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Chicago blues legend John Primer is set to perform at the 26th Annual River City Blues Festival this weekend. (johnprimerblues.com/Photo by Marilyn Stringer)
Chicago blues legend John Primer is set to perform at the 26th Annual River City Blues Festival this weekend. (johnprimerblues.com/Photo by Marilyn Stringer)

This Weekend To Mark 26th Annual River City Blues Festival

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For the past 26 years, the Mid-Ohio Valley Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society (BJFM) has been organizing the annual River City Blue Festival, bringing together everything from regional roots music acts to internationally recognized musicians for two days jam-packed with traditional American music.

This weekend marks yet another edition of the festival, including performances by the likes of Australian singer-songwriter Kara Grainger and New Orleans-based Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers on Friday night, and sets by Ohio-based Schools that Rock, blues guitarist Studebaker John, Chicago blues great John Primer and the Real Deal Blues Band, electric blues musician John Nemeth, and young blues guitarist Samantha Fish on Saturday.

“Initially, the festival was a convention intended for people from other music societies around the state to get together and not only provide entertainment for one another, but talk about how we could network with each other,” said Peggy Bolen, the treasurer for BJFM. Eventually the convention grew into a festival.

Australian blues musician Kara Grainger will perform at the 26th Annual River City Blues Festival in Marietta this weekend. (karagrainger.com)
Australian blues musician Kara Grainger will perform at the 26th Annual River City Blues Festival in Marietta this weekend. (karagrainger.com)

Mark Doebrich is the founder of Schools that Rock, the diverse group that will play for free on Saturday morning at the Lafayette Hotel, where the festival is taking place.

Doebrich explained that the program was born of a music-centric lunch program that he started after a series of funding cuts had him on lunch duty at the middle school where he was employed.

“One of the other instructors would watch the kids who went out to recess, and I let any kids that were interested stay behind and play guitar,” said Doebrich.

The program is open to anyone from early middle school age to students in Doebrich’s Washington State Community College Music Club, which Doebrich started as an extension of his employment at the community college.

“The group just kept getting bigger and better as we acquired some equipment through donations and fundraisers,” said Doebrich, mentioning that Schools that Rock have obtained a PA system, about two dozen guitars, microphones, a set of drums and more from generous donors. The program is entirely free and functions entirely on donation.

Young blues guitarist Samantha Fish will perform this weekend at the 26th Annual River City Music Festival. (samanthafish.com/Brian Rozman Photography)
Young blues guitarist Samantha Fish will perform this weekend at the 26th Annual River City Music Festival. (samanthafish.com/Brian Rozman Photography)

“I’ve never seen a year-long program that is free like this,” said Doebrich. “I’ve seen plenty of programs that aren’t free in wealthy, metropolitan areas, but we don’t live in Hilliard or Rocky River. So a free program like this works a lot better in this area.”

Doebrich emphasized the importance of young people learning about traditional American forms of music.

“The blues, especially, is a true American form of music; and from blues comes the evolution of all American music,” he said. “Blues is the foundation of everything from country to rockabilly to rock to new age to punk. The blues is a real valuable lesson because it’s the story of life and it’s told through music.”

Tickets are on sale now for the 26th Annual River City Blues Festival. Weekend passes cost $70 for BJFM members and $85 for non-members. Single day tickets cost $25 each for BJFM members and $30 for non-members.

The schedule of performances slated for this weekend is as follows:

March 17, 2017
8 p.m. Kara Grainger
9:45 p.m. Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers

March 18, 2017
11 a.m. Schools that Rock (free and open to the public)
1:30 p.m. 25th Annual River City Blues Competition winners announced
2:45 p.m. Studebaker John
4:15 p.m. John Primer & the Real Deal Blues Band
5:30 p.m. – Dinner break
8 p.m. John Nemeth
9:45 p.m. Samantha Fish