Here’s the deal: Vegas’ Big Blues Bender flush with stars

Big Blues Bender 2018

Here’s a sure bet: The 2018 Big Blues Bender Sept. 6-9 will draw a full house.

In the cards for the four-day event at the Plaza Hotel in downtown Las Vegas are performances by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, JJ Grey and Mofro, Tab Benoit and Grammy Award nominees Elvin Bishop and R.L. Boyce.

Atlanta blues rocker Tinsley Ellis, who releases his album “Winning Hand” next month, will play at the Bender for the first time.

Will he also partake in some poker?

“Like I always say, a quitter never wins,” Ellis told Tahoe Onstage, referring to one of his best-known songs.

“I am especially looking forward to hanging out and playing with my old sax player, Jimmy Carpenter, who also helps organize the yearly festival,” Ellis said.

Tahoe Onstage

Alastair Greene’s blues are back for the fourth-straight year.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Each year, Carpenter organizes a house group that takes alliteration to the extreme: The Big Blues Bender Brass Band. Several artists sit in and front the band throughout the event.

“It’s a great honor to be involved in that,” said Alastair Greene, who will be making his fourth straight appearance at the Las Vegas festival. “It’s all killer musicians and guys playing a lot of different styles with different artists. For me it’s a great challenge because I’ve always prided myself in playing a lot of different kinds of music, maybe not perfectly — but enough to fool a lot of people.”

Greene mentioned two of his highlights from the 2017 Big Blues Bender.

Tahoe Onstage

Curtis Salgado will be back at the Big Blues Bender.
Photo by Joe Rosen

Those special moments were being invited onstage to play a tune with Walter Trout and also playing the song “Whipping Post,” with an Allman Brothers tribute, “One For The Brothers” with Southern Hospitality (Damon Fowler, Victor Wainwright and J.P. Soars), which also will return to the Bender next year.

Soul singer Curtis Salgado also will be back. In 2017, Salgado underwent quadruple bypass surgery before winning Blues Music Awards for Album of the Year, Soul Blues Artist of the Year and Song of the Year.

Samantha Fish, who released two albums in 2017, will make her second appearance in three years.

Hill Country blues will be represented by the Cedric Burnside Project and R.L. Boyce, whose “Roll and Tumble” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues album. Burnside also was one of the drummers on that album.

John Primer and Bob Corritore

John Primer and Bob Corritore have Chicago roots.

Harmonica fans will be treated to John Nemeth and The Blue Dreamers, Jason Ricci and The Bad Kind and Bob Corritore, who will perform with John Primer, the esteemed Chicago guitarist who played with Muddy Waters.

Pre-Book Selection sales for the Big Blues Bender goes on sale at 2 p.m. PST Monday, Dec. 4. General sales start at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7.

-Tim Parsons

Related story: R.L. Boyce earns first Grammy nomination.

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.


  1. How many dance floors at this venue?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Share This