Out with the old and in with the blues. The old expression, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” is replaced this week with “Everything, an elevator ride away,” which is the motto of the Sept. 7-10 Big Blues Bender at the Plaza Hotel & Casino.
“That tagline is totally true,” said guitarist Alastair Greene. “Music is going constantly. It’s a blues cruise on land. You can look at the schedule and decide to go see some Tab Benoit, then get in an elevator and go see Walter Trout or Eric Gales.”
While Greene was a featured artist last year, he also was part of Jimmy Carpenter’s Bender Brass Band, which backs artists at large. He did so well a year ago that he’s received a return invitation.
“Last year, I got to play with Bobby Rush and Mike Zito and Bob Margolin, Bob Corritore, some really heavy cats,” Greene told Tahoe Onstage. “And this year it will be the same. They have a lot of great headliners. Walter Trout’s going to be back and some great artists at large, Nick Schnebelen, Monster Mike Welch, Mike Ledbetter. I’m just going to play with as many of them as I can. It’s just so much fun to have a musical conversation with these guys.”
[pullquote] “You know music is saving my life, literally.”
— Curtis Salgado[/pullquote]Samantha Fish, one of the Bender headliners a year ago, said the festival gives great exposure to blues music.
“Las Vegas needed something like that,” she said. “They’ve got some great clubs around there but you know to have an event like this with that size it kind of opens the door for people to start to put shows there a regular basis.”
The Big Blues Bender is sold out. For those who will attend, there are so many great bands it will be easy to miss some. Here are five rare opportunities to catch some who might not be on everyone’s radar.
Alastair Greene – After touring the globe for seven years with the Alan Parsons Project, Greene has gone back to blues. “That was satisfying my inner 16 year old who wanted to play guitar on big stages with a light show and all that sort of stuff,” Greene said. “I got to do what you dream about when you’re a kid and I’m just really grateful I had the opportunity to do so. But it’s time for me to get my blues rock on now.”
Danielle Nicole Band – A singer who often is compared to Etta James, Danielle Nicole has a thing about playing with brothers. Danielle, Nick and Kris Schnebelen comprised the great family band from Kansas City, Trampled Under Foot. Now, Danielle plays bass with Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars. Nick and Kris Schnebelen are artists at large. Is a TUF reunion going to happen? Ya think?
Curtis Salgado – The sweetest soul singer in the blues is also the toughest. A man who survived cancer twice, Salgado, 64, had quadruple bypass surgery on March 10 and was back onstage July 4. In between, he swept the Blues Music Awards. “You know music is saving my life, literally,” he told Tahoe Onstage after garnering the three BMAs. “The fans and my constituents and the people are saving my life. Rhythm and blues is keeping my head above water and the people are helping me stay alive. It’s hard to express. I owe the universe.”
Davy Knowles – At the age of 29, this native of the Isle of Man is a half-century late to be part of the British Invasion. It will be worth the wait for fans who see Knowles. Listen closely to Knowles and hear the influence of the British Islands: David Gilmour, early Jimmy Page, Richard Thompson and the great Irish bluesman Rory Gallagher. Knowles is a masterful guitarist but he doesn’t overplay his instrument, instead weaving vintage tones with an organ and a rhythm section to create tasteful, mind-blowing sonic journeys.
Hamish Anderson – Here’s another young gun from a distant continent. Melbourne, Australia’s Hamish Anderson blew away the jam-band heavy High Sierra Music Festival with his blues. The 26 year old has spent the last three years in Los Angeles developing his sound and touring around the United States. He opened for B.B. King’s last show. “I like exploring and doing different things, but at the core of it the blues is really my foundation. I like it when it’s mixing with other genres. Mix it with rock music or folk or pop music. It’s a really interesting ingredient.”