ANNAPOLIS — The Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival is earning a reputation as one of the best festivals on the East Coast. And what’s not to like? Great music, the beautiful bay and three worthy charities that receive the benefits of a good time.
With three Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and multi-Grammy winners headlining the show, this weekend’s festival at Sandy Point State Park could keep that reputation rolling.
Bonnie Raitt closes the festival on Sunday evening, coming on stage right after fellow Hall of Famer Mavis Staples. Rumor has it the two might even do a number or two together.
Saturday’s closer is Eric Burdon and the Animals, Hall of Famers too, whose early songs, helped change the trajectory of popular music in the mid-60s.
Burdon follows Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, a Grammy nominee last year for their funkified New Orleans groove right out of Treme, where he earned the nickname playing a second-line trombone literally bigger than he was.
The lineups on both Saturday and Sunday include a variety of blues and rock ‘n’ roll acts, from 14-year-old guitar prodigy Quinn Sullivan to the Slide Brothers, four of the best practitioners of the Sacred Slide gospel tradition that spawned Robert Randolph, who wowed the Sandy Point crowd in 2007.
The two-day event is all about the music on the surface, but promoter Don Hooker will quickly remind you it’s really about the charities.
“Sure, we throw a great party, but it is all about raising money for four great causes,” he said.
“And we have been around so long now a lot of people are coming back for a reunion of sorts with friends they have met at the festival over the years.”
Dave Wiegand has been coming to Sandy Point for 11 years now.
“I missed the first one but have been to everyone since,” he said.
Since then, he has become and ambassador of sorts for the festival, helping line up sponsors to defray the overhead costs of the show.
“I always tell people, ‘Once you go, you will go every year,'” he added. He sees a lot of the same people every year when he drives down from his home in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
Long-time fan Donna Flaggs also can’t wait for this year’s by-the-bay show.
“I’ve been buying VIP tickets for about five years now,” said Flaggs, a Cambridge-area veterinarian. “It is just a real cohesive, friendly atmosphere — and that backdrop of the pristine bay and the Bay Bridge.”
Like a lot of people, she is really looking forward to Bonnie Raitt.
“But the Slide Brothers, they will be really cool,” she said.
VIP tickets sold out over a month ago and advance sales are running about 30 percent over last year, mostly on Sunday driven by Raitt’s appearance, Hooker added.
He said Sunday could be a record day. He asked officials at the Department of Natural Resources if there was an attendance cap at the park.
“I just got a call from Sandy Point saying there is no restriction on attendance, so we won’t be selling out,” he said last week.
Since the festival’s inception more than $900,000 has gone to the designated charities. This year four organizations will share the proceeds.
But the means to that charitable end is indeed the music.
Raitt has been at it since her debut album in 1970 and a sophomore follow-up “Give It Up.” Anchored in the blues, she worked the road for years before being recognized by the industry in 1990, when she won four Grammy Awards, after being previously nominated on three occasions. Fans recognized her grit and accomplished slide guitar work much earlier and have been steady supporters since those earliest days.
She makes her first appearance at Sandy Point on the heels of her 10th Grammy win for “Slipstream,” the first album on her own label.
Staples made her mark as the lead vocalist for the Staple Singers with hits like “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself” in the early 70s. The family started performing in the 1950s, but it was not until they signed with Memphis’s Stax Records that their bigger hits came. All the while, it was Mavis Staples’ steady lead vocals that marked the family brand — good enough to also win Lifetime Achievement Grammy and other accolades over the years.
She appeared at the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival back in 2005 and got the crowd on their feet, leading the congregation, shouting out the good word.
Burdon, at the top of the bill on Saturday, has expressed many stages of life through his music and art. He apparently dislikes the term British Invasion applied to the rush of music and bands that helped shape a rock and roll generation, but he was the bad boy among them.
After “House of the Rising Sun,” the next hit — “We Got to Get Out Of This Place” — became an anthem for many of the boys serving in Vietnam and a call emoting the frustration for part of that generation. So did “It’s My Life” with the refrain “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want, It’s my mind and I’ll think what I want.”
At last year’s SXSW Festival, Bruce Springsteen declared The Animals were the core for “every song I have ever written. Yeah. That’s all of them, I am not kidding. That’s ‘Born to Run,’ ‘Born in the USA’ everything I have done in the past 40 years. It struck me so deep. . They weren’t nice, you know. They didn’t curry favor. They were like aggression personified. ‘It’s my life. I’ll do what I want.'”
Now 71, Burdon has mellowed, and it is reflected somewhat in his newest work, “‘Til your River Runs Dry.” The album is filled with reflections and respect. Songs expressing his concern for the world’s water resources, warnings about rock and roll life in “27 Forever” noting the demise of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Robert Johnson, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse — who all died at the age of 27.
And there is respect for his early idols Bo Diddley and Fats Domino and the city that shaped them — New Orleans.
And that is where Trombone Shorty comes in. Raised in the Treme section of the city, where much of our richest culture was born, he came up through the traditional brass band path.
Both a trombone and trumpet player, Troy Andrews (his real name) has recently spread his brand of funk and jazz out of the Delta. Many would recognize him from his recurring role in HBO’s “Treme,” but he has been recognized for his musical chops since he was knee-high to, well, a trombone. He led his first brass band at the age of six.
But he didn’t start getting real attention outside the city until Katrina hit. He and others scattered far and wide. A group of musicians gathered in Austin to record a benefit CD “Sing Me Back Home” and he was featured on a couple of the songs, garnering attention that pulled him up the music business ladder.
In accordance with the traditions he came up in, Andrews has formed a foundation that provides an after-school academy for aspiring musicians aimed at keeping the New Orleans musical tradition alive in succeeding generations.
The rest of the bill on both days includes a mix of new and old, treading on traditional music and blazing new trails. Other bands in the lineup are a mix of up and coming acts and long-time practitioners just making it out of more regional careers.
The Saturday performances kick off with Bad Influence, a band with local roots, followed by Jesse Dee, Nikki Hill, Samantha Fish, Lucky & Tamara Peterson Band, then Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and Eric Burdon and the Animals.
On Sunday, local blues favorite Deanna Bogart kicks off the day’s lineup. Next up is Quinn Sullivan, a young teen guitar slinger who was brought on stage by Buddy Guy at eight years of age; Southern Hospitality, a consort featuring bluesmen Damon Fowler, JP Soars & Victor Wainwright; The Slide Brothers, a group emerging from the gospel pedal steel tradition that spawned Robert Randolph; Indigenous, a Native American blues band.
The blues festival will benefit four charities: The Johns Hopkins Cleft and Craniofacial Center; We Care and Friends of Annapolis that helps the needy; Special Love, which provides camp experiences for young cancer patients; and End Hunger Calvert, which addresses hunger issues in both Calvert and Anne Arundel counties.