Partyin' down in the parking lot of the Casino Queen gambling boat may not be your ideal way of spending a Saturday, but the lineup of talent at the premiere of the Gateway Groove Festival makes the idea at least worthy of consideration. With both local and national blues, R&B and rock artists filling the roster, the Groove will feature music on two stages, kicking off around 1 p.m. with an opening set in honor of the late legendary blues guitarist Albert King, who made his home in nearby Lovejoy, Ill. The band for the tribute is being put together by St. Louis Blues Society stalwart John May and will include some of the many musicians who worked with King over his long career. Also slated is a set by Oliver Sain and his band, winding up with a rare meeting of pianist Johnnie Johnson and guitarist Billy Peek as they share the stage and trade blues and R&B licks.
Nationally, the acts range from the Louisiana swamp grooves of Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas to the rockin' blues sound of Austin, Texas, guitarist Chris Duarte to the soulful Chicago blues of Koko Taylor and the eclectic roots-rock of Sonia Dada. According to Ken Krueger, who's producing the event for the Casino Queen, the Gateway Groove is designed to strike a balance among a variety of musical styles -- all with roots in blues and R&B. "I think it's a really nice mix of music," he says. "We're going to try and have booths and other things going, and for only a $10 admission charge it's definitely a great bargain." Considering that the music will run nearly 12 hours, featuring seven bands, it's hard to argue that point.