Next month, Over-the-Rhine will be filled with the blues—as the new home neighborhood for the region’s
Winter Blues Fest
, which will feature 25 local and regional bands over the two-night festival with two touring acts, Kelley Richey and RB Stone.
The last five of the seven Cincy Blue Society’s annual winter festivals took place at Southgate House in Newport, which closed at the end of 2011. Organizers quickly picked OTR as the fest’s newest locale.
“There are so many venues within walking distance (in OTR),” says Mary Beth Weaver, PR coordinator for the Winter Blues Fest. “Many had already featured blues bands and business owners were very receptive, so it worked out very well.”
The four Blues Fest venues are: the Drinkery, Below Zero, Japp’s Annex, and the former Harry’s Pizza space across from the Drinkery.
The Harry’s Pizza stage will be an all-ages venue that will showcase Blues Society and Blues in the Schools Band (BITS). The BITS band travels to schools in the area to expose children to the long-lasting art form of the blues through presentations and performances. Students can join the band, where members are taught by the same musicians who travel to the schools.
The Winter Blues Fest is just one aspect of the Blues Society, which was formed in 1990 as a non-profit. The group has been hosting the much larger Cincy Blues Fest in Sawyer Point for 20 years. The smaller Winter Fest provides one of the largest fundraising opportunities for the BITS program.
“The Cincy Blues Society is a non-profit with the mission of keeping the blues alive,” Weaver says. “Our Blues in the Schools program is one of the biggest parts of that.”
Each winter, the student-formed band plays at the Blues Fest and shows off their new blues skills. Weaver says many students end up forming their own bands and eventually playing in the Blues Fest.
The Fest runs Feb. 10-11 and costs $25 per person.
By Evan Wallis