Photos: Another Great Year for New River Blues Fest, Fans Looking Forward to 2017

Published Monday, September 5, 2016 at 3:40 pm

By Jessica Isaacs | [email protected]

Photos by Ken Ketchie

Hundreds of folks turned out on Sunday for the annual New River Blues Festival in Grassy Creek, North Carolina, and this year’s lineup did not disappoint.

Festival organizers Rob “Hound Dog” Baskerville and Penny “Queen Bee” Zamagni of The King Bees offered up another impressive event this summer. There’s already excitement in the air for the 2017 show, which will mark more than one important milestone for the musical duo.

“It was certainly a wonderful turnout. The crowd was wonderful and enthusiastic,” said David Brewer, who has been playing with the King Bees off and on for a decade. “People know when they come to the blues fest that they can sit back and relax in a lawn chair or they can come down to the stage and let it all hang out. I was drumming with the King Bees and was the house drummer for most of the day. I was busy all day for sure, and at the very end there they pulled me up to sing and play one on guitar. That was big fun.”

New River Blues Festival

Rob “Hound Dog” Baskerville, David Brewer and Penny “Queen Bee” Zamagni play the stage at New River Blues Festival on Sunday.

Baskerville said The King Bees were truly happy with Sunday’s excellent turnout.

“It’s so nice that the artists are so well respected and well received and that people are willing to come to this. We draw people from all over the Southeast, not just the High Country. They come to see the North Carolina mountains and to see real blues that they’re really not going to see anywhere else,” said Baskerville. “When you’re putting on a blues festival in rural Appalachia, people really have to want to come to this thing. They do and they support it and we thank them for it.”

Donovan Murray of Celtic Force Enterprises, who helped produce the festival with the King Bees, said the pastoral grounds of the River House Inn made the perfect setting for the festival’s return.

“Of course, the New River is running right through there and that’s kind of the backdrop, which makes it nice. There’s a nice open lawn area so you can sit on a blanket or in a lawn chair,” said Murray. “When you add the right kind of music and the right kind of weather, it makes it pretty magical. Luckily, yesterday, we had all of that. I guess the planets were aligned to some degree because we had all the right stuff for a really wonderful day.

“The King Bees are responsible for working with the blues artists and I take care of everything else as far as the coordination and the logistics. It’s just a really good quality show that’s in a great location. It’s something that people should really put on their calendars if they’re into the blues. We have better lineups than some of the larger metro areas.”

Brewer said the crowd enjoyed extraordinary performances from some of the best of the best in the world of blues.

“Rob and Penny always bring people who are wonderfully talented to the blues fest. These folks are not always household names, but they are world-class entertainers who are mostly from the South and are some of the most soulful folks in the business,” said Brewer. “They get performers who are wide ranging in age. They had Beverly ‘Guitar’ Watkins, who is 76, and you’ve got Jontavious Willis, who’s being heralded by Taj Mahal as the real next generation of blues. This kid is 20 years old and he’s just fantastic.”

The local music scene and blues enthusiasts across the South are already abuzz about next summer’s show, which will align with the 15th anniversary of the festival and the 30th anniversary of The King Bees.

“The beauty of this festival is that it’s an ongoing thing. Every year, people are already reserving their rooms and their cabins and making plans for another New River Blues Fest a year in advance. We count that as a success,” Baskerville said. “Part of the reason they’re planning a year in advance for our festival is that we bring historically important, culturally important artists that you’re not going to see at other festivals. They are real deal artists who have lived it. They’re out their creating and have been mentored by the greats, and they’re sharing that with us. They’re sharing that with The King Bees and they’re sharing that with the New River Blues Festival.

“It is an event, we think, with a lot of integrity and people are really on board with that. We have such an incredible outpouring of love and support for what we do that it sometimes just takes us aback. When I think about the 15th year of the New River Blues Festival and the 30th year of the King Bees … yeah, that’s going to be one hell of a party.”

 

The beautiful lawn at River House Inn invited guests to kick back and relax as they soaked up the music and the atmosphere..

The beautiful lawn at River House Inn invited guests to kick back and relax as they soaked up the music and the atmosphere..

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Musicians jam to some soulful tunes on Sunday afternoon.

Musicians jam to some soulful tunes on Sunday afternoon.

Folks also enjoyed cooling off in the nearby New River as the festival continued throughout the afternoon.

Folks also enjoyed cooling off in the nearby New River as the festival continued throughout the afternoon.

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Guests of the River House Inn enjoy the festival environment from the porch.

Guests of the River House Inn enjoy the festival environment from the porch.

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Guests enjoyed parking close to the stage, which made for a quick and easy route to the fun.

Guests enjoyed parking close to the stage, which made for a quick and easy route to the fun.

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David Brewer

David Brewer

Rob "Hound Dog" Baskerville

Rob “Hound Dog” Baskerville

Penny "Queen Bee" Zamagni

Penny “Queen Bee” Zamagni

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The King Bees and company get together for the last set of the day, featuring David Brewer on guitar.

The King Bees and company get together for the last set of the day, featuring David Brewer on guitar.

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Donovan Murray

Donovan Murray

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