movin Music has pulled all sorts of strings to engage the much in demand British keyboards man Jack Stow.’
Supporting Larry is double bass player Giles Robson and his band the Dirty Aces, and upcoming talent Tom Attah.
Then on the Saturday (May 11), the Dani Wilde Band, with super smooth bassist Roger Inniss, and acoustic legend Wizz Jones will support headliners British swing band King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys, featuring Shark von Schtoop.
‘Ticket sales are ahead of where we were at this point in previous years,’ said Pete, ‘and as the last two festivals have sold out both nights in advance I would definitely recommend getting in now or risk missing out.’
He added: ‘There’s a real buzz building up around the local scene, and a lot of enthusiasm among musicians and supporters. We have two full daytime programmes of local acts from 1pm to 5pm - one acoustic, one electric - and it’s been a challenge to fit in everyone wanting to play.
‘And I think we’ve again managed to put together a fascinating and really eclectic roster of visiting artists. We have musical styles from areas where the blues feeds off, and into - the worlds of folk, funk, soul, swing and 50’s R’n’B, following on from an opening act of solid traditional blues.’
He said: ‘We can’t make everyone happy all of the time, but we try to keep it fresh and varied. Friday night will be on the more rootsy side of the street, and I reckon Saturday night will be party time.
‘We have excellent vocalists, and scorching lead instrumentalists, but as a sort of bass player myself I’m almost drooling at the prospect of the more unsung rhythm section bassists performing.’
This year’s festival is in aid of the Children’s Centre, which will be organising all sorts of daytime family fun in the Villa Marina Gardens. If it rains things will move into the Villa’s Colonnade Suite.
The organisers thanked Ken Mitchell and the staff at Peter Norris Music for their support.
Tickets for the evening concerts are £20. Call the Villa box office on 600555 or visit www.villagaiety.com
Doors open at 7.30pm.
For full festival details visit www.bigwheelblues.com