UTAH BLUES FESTIVAL
Since becoming a 501 (c) (3) in May of 2014 the Utah Blues Society has brought a top level Blues Festival back to Utah. Held each year in the month of June, it is our signature fundraising event of the year and has grown steadily year on year. All money raised from the festival go towards supporting our programs with the state of Utah and making sure the festival continues to grow responsibly and becomes an asset to the community for future generations to enjoy.
There’s a long history of top shelf Blues in Utah. Some of the earliest Blues artists performed at the Park West Blues Festivals in the early ’80s, (BB King, Muddy Waters, James Cotton, etc.), and after that at the Snowbird Jazz & Blues Festivals from 1987 – 2009. Blues legends like Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Keb Mo, Johnny Winter, Little Milton, Jimmie Vaughan, Elvin Bishop, Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy, and many more appeared. In the clubs, the places to be were the Zephyr Club and Dead Goat Saloon which are still remembered with reverence by touring Blues bands today! (Both coincidentally closed in the summer of 2003).
After Snowbird lost corporate funding, it too disappeared and blues fans didn’t have a festival to see local, regional, much less, national headliners, perform on one bill. In answer to this void, the Rhythm & Blues Rendezvous, at Rockport State Park, was started in 2009 by local musicians and blues enthusiasts. The Rendezvous showcased the best in local blues talent, and helped raise money for worthwhile causes within the community. After gaining our non-profit status is 2014 the Utah Blues Society went about creating a festival that would showcase both local and national blues based artists on one bill.
On June 13, 2015 the 1st Annual Utah Blues Festival occurred at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center. This is kind of a misnomer, with the previous festivals mentioned, but this was the first Utah Blues Festival produced by the UBS as a non-profit. We had a couple regional headliners, two stages offering the best in local/regional talent, and a free harmonica workshop that played to a standing room only audience! We were successful in re-introducing a blues festival to the Salt Lake Valley and our patrons came out to hear great live blues music in a relaxed setting.
In 2016, needing more room to grow, we made the decision to move the 2nd Annual Utah Blues Festival to downtown Salt Lake City at the Gallivan Center. It accommodated a much larger crowd comfortably, had shade, and plenty of on-site facilities that made it easier on our guests. It’s was easy to get there by TRAX and there was plenty of convenient parking in the area. It’s our new home and one in which we can grow with in the years to come. We had three national headliners that provided an unbelievable all-star jam finale! This all-star jam finish has become a yearly event, with each one topping the year before.
The festival continues to grow year on year and in 2017 our line-up featured 4 national headliners, as well as three workshops. The cigar box guitar making workshop earned us a City Weekly award for “Best Festival Workshop for 2017”! The community and state have really supported having this culturally relevant event in downtown Salt Lake City and understand that this is much more than just another music festival. Just about every major city has a blues festival of some sort and we are proud of what we are doing to put Utah on the map! We continue to attract audiences from outside Utah, and with our family friendly atmosphere, our local audience also continues to grow. We had kids from our Blues in the Schools (BITS) program attend this year’s festival and share their experiences with our patrons.
The 4th Annual Utah Blues Festival was held on June 16, 2018 at the Gallivan Center, and in the spirit of bringing the best in blues to Utah, we featured FIVE national headliners. It was a real salute to Women in Blues, as four of the six headliners were fronted by women. We again featured free workshops throughout the day as well as having the best in non-profit/for profit art and food vendors. As always, the festival started with the UBS sponsored Blues Youth Showcase. This year’s band was sponsored, in part, through a grant to the Music Garage.
The 5th Annual Utah Blues Festival, in 2019, will be quite an event! To celebrate our 5th Anniversary we will, for the first time, have a two day festival. It will be held on Friday night June 14th (5-10pm) and Saturday June 15th (noon-10pm). We’ll have eight National headliners over the two days, featuring world class talent and artists that haven’t performed in Utah for decades. We will have new and interesting free workshops for our patrons to experience and continue to recruit the best vendors for art and food. Our popular Blues Club/VIP experience will be the best ever and sure to sell out again. Please mark your calendars, spend a couple days downtown, and get your tickets early! As a non-profit, the Utah Blues Society, through the festival, looks to get tickets in the hands of the underserved and other worthy causes. If you know of any please reach out to us in advance. We work with several groups and want others to experience the healing power of the Blues!
For more information about the festival or opportunities to become a sponsor, volunteer, or be a vendor go to utahbluesfest.org