One Tank Travels: Hot Springs Blues Festival

We invite you to have “More Fun Per Gallon” in Arkansas this year. Each day we will be blogging on different Arkansas destinations which can be reached on one tank of gas or less. This is basically every corner of The Natural State. We hope these suggestions help you in planning a trip to remember.

Today’s Trip: Hot Springs Blues Festival

Labor Day weekend is quickly approaching and the good news is there are lots of events going on across the state to entertain you through the long weekend. Among them is the Hot Springs Blues Festival set for August 30- September 1. Below are further details about the festival and the musicians that are set to be in Hot Springs during that time.  Along with music, there will be workshops, parties for fans to access before and after shows, and an Artist’s Alley featuring local crafters selling their wares.  The Victory Motorcycle Club will also be hosting  their National Rally in town that weekend ( Aug. 31-Sept.2) so be on the lookout for motorcycles in town too. Enjoy the music~

Hot Springs Blues Festival

The blues are one of the most influential forms of American music. Arkansas has deep ties to this music art form, and blues legends like Robert Lockwood, Jr. and Sister Rosetta Tharpe are from here.

Hot Springs showcases the genre during the 16th annual Hot Springs Blues Festival August 30 through September 1. The family friendly event is held each Labor Day weekend (Friday and Saturday) in Hill Wheatley Plaza in downtown Hot Springs.

“The atmosphere is laid back with lawn chairs scattered about, kids dancing to the music and blues lovers enjoying some down time,” said David Hughes, president of the Spa City Blues Society, which hosts the festival. “It’s an almost carnival style atmosphere. It’s definitely a good time.”

According to Hughes, the event is a solid mid-size festival that will run between 3000 and 4000 people through the gates over two days.

“It’s comparable to the Eureka Springs Blues Weekend or the Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Festival,” he said.

Hughes said some performers to watch out include headliners The Fabulous Thunderbirds. “These guys are the real thing with original member Kim Wilson still fronting the band,” he said. “These guys are a piece of living music history.”

Also of note is the Bart Walker Band. “Walker won the prestigious Outstanding Guitar Player honor at the 2012 International Blues Challenge in Memphis,” he said. “His band includes Reese Wynans, Stevie Ray Vaughn’s former B3 player, and they have 13 Grammy’s among all the members.”

Also on the bill is a young man named Marquis Knox. Named Best New Artist by Living Blues Magazine a couple of years ago, Knox is 22 and writes his own songs, much in the vein of Muddy Waters. This may be the one artist who steals the show this year. All of these acts can be seen on Saturday evening.

Hughes said Friday evening is one of the strongest opening night line-ups the festival has hosted. “Beale Street fixtures Eric Hughes and Brandon Santini will bring their bands to town to kick off the festival,” he said. 2012 International Blues Challenge Solo/Duo winner Ray Bonneville will also perform.
“Bonneville has received a JUNO award, a highly coveted Canadian music award, for his efforts over the years,” he said.

“Friday night’s headliner will be Zac Harmon. Harmon has played the festival before and makes a stop or two in Hot Springs every year. He has a great presence and is a former International Blues Challenge winner.” Harmon will also play the kick off party on Thursday evening at the Ohio Club.

Along with the music lineup, there will be workshops on Friday and Saturday afternoon at Star Gallery, directly across the street from the festival. Workshops include sessions on slide guitar, harmonica, lap steel guitar, recording music using an i-Pad, blues history and the Blues Foundation’s efforts to build the Blues Hall of Fame. There will also be after parties for fans to access before and after the shows and an Artists Alley featuring local crafters selling their wares.

For those interested in the history of the blues in Arkansas, be sure to check out the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena sometime. The city is also home to the popular King Biscuit Blues Festival each October.

More details on the Hot Springs Blues Festival can be found at or by calling 501-815-2939. Admission is $10 per day or $15 for a weekend pass. Tickets can be purchases on-line through the website. Of note, weekend passes are not available at the gate and are pre-purchase only.

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