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Denton Blues Festival trumpets another year of celebration

Denton Blues Festival trumpets another year of celebration

Denton Blues Festival trumpets another year of celebration
September 18
14:55 2018

The three-day Denton Blues Festival faced gloomy weather this past weekend consisting of thunder, lightning and plenty of rain, but that did not stop people from trekking through the mud to see Muddy Waters’ son, among many other talented blues musicians.

While the Denton Blues Festival was packed with lawn chairs, umbrellas for both rain and shade, food vendors and families, one of the most distinct aspects of the festival was its communal quality.

Many of the attendees knew each other and have been coming to the Denton Blues Festival for years. The attendees felt free to be themselves in the large, yet quaint, atmosphere. People both young and old took to the front of the stage to dance and twirl to heavy vocals and blue-tinted guitar riffs.

Zac Harmon plays a solo during his cover of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” at Denton Blues Festival. Will Baldwin

“It’s the music, man,” said Glenn Beck, a 66-year-old construction superintendent who could be found dancing along to the music at the foot of the stage. “It’s a nice fall venue, it’s in a park, it’s free, it’s just great. I like to dance. I go to blues bars all the time and dance and you get up right in front of the stage. What gets better, you know?”

The Denton Blues Festival was a larger spectacle when it was hosted at the Denton Fair Grounds. However, the organizers felt that the location lacked the ambiance that should accompany a blues festival. Organizers decided to move the festival back to Quakertown Park and traded attendance for a commitment to keep admission free with the support of local sponsors.

John Baines, the organizer of Denton Blues Festival, believes that the dedication to the music and atmosphere is what keeps people coming back year after year.

“I think the size [is] not overwhelming,” Baines said. “The quality of the music is very good. Blues is something that if you live long enough, you’ll have the blues. And so, this music kind of helps you wrap your mind around those things.”

Many of the attendees enjoy the small setting of the festival and find it much more personable compared to some larger Denton and Dallas festivals.

“Denton is close to eclectic, which I appreciate,” Addison resident Dirk Lutzweiler said. “So it kind of gets away from Dallas’ pretentious stuff that I don’t really care for much. Even though they don’t always seem to play the blues, that’s okay because it always has a blues flavor. Whether it’s R&B, funk or whatever, it’s always got the blues flavor that I really enjoy.”

Gregg A. Smith leads a conga line through Quakertown Park at Denton Blues Festival. Will Baldwin

The Denton Blues Festival is often compared to the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, which takes place in the spring. While similarities can be seen between the two festivals, Kerry Goree, Chairman of the Denton Black Chamber of Commerce and organizer of the festival, sees them very differently.

“In numbers we may be smaller, but in people’s hearts, they see us the same size because it’s hard to go home and feel real, ‘Oh man, oh man, I want [to hear] some jazz,'” Goree said. “Jazz is sipping on a little adult beverage and enjoying yourself. Blues is going home, loving people and [saying], ‘That bill, baby, don’t worry — it will get paid. I know I made you mad last night, but honey if you leave, don’t take the dog.’ That’s what the blues is about. ‘I want you to know I’m here. Even though sometimes it may not seem like I’m here, I’m here.’”

Goree sees the blues in all walks of life and all around the globe. He strongly believes that the blues is something you have in you and it does not matter where you come from.

“Singing the blues, it’s a universal language,” Goree said. “It’s a heart. It’s an in-your-gut feeling. It’s being able to shout out, ‘Yes, I had bad times, I’ve been down, but I’m not down.’ There’s a way up. The blues helped me look up, and know I’m not in this alone. I don’t care how wealthy you were, you didn’t get there with good times all the time. There have been heartaches, breaks, broken promises, mistrust, misunderstanding, but that’s life. That’s what the blues is. We want the young people to realize what the blues is about.”

While the age demographic of the Denton Blues Festival tends to lean towards an older audience, Goree is working to bring in a younger audience and teach the newer generations about the importance of the blues.

Carolyn Wonderland performs at Denton Blues Festival. Will Baldwin

“I probably won’t be the coordinator [in] the next 20 years,” Goree said. “But the blues have been here 100 years, so we don’t see people stopping because I’m not here anymore. The blues is a snowball that is now growing and growing. Even the kids, the young people that are doing R&B and doing rap — it’s an extension of the blues.”

Part of Baines’ plan to diversify the Denton Blues Festival age demographic is to train new leaders from the younger generation who can expand on the knowledge of previous generations.

“We have a lot of young talent that is interested in doing things,” Baines said. “A lot of the leadership is older, so we need that younger group that are social media savvy and able to do a lot of different things on different levels.”

Both Goree and Baines made one thing very clear: While the leadership and festival may change over time, the blues and the community that lives for the music will forever be the same.

“The blues family is a very close family,” Goree said. “People, all walks of life — it’s just unbelievable when you sit out and go talk to people in the audience, and you look at a person. It’s not the hair on their head, or on their face or the clothes they’re wearing, where you can identify a blues person. It takes a cardiologist to be able to identify a blues person because it’s written all over their heart.”

Featured Image: American Blues musician Zac Harmon finishes his set at the 20th annual Denton Blues Festival. The Denton Blues Festival is a three-day music festival. Will Baldwin

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Slade Meadows

Slade Meadows

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