31st River City Blues Festival set for March 15-16, 2024

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MARIETTA, Ohio (WOUB) – The 31st River City Blues Festival happens Friday, March 15 – Saturday, March 16 at the Lafayette Hotel (101 Front Street), bringing a variety of nationally known blues and roots artists to the region courtesy of the Mid-Ohio Valley Blues, Jazz, and Folk Music Society (BJFM).

In advance of the event, WOUB Culture spoke to Jay Phillips, President of the BJFM, as well as Maren Beery, Vice President of the BJFM. Find their conversation below, edited for length and clarity. Find more information on the festival at this link:

A poster with the line up for the 31st River City Blues Festival on it.

Could you each tell me a little bit about why you both decided to become involved with the organization?

Jay Phillips: I had always listened to various genres of music and loved the variety of styles of music that the BJFM Society offered in their shows. I knew a number of board members and when they were adding more board members, both myself and my wife joined.

Maren Beery: I became acquainted with blues through listening to rock music like Eric Clapton and Paul Butterfield and through my mother-in-law playing Bessie Smith records. When I moved to the area, I saw signs about the festival, which I attended and eventually started volunteering at. I loved the atmosphere of the society and the board members’ willingness to work hard for providing live music in the area. Then I joined the board, continuing to help with the events.

If you had to describe what the BJFM does in one sentence to someone with no familiarity with the organization, what would you say?

We provide live music of local to international acts in a wide variety of genres to entertain and educate.

How does the River City Blues Festival play into the overall mission of the BJFM?

The festival brings top quality, nationally recognized musicians to Marietta to provide local/regional access to some of the best live music available anywhere. Both of us are impressed that it is a completely all volunteer organization. We love the sense of community that surrounds the festival, both with people that have come for years, but also those that are just discovering what a fun time it is.

Board members and volunteers feel that this mission is worthwhile in sharing a variety of music with others in the region that would not normally be seen live. We do this not just through the festival but with smaller shows and educational programs called Blues in the Schools that are shared with schools in our area.

What about this festival is unique as compared to past River City Blues Festivals?

We feel that each festival is unique, but this year’s roster has a number of unique qualities. A number of acts have women featured, not just as vocalists but also as musicians. The line-up also features a very diverse collection of blues acts, including boogie-woogie piano, acoustic country blues, blues-rock, innovative modern blues, Southern blues and Chicago-based blues. Finally, except for one artist, all the acts have never performed on our stage or even in this area.

What excites you the most about this year’s upcoming event?

We find that at each festival, different people get very excited about different acts.  They tell us after the festival how much they love certain acts, many times ones that they didn’t know about beforehand.  Both of us are involved with our hiring committee and have gotten to know the acts though we have different tastes in blues.

This is true about the rest of our board AND our audience, so we try to book a wide variety of styles, from those who like to sit and listen to acoustic blues to those who want to get up and dance to a rousing full band sound.  This year, Maren is excited about Eden Brent and the Saturday afternoon acts. Jay is excited about them but also seeing that full band sound on Saturday evening.