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Singing the blues: Billings' largest music festival is canceled this summer

Singing the blues: Billings' largest music festival is canceled this summer

Saturday night at Magic City Blues

Natasza Argue-Lipinski listens to Little Hurricane during the second day of Magic City Blues in Billings on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

In yet another casualty of COVID-19, Magic City Blues organizers have announced this year's festival has been canceled.

Heading into its 19th year, the two-day August event that typically draws thousands of people to downtown Billings has announced dates for 2021 instead.

“We were almost ready to announce (the lineup),” said Pam Goodridge, who founded the festival with her husband, Tim, nearly two decades ago. “The whole industry just kind of froze.”

The plan, according to Pam, is to move all confirmed acts to Aug. 6-7, 2021.

Postmodern Jukebox

Postmodern Jukebox performs Aug. 3, 2019, during the 18th Annual Magic City Blues Festival in downtown Billings.

Goodridge, who has been working closely with county health agencies on how best to proceed, said it would be nearly impossible to ensure social distancing and received word based on the number of people it was not advisable to host the event.

“I wasn’t going to do anything different,” Goodridge said. “I wanted it to be like it is. Being together, that’s the whole point. That’s what makes it such a fun and special event.”

Saturday night at Magic City Blues

Cara Schaer listens as Postmodern Jukebox performs during the second day of Magic City Blues in Billings on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

Held on Montana Avenue between North 25th and North 23rd Streets, the event attracts upwards of 5,000 people each night. Sold-out concerts have included ZZ Top in 2018, John Fogerty in 2015, Steve Miller Band in 2013, the Black Crows in 2006 and George Thorogood in 2003. Other headlining acts have included Blues Traveler; Michael Franti; Kenny Wayne Shepherd; Buddy Guy; Counting Crows; Ben Harper; Ziggy Marley; and; most recently, Postmodern Jukebox.

Saturday night at Magic City Blues

Anthony "Tone" Catalano performs with Little Hurricane during the second day of Magic City Blues in Billings on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.

Goodridge isn’t disclosing who was booked for 2020, but is working to renegotiate contracts for next year. This year, she took on the majority of work for the festival, which takes a year to coordinate, as her husband is now employed by MetraPark.

“Usually, I’m behind the scenes and Tim was always the face,” said Goodridge, who handles the event graphics, social media, website and other less public parts of the event. “This time I was actually going to be taking over. I was thinking, ‘Am I going to be brave enough to be the face?’ I don’t get to see if that’s going to happen that way.”

Tim and Pam Goodridge

Tim and Pam Goodrige are the founders of Magic City Blues, an annual music festival in downtown Billings. 

Magic City NYBB

Billings band Not Your Boyfriend's Band performs Aug. 3, 2019 during the 18th Annual Magic City Blues Festival in downtown Billings.

The Goodridges have long focused on bringing blues and rock acts to the Magic City, but also have given opening slots to local and regional bands. Last year four bands from Montana were chosen to perform, including Mudslide Charley, a blues band from Missoula; the sister-led rock band from Bozeman, Hawthorne Roots; and Billings' Not Your Boyfriend's Band; and Arterial Drive. 

In addition to canceling the 2020 festival, Goodridge said that the bands booked for Alive After 5 on July 31 have also been canceled. Each year, the kickoff of Magic City Blues coincidences with the popular downtown street event, and Goodridges book that event's entertainment, which was to feature their son, Willy G, and New York based pop group Lawrence. 

Last year, the event raised $25,000 to help children going through cancer treatments, a cause close to the Goodridge family’s hearts. Their son, Will, was diagnosed with leukemia at age 14, and they used the popular event to help raise funds for Kelker's Kids, named for Montana's first pediatric oncologist Dr. Paul Kelker. The organization provides financial support for children and their families undergoing cancer treatment at Billings Clinic.

Attendance for both nights in 2019 was estimated at upwards of 7,000 people.


Retrospective: Magic City Blues

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