February is the sweet spot of winter for me; tucked between the cruel cold winds of January and the mush that is March. February brings with it the eternal optimism of chocolate and flowers, and February brings to Barrie the Blues Festival, now in its seventeenth year.
As the little sister event to the sunny summer Blues and Jazz Festival, held June 5-16, 2014, The February Blues XVII is not simply the warm up act, it is the teaser, the temptress.
This music moves us and rocks us through the cold winter night.
Robin Munro answered the call years back when the City of Barrie asked him to consider creating a winter musical event to coincide with our annual Winterfest. Robin already had a strong relationship with the venues and sponsors from the Blues and Jazz Festival, so February Blues began.
There is an impressive list of venues and sponsors, truly something for all; from Bradford in the south to Midland in the north west, the listings a roadmap of our fine county; “South Side, East Side, West Side, Downtown Blues, the Four Corners of the Blues and the Library Blues”.
Restaurants and night clubs, libraries and public spaces, music was everywhere.
I started my tour at “Tara” the Dunlop Street restaurant for fine Indian Cuisine. As I walked in the door, Danny B was in the midst of a song. That man is a charmer, he took my hand and began to serenade me, even worked my name into his song. This reviewer blushed, took a deep breath and swayed along to his fine music. Danny B, bluesman extraordinaire, got my hearty applause, my intro to the weekend festival was off to a grand start! I stayed for a set, found our interview engaging and wished I had more time to soak up the ambiance.
My next destination was Sticky Fingers. The Paul James Band was the band du jour and I was thoroughly captivated. Here is a showman, with his shock of pompadour hair, hands that magically make a beer bottle play the strings, energy personified, he had the room rocking.
Paul James told me he has been playing a long time, and that he enjoys coming to Barrie for the February Blues, particularly to play for the folks that used to come down to the city to support him. It works well all round, he plays an amazing gig for us, and gets to go home to sleep in his own bed. I loved this. We get the music without the drive south, and he gets the comforts of home.
I stayed long after our interview; the energy in the room reflected his, the crowd hyped to listen. Paul James will be playing Sticky Fingers on St. Patrick’s Day, Monday March 17, 2014. Be there!
Links: http://www.pauljamesband.com, http://www.youtube.com/user/pauljamesband
Saturday afternoon, my weekly farmers’ market bounty purchased, I sought out the sounds of Robin Munro himself with his Jazz-Mandhu, playing amidst the books at the Barrie Public Library. Library Blues venues provided family friendly locales from Bradford to Midland during the February Blues, allowing even the youngest fans access to the music.
While Winterfest brought the crowds downtown for a perfectly chilled day of adventures, I tucked in for a cozy home afternoon, conserving my energy for another night of musical discovery.
First up Saturday eve was my new fave spot for sipping vino at their gorgeous marble bar; Cha Cha Cha Italian Restaurant. This was a new entry on the venues list, most apropos, as owner Michelle Devlin’s daughter, Emily Devlin made her singing debut Saturday night, showing all present, this girl has talent! Then I was back to Sticky Fingers Bar and Grill on Bryne Drive, the headliner’s venue.
While regularly providing Barrie with exceptional musical acts, this was the setting for the grand finale of weekend festivities. In their new location, manager Dana Wright was thrilled to discover how wonderful the acoustics are; a small venue, an intimate setting, everything flows well.
The staff is professional, they know their stuff. Sticky Fingers provides consistency, serving up top notch entertainment with a side order of wings and ribs to satisfy your physical hunger, while the Blues and Jazz musicians will satisfy your every musical need.
511 Bryne Drive. Barrie. ON L4N 9P7 Phone: 705-721-8793
On Saturday night, Sticky Fingers was the place to be as Blues legend Jack de Keyzer took to the stage. This man is polished, professional, and has a mighty powerful voice.
Jack de Keyzer writes the music, plays the music, sings the music and exudes extraordinary talent. Juno awards, he has two of them. Maple Blues awards, count seven.
Musical excellence personified.
I took pictures,
I bought the CD.
In conversation Jack de Keyzer shared that this is the only job he has ever had. He started playing professionally when he was 19 years old. He has happily made a good living playing the blues, and supporting his family for nearly 39 years.
It doesn’t get any better than that!
Simcoe Dining was a proud supporter of the February Blues.
While the sultry summer sounds of the Barrie Blues and Jazz festival will be a delight to review come June, the February Blues XVII warmed me nicely!
Written by: Penelope Morrow
Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow
Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography