Argenta is the place to be these days – especially if you like music. Hear great tunes, support local, and have a blast at KABF’s second annual Big Dam Blues Party, this Saturday, October 15, from noon to 11 p.m.
Held at the Plaza in the Argenta District of North Little Rock, the festival, which doubles as a fundraiser for KABF, will feature performances of various types of blues music, as well as local vendors, and plenty of barbecue served up by Blackhound.
This year, KABF has partnered with several local organizations to put on the Big Dam Blues Party. One of them is Blues in the Schools, which is a program “that teaches blues education, history, culture, even geography issues surrounding the blues, and teaches kids how to play the blues,” explained KABF DJ and festival producer Deb Finney. “The group I picked is Spa City Blues Society in Hot Springs, and they have a wonderful Blues in the Schools program. They have 22 kids in it right now and some of them are performing at the festival as the Spa City Youngbloods.”
Speaking of players, here is a rundown of who is going to be performing on Saturday.
Kenny Neal. The headliner of the festival, Neal brings a unique brand of music from Baton Rouge called swamp blues. Learning the guitar craft from greats like Slim Harpo, Buddy Guy, and of course his father, Raful, Neal has become one of the premier players in the genre, a living legend of sorts. And his talents go far beyond guitar. A talented multi-instrumentalist, Neal has played with the likes of BB King, Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton, and Junior Wells, to name a few. If you can only make it for one performance, I would suggest this one, because it is sure to rock. Their set begins at 9:30pm, go here for a full schedule.
Next we have Earnest “Guitar” Roy and The Clarksdale Rockers. Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, to his guitar great father Earnest Roy, Sr., who made sure his young son could play the blues from an early age. Roy’s dad taught him to play bass at 5, and when he was 8, he joined his father’s band. By the time he was fourteen, he had his own band, playing lead guitar, and he soon became a regular performer on Soul Train. He also played guitar in Albert King’s backing band, in addition to drum and lead guitar on Frank Frost’s Midnight Prowler album. They play at 8:10pm.
The Michael Burks Project plays at 4:50pm. Burks is a “local player that became international,” Finney said. “He passed away in 2012 and his wife put out a CD that was recorded several years ago, and she’s put together a band that includes some of the people that used to play with Michael, and this is their debut performance.”
In addition to the Burks Project and the Spa City Youngbloods, there will be plenty of other local talent hitting the stage. Trey and Jason, Blues Boy Jag and The Juke Joint Zombies, The Arkansas Brothers, the Akeem Kemp Band and Josh Stoffer—both of whom won first place in the Arkansas River Blues Challenge in the band and solo categories—and then the Big Dam Blues Party All-Stars, who are Charles Woods, Gil Franklin, Ivan Yarborough, Cecil Parker, and Chicken Dorris.
There will also be fun activities to take part in, including a special raffle for a 2016 Harley Davidson Street Glide motorcycle, tickets to which can be purchased at either Lander’s Harley Davidson location in Little Rock or Conway, in addition to at the festival. The tickets are $20.
Finally, there will be a poker run/walk for festival attendees, which starts and ends at the Plaza. “You buy a poker card that has five [empty] spots on it,” Finney explained. “[And you take the card] and go [a card at five different stops around Argenta to] make your best hand. And at the end of the run, the best hand wins $250 and the worst hand wins $50. And at each of these locations, they’ll be a riddle that, if you can figure it out, you win a little prize there. And they have the opportunity to buy up to three extra cards—for if they really hate their hand.”
“The festival is about celebrating the blues and raising funds for worthwhile blues-oriented organizations,” Finney continued. “KABF has been part of this community for 32 years and to have a station that promotes the blues for [that long] is pretty amazing.”
Make sure to mark your calendar for this Saturday – not only do you get to rock out, but you also help support some great, essential local organizations. Tickets are $10 before the day and $15 at the gate. Head here for pre-sale tickets.