Blues hues

The 17th annual NYS Blues Fest survived Sunday's downpour:

Sunny and muggy or cloudy and wet. Take your pick.

Regardless of the weather, July 12 and 13 were two solid days of hot blues in Clinton Square at the 17th annual New York State Blues Festival.

Orange and blue

Looking radiant in white and sounding just as splendid, North Carolina blues belter Toni Lynn Washington jump-started the Budweiser Main Stage on Saturday under sunny skies. She acknowledged America's present struggles overseas by dedicating a song to those serving in the armed forces, "Every Day will be Like a Holiday."

San Francisco-based harmonica-blower John Nemeth was raised way up in Idaho, where he became familiar with Syracuse by watching SU basketball games on TV. He may be an Orange hoops fan in front of the tube, but he's a bluesman through and through as evidenced by his swingin' original, "Blue Broadway."

After-hours parties

As Saturday's headliner, Texas harpmeister Kim Wilson led a revamped Fabulous Thunderbirds through a set of 1980s' hits and newer compositions. Longtime blues fanatics recall when Wilson wore a turban. Now he's shaved bald. Still sounds as good as ever, though.

The Rebirth Brass Band blew the roof off the Empire Brewing Co. Saturday night, and that's no easy feat when you consider that the Empire is located in the basement at 120 Walton St. A well-oiled crowd danced feverishly as the brassmen played raucous versions of New Orleans favorites such as "I'm Walkin,'" and "Iko, Iko."

That same night over at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Rochester's Joe Beard hosted an all-star jam session that featured Wilson, guitarists Johnny Mueller and Steve Grills, and members of Toni Lynn Washington's band.

"It was magic," said Blues Fest organizer and bandleader Bernie Clarke.

Show must go on!

Mid-afternoon Sunday the skies opened up and rain soaked the square for nearly an hour. But in the hallowed vaudeville tradition of "The show must go on," the blues fest never missed a beat, save for a couple cancellations over at the Hanover Square Stage.

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