Annual 3-day Magic City Blues Festival kicks off downtown

2014-08-08T22:31:00Z 2014-08-09T21:23:04Z Annual 3-day Magic City Blues Festival kicks off downtownBy Chris Jorgensen cjorgensen@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

For probably the first time in history, the blues is being played on the didgeridoo.

Australian band Harper and the Midwest opened the 13th Annual Magic City Blues Festival on Montana Avenue in downtown Billings on Friday night.

Lead singer Peter Harper switched between the droning aboriginal instrument and a blazing harmonica.

Also for the first time in history, the annual blues festival is moving its Saturday and Sunday lineups to South Park, where large, colorful sails have been strung from the trees to provide additional shade.

And Traci Grubber couldn’t be happier about the move. She and her partner, Tom Hamburg, summer in Sundance, Wyo., and have attended the blues festival “every other year or so for 10 years,” Grubber said.

“It’s nice here (downtown), but in the park, on the soft grass, it will be better, and probably cooler,” she said.

Pete Croft, of Dickinson, N.D., has to make the 325-mile drive to Billings for business three times a year and tries to time one of the trips to make a family vacation of the blues festival and the fair.

“We get a hotel and make a holiday of it,” he said. “The kids go to the fair, and I go to the blues festival. Everybody’s happy.”

Also on stage Friday, The London Souls played fuzzed out guitar-and-drum rockers. And on the second stage, soul singer Nikki Hill, wearing leopard print tights with her braids piled high on her head, burned through some Southern boogie songs that packed the street in front of the stage with dancers.

Then Jonny Lang, no longer “Kid Jonny” at 31, finished the night on the main stage.

Saturday’s lineup will be headlined by Ben Harper and Chicago harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real and Cornmeal share the bill.

On Sunday, Huey Lewis and the News will headline, along with Gary Small and the Coyote Brothers, and a return of Cornmeal.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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