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WBFO Blues Bash becoming "tradition"

Eileen Koteras

Another WBFO Blues Bash. Another sellout crowd. It has becoming a reoccurring theme in a city that can’t seem to get enough of the Blues.

This year featured another local opening act—Robert “Freightrain” Parker—and winner of the International Blues Challenge Dawn Tyler Watson.

Jack Campbell of Tonawanda said this event is more personal than other blues shows. It’s a chance for him and his family to go out together and see familiar faces.

“You kind of see the same people here every time,” said Campbell. “It’s kind of like you have that click I guess more or less to hang out and watch it with. You talk about it and you watch the reviews. We watch the website like a hound. As soon as the Blues Bash comes up, the day of or day after we’re on top of it ready to come right back. It’s definitively been almost a tradition now that it has been made.”

Campbell said he loves getting to meet the musicians after. That’s something he’s been able to do each time at WBFO’s Buffalo Blues Bash.

“The last show… she was a teacher in Kenmore. It was really cool to have someone you wouldn’t really expect to be… She was phenomenal. Her voice. The way she played guitar was great. This is our fourth or fifth one I think we’ve come to. It’s a thing now. Every show that comes out we do it.”

For some, music takes on multiple meanings. That’s the case for Robert “Freight Train” Parker, whose son has autism. He watched his father open the concert Saturday night as his group “Freightrain” played Elijah, which was named after him. Robert Parker said he loves seeing the smile come across his sons face when he hears his music.

“He has autism. Grace (guitarist for Freightrain) and I wrote the song. I ended up writing a poem or word,” said Parker. “…and my son is non-verbal so I kept the words off. The poem is in the album. It really is a touching song and it’s close to my heart.”

Parker said he loved playing the Blues Bash because the people there are there for the music. That’s something he feels is common among fans in the blues community. Especially in Buffalo, which he thinks has created its own blues sound.

Credit Eileen Elibol ©WBFO
2017 Blues Bash

“I’ve always been able to work in this community,” said Parker. “Ya know years ago, I actually started doing a different kind of music, top 40 music. I decided to go to the roots and (now) it’s brought me here.”

Montreal native Dawn Tyler Watson, recent winner of the International Blues Challenge, said she was shocked when she found out they won.

“(It’s) not because I don’t believe in my guys,” said Watson. “It’s really the first time a Canadian band ever won it eh? First time somebody out of the states ever won it. So it really set a precedent. It’s only the second time a woman has one it in 25 years. It was really really exciting.”

Watson said she studied jazz at Concordia before the blues inevitably chose her. She’s very excited for the opportunity to perform more in the states.

Credit Eileen Koteras
Dawn Tyler Watson

“I mean I just want to sing right? So I’m happy to sing wherever I go,” said Watson. “I don’t need to win a million dollars or be a star. I just want to make music. You know what’s a success to me is just to be able to sing and have the people around me. The right agents, the right bookers, the right musicians to be able to retain my musicians so I can give them enough work so I can work with the people I love.”

Previous headliners included the Noah Wotherspoon Band, the Ghost Town Blues Band, and Billy the Kid. After Saturday night, it’s clear blues fans are some of the most dedicated out there.

“I see fans that I saw up in Toronto. I’ll see them down in Florida then I’ll see them in Arkansas. They travel around,” said Watson. “People who love the blues love it passionately. Those who are fortunate enough to retire perhaps, or they are able to travel… they follow their favorite artists around, go to their favorite festivals. And then there’s the blues cruise people who go on cruises… I mean I’m like wow that’s great!”

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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