As the bedrock of American music the Blues forms the foundation from which the multi-layered facets of American music have flourished.
But on Saturday, July 26th, one could say that the Blues will serve as a financial foundation for helping to build a $15.5 million dollar facility for the Bay Area Family Y, as a stellar list of nationally renowned artists converge upon the F.P.Horak Parking lot at 401 Saginaw Street for the 1st Annual Bay City Blues Festival.
The spotlight will consist of performances by Detroit Blues Diva Thornetta Davis; Saginaw's 'King of the Rockin' Blues', Larry McCray; contemporary journeyman Carl Weathersby, and all eyes & ears focused upon the headliner, Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Doors open at 1 PM with showtime starting at 2:30 PM. General admission tickets are availble for $30.00 with VIP tickets going for $60.00, which includes seating near the stage, tent action, and reserved parking.
The 'House' Built by the Blues
According to Rebecca Kaiser, Communication & Development Specialist for the Bay Area Family Y, when it comes to offering a wide variety of family activities, health & fitness programs, or childcare, the 'Y' is a difficult act to follow.
"The Y has such a wide variety of offerings for any age group that it truly does serve a significant purpose," she notes.
"I see the future of our organization as a mainstay in the lives of Bay Area residents. For those looking to stop in for a workout class, use some of our new amenities for various physical rehabilitation, or making us part of their family by entrusting our staff with the care of their child, we serve a multiplicity of roles within the community"
Given the impact that the Bay City Y has upon the community, what are some of the goals the organization is seeking to achieve with this inaugural Blues Festival?
"The goal of the festival is to raise money for a new state-of-the-art Y facility," she explains. "The Bay City Blues Festival is going to be an energetic and exciting community kick-off to a new Bay Area Family Y. We want to heighten community awareness of what we are currently doing as well as what we will be able to do in the future with the construction of the new Y."
"The Bay Area Family Y has an astounding impact on the community," continues Rebecca."
We see such an array of people coming through our doors on a daily basis for a wide variety of reasons. We service everyone from the Senior Citizen who joins friends for fellowship and low-impact exercise to the working parents who rely on the Y for the care of their child. We see the younger men coming in at lunch for a pick-up game of basketball and the working mom in the evening for an aerobics class to better herself physically and emotionally."
"Through our Y financial assistance program we are able to assist those who don't have the means to pay for a membership, classes or child care. In essence, the mission of the Y is to provide a place for everyone to strengthen their body, mind and spirit regardless of their ability to pay."
Given that most groups face stiff challenges in today's economy, what does Rebecca feel are the biggest challenges facing organizations like the Bay City Family Y?
"There are two main challenges that we face today," she reflects. "The first is meeting the $15.5 million dollar project goal. We need everyone to help make the Y project a success through their support of the Capital Campaign."
"The second challenge is maintaining our programs and services in the current facility which has served the community well over its 52-ear history."
"Unfortunately, the facility does not meet the interests and needs of the youth, adults, and families of the 21st century and we are working hard to see that change."
Indeed, it is the hope of organizers that the 1st Annual Bay City Blues Festival will serve as the platform rung in that ladder of success they are striving for.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd *10 Days Out
With the festival 10 days away as of presstime, it is entirely appropriate that Kenny Wayne Shepherd should headline this inaugural event. His latest CD, 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads is the result of a 10-day trek into the heart of America.
Traveling highways & byways with a roving documentary film crew, a portable recording studio, and producer Jerry Harrison (The Verve Pipe/Hole/Talking Heads) Shepherd visited blues veterans such as B.B. King and Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown into their homes and local clubs, creating an intimate and intense experience captured both on film and the Live CD.
"We culd have stopped in every city in the U.S.," says the platinum selling guitarist/vocalist Shepherd. "and we'd find somebody, whether an old cat who is an original product of this music or else a kid my age or younger - but we'd have found someone who is a fan of the bluds and trying to do it justice. We could lay out a world map, throw a dark, and go there to play the blues - and people would love it."
With a career that began at age 16, Shepherd has a storied decade in music's big-leagues.
At the age of 13 he was invited onstage by New Orleans bluesman Bryan Lee, at which point, having proved his abilities, he decided on music as a career.
His first three albums mixed blues and nblues-rock; his 1995 debut Ledbetter Heights sold over a million copies, making it a platinum recording.
Shepherd married actor Mel Gibson's daughter, Hannah, in 2006 and the magazine Guitar World voted him #3 after B.B. King and Eric Clapton in terms of iconoclastic Blues performers.
Shepherd came to broader attention when he served as opening act for The Rolling Stones on their 1999 No Security Tour.
With 10 Days Out and his appearance at the Bay City Blues Festival, Shepherd continues his love affair with America's homegrown music, introducing fans to a varied lot of both predecessors and contemporaries.
The Blues has endured through the power of the truth that it speaks; and with this unique opportunity to rebuild so vital a family institution as the Bay City Family Y, July 26th promises to be a musical highpoint for the summer in more ways than one.
For more info, go to baycitybluesfest.com.
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