‘Blues On!’ takes over where the Old Town Blues Festival left off

Dexter Allen

The second annual blues festival, Blues On!, takes place at Old Town Park, 2350 N. 30th St., Tacoma, on Saturday, July 14, 1-8 p.m. The Old Town Blues Festival ran for 25 years and then became “Blues On!” beginning in 2017.

Old Town Park will continue to be the gathering spot for the second official Blues On! This festival is a must for blues fans each summer. It is all about the music. It features award-winning local and national acts, is open to all ages and is free to the public. The organizers have created an amazing lineup for this season featuring multi-award-winning Mississippi bluesman, Dexter Allen.

To build upon the original tradition of the festival, and to show support for the community, the Old Town Business Association created a non-profit 501(c)(3); The Robert “Ted” Brown Foundation – 501(c)(3) #82-0956108, which donated more than $2,000 to the Tacoma School District K-12 music program in 2017 and hopes to double the donation this year.

This year, there are five groups in the lineup for the festival. First up is Little Bill and the Blue Notes, who are an institution more than a band. Since 1956 Bill Engelhart and various lineups have been wowing audiences with their take on rhythm and blues. In 1959 the Bluenotes made the national charts with the teenage love song “I Love an Angel” and since then have released a bevy of recordings.

Rafael Tranquilino Band

Over the years, Engelhart has had the pleasure of working with some of the finest musicians in the Northwest including Jo Johanson, Isaac Scott and Buck England. In addition, he has opened for legendary acts such as BB King, Robert Lockwood Jr. and Buddy Guy. The singer, songwriter and bass player has a roomful of awards including NW Hall of Fame, the W.C. Handy Award and the BB Life Time Achievement Award.

Next up is Tuck Foster and the Tumbling Dice, a group that comes out of the central part of the state. Front man Tuck Foster has been performing the blues for more than 35 years and has been awarded for: Best Blues Band, Best Blues Performer, Best Blues Harmonica Player and Best Male Blues Vocalist by the members of the Inland Empire Blues Society 2005, 2014, 2015, and, 2016. Foster’s performances are said to possess an energy and honesty not seen in an entertainer since the passing of the great Junior Wells. 

The Rafael Tranquilino Band occupies the mid-way portion of the festival. Rafael Tranquilino Band is a power house of guitar, bass and drums with vocals that fuse rock, blues and funk in an alternative invocation of crossroads; past, present, and future. Tranquilino is known for his searing riffs and old fashioned Delta slide. His music is hypnotic; it has wings, lifting listeners to a lingering point of tension before being set free in sweet relief. RTB is a rocket ship blasting full speed through layers of atmosphere into outer space, taking their listeners on a transcendent ride.

As the afternoon slips into evening, The Lady A Band will take the stage. This songstress began singing at age 5. She began her performance career as a back-up singer in a Motown revue band during the 80s. Her musical ear, Louisiana roots, and her musical family always lead her back to blues and gospel music, mixed with flavors of soul and funk like a perfect jambalaya.

Though born and raised in Seattle, you can clearly hear the Southern undertones in her music and lyrics. Whether during a festival, in a hazy nightclub or a private party setting, this Pacific Northwest diva is always backed by an ensemble of superb musicians that keeps the music pumping and the joint always jumping with their flavorful renditions, which announce “a new breed of blues.” The Lady A also stays rooted in her music by hosting a Back Porch Blues showcase, in which she invites friends and family to participate in nights of old-school blues, gospel and soul on stage as a perfect night out for audiences of all ages. 

Stir it all up with Lady A’s raw vocals and you have a good gumbo mix of party that won’t stop, or a slow jam that percolates just under the surface of the music.

Dexter Allen, the 2018 “Blues On!” headliner, will cap the festival off at the end of the evening. Allen is an American blues musician, singer, songwriter and guitarist, whose accomplishments include receiving a Jackson Music Award for Male Vocalist of the Year in 2008, and Entertainer of the Year in 2009. Recently he was signed onto blues legend Bobby Rush’s record label, Deep Rush Records, and appeared as a bass guitarist in the 2014 James Brown biopic, “Get On Up.” Allen is going to blow your hair back, so get ready.

The South Sound Blues Association is committed to preserving and promoting blues music and the blues community; supporting blues education; and promoting the South Sound area blues scene and its blues musicians. It is dedicated to preserving the blues as an American art form on behalf of its performers and fans through education, community and performances.

For more on “Blues On!” visit bluesoninoldtowntacoma.com or facebook.com/Blues-on-in-Old-Town-Tacoma-152227138636343.

Festival schedule:

  • 1-2 p.m. Little Bill and the Blue Notes
  • 2:15-3:15 p.m. Tuck Foster and the Tumbling Dice
  • 3:30-4:30 p.m. Rafael Tranquilino Band
  • 4:45-6 p.m. The Lady A Band
  • 6:15-7:45 p.m. Dexter Allen

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