The annual Lowcountry Blues Bash kicked off last week with a strong roster of blues, soul, and swing acts at a variety of venues. According to festival organizer Gary Erwin, attendance has been strong and the sets have been lively. And there's plenty more on the way.
Some of the more sizeable events went down at the Reel Bar in Mt. Pleasant, the Blind Tiger, the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse, and both Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ joints. Early-afternoon shows have taken place at Charleston County Library, the Lowcountry Senior Center, and Coco Vivo Fine Art and Design.
Week one of the Blues Bash began on Feb. 3 with a roster of artists of various ages and backgrounds. Singer/guitarist/harmonica player Robert Lighthouse, a native of Sweden based in Washington, D.C., performed several sets of Mississippi Delta blues and Chicago guitar blues last week. The Planet D Nonet swing/blues ensemble sold out the Seabrook Island House on Friday evening. Backed by John Picard on drums and Jerry Ray on bass, Carolina songwriter and singer/guitarist singer Drink Small — the "Blues Doctor" — played into the late-night hours at the Home Team BBQ in West Ashley on Friday as well.
One of the biggest shows of the Blues Bash weekend was the all-day All-Star Blues Jam and Oyster Roast showcase at the West Ashley Home Team BBQ on Saturday. Fans and friends packed the main room as a stream of talented local musicians did a raucous (but orderly) tag-team on stage.
"The [Lowcountry] Blues Club is trying to keep their jam alive and keep their membership up," host Tommy Thunderfoot said during a set break at the jam. "One of their goals is to preserve the blues. One is to give people that don't have a chance to play and a place to play blues. And another goal is to send a band to Memphis. It's awesome. They've made the biggest night here for Home Team BBQ their Wednesday nights. It's phenomenal."
Thunderfoot, an accomplished guitarist and blues singer himself, hosted the Blues Club's weekly jam sessions at the old A Dough Re Mi club before the series relocated to Home Team last year. The Wednesday evening events have caught on with musicians and fans alike. Local guitarist Dan Wright currently hosts the jams.
The All-Star Blues Jam featured tight sets from Pawley's Island blues-rock act My Buddy Todd, Charleston trio the Tips, and regulars from the weekly Blues Club jams — many of whom simply jumped on stage when called, found the right key, and started wailing and groovin'. Drummer John Picard and bassist Jerry Ray anchored the rhythm section for the second night in a row. Juke Joint Johny wowed the crowd with a few solos. Cheerful and chiseled Atlanta blues artist "Big Bill" Morganfield (son of blues singer Muddy Waters) capped the night with a blazing set of wild guitar solos, originals, and standards, backed by the Tips.
"Maybe you haven't heard of them specifically, but having all-stars like Nature Boy Nik, Juke Joint Johnny, Sarah Cole, and Smoky Weiner — it's amazing to have them all here," says Thunderfoot.
Thunderfoot credits the Blues Club's enthusiasm and the venue's unwavering support for establishing the Home Team stage as a prime hotspot for live local blues.
"Everything is awesome in here because these guys just come out and do it. Tony McKie [Home Team BBQ co-owner and booking guy] is just a mastermind when it comes to music," Thunderfoot says. "When this thing started, it was just to blow it up for the Blues Bash as a jam for all the locals who aren't included in the Blues Bash. These guys have been playing blues in Charleston since the '70s and '80s. I can't say enough for these guys because they inspire me to play, and they make me wanna play this music. Every year it gets bigger and better. Everybody helps everybody and it's awesome."
Videography by Joshua Curry.