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Gray Sky Blues Fest

All hues of blues on display Saturday

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The formula seemed inevitable to former Tacoma City Councilman Doug Miller. First you plant the daffodils, then you stage a blues festival along the parade route. Translation: immediately following the much-loved Daffodil Parade, April 12, give parade watchers the various hues of blues sounds that will delight the whole family and, at the same time, all  merchants — particularly the restaurants in downtown Tacoma.

The name of the event was Miller’s brainchild. As Gary Grape, entertainment manager of the festival and president of the South Sound Blues Association, told me, “Doug was thinking about that for years, ever since he, Rich Wetzel and I put on the Tacoma Jazz Festival. Doug wanted the Daffodil Parade to be followed by a blues festival, and I added ‘Music’ to the name to expand it beyond just blues.”

Which is why there’ll be a bit of jazz, a few blades of bluegrass, a sprinkling of traditional Irish folk music, even some Indie Pop. Regarding the latter, Grape remarked, “I’ve gotta check on that one. I have no idea what Indie Pop sounds like.”

He certainly knows what festival headliner Teddy Lee Hooker sounds like. Grape met Hooker in Memphis last year where Hooker was a top finalist in the International Blues Challenge. “I told him I’d bring him to Tacoma as soon as I could. He probably figured ‘just another white guy blowin’ smoke.’ But here he is playing right after Maia.”

Gary was referring to his wife, Maia Santell, who was eager to hear Hooker, “but she has an 8:30 gig in Lacey Saturday, so I scheduled her right before Hooker.” Sometimes nepotism rocks.

Along with the cross-section of sounds is a variety of sights and venues. Two car shows are scheduled, including: Corvettes and Harley Davidson motorcycles outside the Swiss Pub; Mustangs across from the Harmon. There’s even a “concert” generated by youngsters at The Learning Sprout. Talking about kids, the non-profit, national program Blues in the Schools, which is headed locally by James Curley Cooke, will be teaching all aspects of playing and singing blues to interested youngsters. Demonstrating the blues will be members of The Michal Miller Band: Danny Michal, harmonica; Joe Hendershot, bass guitar; and Pete Marzano, drums. Robert Richholt of Musicians Exchange will provide the instruments.

Here’s the latest lineup for Saturday, April 12:


1950 Pacific Ave., downtown Tacoma

Noon to 3 p.m.:  “Blues in the Schools,” presented by James Curley Cooke.


1904 S. Jefferson

From noon on: Corvette & Harley Davidson show outside

1 p.m.: Paul Green and Straight Shot (blues, R&B, funk)

2:30 p.m.: Randy Oxford Band (high energy blues, funk, Motown)

4 p.m.: Maia Santell & House Blend (Chicago blues, R&B, jump blues and swing)

6 p.m.: Blues guitarist Teddy Lee Hooker, with Mike Slivka, of Tacoma, drums; Cary Black, of Olympia, bass


1938 Pacific Ave., downtown Tacoma

From Noon on: Mustang car show across the street in the History Museum parking lot.

Noon: Doug Skoog’s Blues Alliance (modern electric, Chicago blues)

1:30 p.m.: Ramsey and Collins  (bluegrass)

3 p.m.: Michal Miller Band  (rockin’ blues)

4 p.m.: Bump Kitchen (blues and funk)


815 Pacific Ave., downtown Tacoma

Noon to 5:30 p.m.: Traditional Irish Singer/ Folk Music


1936 Pacific Ave., downtown Tacoma

Noon: To be announced

2:30 p.m.: Alice Stuart (blues soloist)


809 Pacific Ave., downtown Tacoma

Noon to 5 p.m.: Kids-oriented creative activities with music theme.


1924 Pacific Ave., downtown Tacoma

12:30 p.m.: David Keys Trio  (jazz)

3 p.m.: Mike Nelson Trio (jazz)


928 Pacific Ave., downtown Tacoma

12:30 to 4:30 p.m.: Brown and Blues Band


1934 Pacific Ave., downtown Tacoma

7 to 10 p.m.: Live indie pop: Wayne Patrick  (solo), 17 Colorful Feathers  (duo), Ghosts and Liars (band)


1114 Broadway, downtown Tacoma

After-Festival Party, catered by Jambalaya Restaurant. Hosted and no-host bar, beer tasting (courtesy Blue Moon Brewery), and dancing included. Tickets for Varsity: 253.539.3600.

7:30 p.m.: Doug Skoog’s Blues Alliance  (modern electric, Chicago blues)

10 p.m.  to midnight: Bump Kitchen (groove blues and funk)

After-Festival Party, catered by Jambalaya Restaurant. Hosted and no-host bar, beer tasting (courtesy Blue Moon Brewery), and dancing included. Tickets for Varsity: 253.539.3600. All other festival info: 253.230.6851 or 253.693.1446.

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