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Harbour Blues and Roots festival boasts something for every musical taste

The Inner Harbour plays host to international musical stars
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Harbour Blues ‘N Roots Festival returns Aug. 25-27. (Johanna Vanderpol)

By Timothy Collins

The Vancouver Island Blues Bash may have changed its name in 2022, becoming the BC Smoke Shop Harbour Blues ‘n Roots Festival, but the organizers at the Victoria Jazz Society say that the move only served to create an even more entertaining line-up of talent for music lovers in Victoria.

“We wanted to incorporate a wider variety of genres, and this has given us a chance to embrace folk, world music, country and roots in addition, of course, to blues,” said Kristen Binley, the festival’s communication coordinator.

A quick scan of the line-up demonstrates that they’ve more than met their goal.

For example, take three-time Grammy award-winning blues, soul, and rock singer-songwriter Fantastic Negrito. His music delivers dynamic, compelling tunes that move from foot-stomping blues to a funk stampede.

Three-time Grammy winner Fantastic Negrito performs Saturday, Aug. 26 at Ship Point. (Courtesy Fantastic Negrito)

“I’m really excited about Negrito coming. He spans such a wide variety of styles and I know he’ll appeal to a lot of people,” said Binley.

Samantha Fish will also be on stage. She made her name as a multi-award-winning festival headliner that regularly captivates crowds with explosive, yet elegant guitar work.

On Sunday evening, Allison Russell will perform along with The Blue And Gold. Russell’s music has drawn on folk-rock, blues, Celtic ballads, gospel country bluegrass and more and her voice was described by the New York Times as “smoky or steely, righteously firm, or sinuously jazzy”.

And this is only a sampling of the talent coming to perform at the festival.

One of the unique features of the event lies in its structure.

“We have three ticketed performances with our headliners at Ship Point and two more upstairs at Hermann’s Upstairs. The free performances are in the afternoon, and in the evening, we go to the ticketed events. We’ve timed them so that people can take in a show at Ship Point and then move over to Hermann’s for a later show,” said Binley.

“This festival is an event that has something for every music lover and the talent we have is truly fantastic,” said Binley. “It’s a must-see event.”

The all-ages festival runs from Aug. 25-27 and offers food and refreshments (including alcoholic drinks at the beverage garden and Hermann’s) on site. Details and ticket information can be found at jazzvictoria.ca.

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Past Juno and Maple Blues Awards nominee Bill Johnson played Harbour Blues ‘N Roots Festival in 2022 and will play again in 2023. (A Heartfield)