Be Here Now: Acoustic Blues Fest @ Caffe Lena, 3/4-5/11


You don’t have to plug in and crank it up if you want to play the blues. If you’re a fan of the acoustic blues, the place to be this weekend is Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs. The Caffe’s sixth annual Acoustic Blues Festival takes place on Friday and Saturday, featuring two concerts, three workshop sessions and a rare record raffle, too.

Here’s the complete line-up for the fest:

CONCERT: The Jeremy Wallace Duo
8pm on Friday; $18 in advance; $20 at the door
New Jersey songsmith and protege of the legendary Dave Van Ronk, Jeremy Wallace headlines the opening night of Caffe Lena’s sixth annual Acoustic Blues Festival. Upright bassist Matt Gruenberg will share the stage with Wallace.

WORKSHOP: “78 RPM Blues Records” with Mark Tolstrup
1-2:15pm Saturday; $25 (all three workshops for $60)
Early Delta and country blues songs were first captured and recorded on 78 RPM records in the 1920s and 1930s. In this workshop, students will be listening to an old crank Victrola, as they play original ’30s 78 RPM records by such artists as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tampa Red, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Blake, Peetie Wheatstraw and Gus Cannon. Learn about some of the major labels that first recorded the blues, including Paramount, Vocalion and Columbia. And get tips for starting a record collection of your own.

WORKSHOP: “On One Foot” with Marjorie Thompson
2:30-4pm Saturday; $25 (all three workshops for $60)
In this hands-on workshop, participants will learn Marjorie’s method for exploring the guitar neck using logically linked partial chords, and related essential licks that give color to country blues and folk-style guitar picking. Each position will be examined as to how it is used in generating typical riffs, lead lines, intros and outros, all useful for understanding traditional country blues and developing interesting arrangements. Whether you’d like to decipher what you hear, arrange covers or compose originals, this information and its application are the foundations that will spur your playing.

WORKSHOP: “Blues in the Key of E” with Bill Sims, Jr. and Mark LaVoie
4:15-5:30pm, $25 (all three workshops for $60)
Examine the basic difference between acoustic country blues and electric city blues. Through examples and discussion, this workshop will deepen your understanding of the value and strength of acoustic country blues.

CONCERT: “Blues in the Round” featuring Bill Sims Jr & Mark LaVoie, Marjorie Thompson and Street Corner Holler
8pm; $18 in advance; $20 at the door
The duo of NYC blues guitarist Bill Sims and Vermont harmonica player Mark LaVoie, teams up with guitarist Marjorie Thompson and Saratoga’s own Street Corner Holler (the duo of guitarist Mark Tolstrup and percussionist Dale Haskell) for a round-robin concert performance.

RAFFLE: Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Lonesome House Blues” 78 RPM
$5 per ticket; five for $20
Here’s your chance to own an actual piece of American history, a rare 1927 78 RPM Paramount recording of Texas bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson’s seminal “Lonesome House Blues.” All proceeds from the raffle will benefit Caffe Lena.

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