Springing the Blues in Jacksonville: Florida’s Largest Free Outdoor Music Festival
People from across the Southeast swarmed the Seawalk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach this weekend for the 16th annual George’s Music Springing the Blues Festival. The annual three-day event continues to grow and improve with internationally acclaimed blues artists like Baltimore’s Kelly Bell Band, Joe Bonamassa, Yo Mamma’s Big Fat Booty Band and Jacksonville wunderkind Eric Steckel.
An estimated crowd of 40,000 flocked to this beachfront community for a weekend of fun in the sun, and the weather couldn’t have been better. With temperatures in the 80s, beachgoers arrived early to have fun in the sand and surf while watching the kids and pros break our little but proud 2-3 footers in the Aqua East Surfing the Blues Contest.
Kicking off the festivities at 5 pm on Friday was Regi Blue, followed by Sean Costello and Shane Dwight, delighting the audience with their mix of traditional blues and jazz favourites. Headlining on Friday was The Howl, a wailing blues band from Boston Ma.
After hour-long jam sessions across the street at the Seawalk Hotel, and the Atlantic Theaters in Atlantic Beach kept blues lovers enchanted into the wee hours of the morning. At Freebird Live, artists performed in an intimate concert setting each night, capping it off with one of Jacksonville’s favorite bands, Mofro, on Sunday night.
On the west edge of the festival grounds, surrounded by children jumping on inflatables, bungi jumping and rock climbing, artists who had just performed or were going to perform on the main stage, used the west stage to get to know each other up close. Eric Steckel delighted fans on Saturday with an “unplugged” version of his latest and greatest. Roger Hurricane Wilson meandered through the crowd, and on Sunday Dr. Hector performed a blues tribute to former band member Dru Lombar.
On Saturday afternoon, The Kelly Bell Band got the crowd pumping and showed why they were named the best regional blues band in the Mid-Atlantic for 9 years in a row. Voted BluesWax Artist of the Year in 2005, headliner Joe Bonamassa gave a riveting concert to a crowd dancing to the music under a crescent moon in the dark.
Sunday saw the arrival of daylight saving time and more sun! Returning from last year, Yo Mamma’s ever-popular Big Fat Booty Band got things moving with their colorful clothing choices and unique musical style and showmanship. The Eric Steckel Band, featuring fifteen-year-old “Blues Boy Wonder” Eric Steckel, took the stage at 5:30 showcasing this boy’s incredible talent and stage presence. Closing out this year’s Springing the Blues Festival was Blues great Lee Roy Parnell, chilling you out with the tradition of what the Blues is all about.
As one of the main events in the Jacksonville Beaches, George’s Music Springing the Blues Festival draws people from all over, filling hotels and filling the streets every year. Congratulations and thanks to the producers of this year’s show for bringing in some quality talent – the best blues you can get!