By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
If the recently concluded River Splash series wasn't enough to sate your appetite for free concerts performed outdoors near the Mighty Mississippi, then get down to Laclede's Landing over Labor Day weekend for the Big Muddy Blues Festival. With thirty-five acts on four stages over two days, it's a varied musical menu with touring headliners that reflect a variety of regional tastes. On Saturday, you can sample traditional acoustic blues from David "Honeyboy" Edwards, the gospel-inflected blues/ funk of the Holmes Brothers and the swinging sounds of Texas guitarist/fiddler Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, while Sunday's highlights include Handy Award winner Alvin "Youngblood" Hart, singer Mavis Staples (of Staples Singers fame) and New Orleans slide guitarist John Mooney.
Of course, there will be ample amounts of St. Louis talent on display, too, including 2004 RFT Music Award-winners Soulard Blues Band and Fontella Bass, guitar wizard Bennie Smith and many others. True, many of these musicians and singers can be heard weekly in local clubs. But with so many groups performing in one place, it's the perfect opportunity to catch up with a favorite or two and then check out someone you haven't heard before. Also, there's something about the combination of a big festival crowd, outdoor stages with nice sound system and a little friendly competition that seems to inspire all the performers to reach down for something extra on occasions like this.
This year's Big Muddy should once again serve as a fitting testament to St. Louis' blues roots, a community and a heritage as deep and enduring as the festival's namesake river.