Photos by Laura Carbone
It’s Vegas Baby!
What better place than to go on a Bender of Blues than in the florescent city that never sleeps? Once home of Liberace, Sammy Davis Jr. and Elvis, Vegas is now throwing a spotlight on the biggest lineup of blues in the world. Not really a festival, it is—in all meanings of the word—a “Bender” where the Plaza Hotel in downtown Las Vegas is transformed into solid blues: 2500 fans take over the hotel with 45 -different bands and 14 solo artists at large. After only four years , the festival now sells out early.
Advertised as everything being “an elevator ride away” it still boasts five different stages, including a big auditorium, a Las Vegas Showcase club, a juke joint, Casino Bar and the rooftop Poolside Stage, all easily accessible from your hotel room. VIP High Roller Packages include a free bar and stage side seating, but plenty of us opt for blues party wristband packages.
This year’s lineup included festival favorites and heavy hitters Dr. John, Mavis Staples, Walter Trout, Shemekia Copeland, Carolyn Wonderland, Tab Benoit, Doyle Bramhall, Curtis Salgado and Eric Gales. The Hart Fund started the show with a multi-star show to raise money for healthcare for musicians. Late night jams boogie until 5 am every morning, with musicians mixing it up in blues combinations we’ve only fanaticised about.
Highlights of the weekend included the special collaborative super-group Southern Hospitality (Victor Wainwright, JP Soars, Damon Fowler) pulling together friends from several bands and doing a royal flush Allman Brother Tribute.
A very special shout out to the hardworking the Bender Brass with core group of Jimmy Carpenter, Randy Oxford, Doug Woolverton and Mark Early, who provided punchy horns to many of the traveling bands. The annual pool plunge—with fully dressed Victor Wainwright—was accompanied this year with a cannonball by promoter AJ Gross.
Whatever happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay in Vegas, and one can take home favorites, among the newcomers including IBC winner Dawn Tyler Watson, the Paul DesLauriers Band, MonkeyJunk, Southern Avenue and the hottest new dynamic duo in the blues, Mike Welch and Mike Ledbetter.
After a Big Blues Bender one is sure to have a musical hangover and a hankering for a hair of the dog. If you want to get yours, tickets sell out months before the event : reserve now for a right to get a ticket.
For ticket info, click HERE