Bainbridge Island Museum of Art’s MOJO Rhythm
& Blues Festival was a hit! Hosting
its first-ever four-day feast of live music, film, lectures, the island enjoyed
a thrilling weekend of R&B – mojo-style.
defines it as “magical charm or power.” For
many it describes swag. In urban
language, swag means “anyone thought to carry themselves in a way considered by
some to be cool.”
This is what islanders and neighboring
audiences experienced from July 11 to July 14.
Jesse Ziebart, BIMA’s cultural programs manager, said the draw to rhythm and blues was that it covered a broad genre. Many would agree that it’s shaped “the last 100 years of popular music.” With this in mind, BIMA set clear goals for this festival.
wanted to educate, preserve and feature rhythm and blues, make it accessible, and
highlight awesome artists,” said Ziebart.
This objective was met and some.
The festival had both free and ticketed events. The reason for the former was to provide kids
and visitors access to performances and an opportunity to learn about
R&B. To accomplish this, Ziebart
said daytime offerings included local blues artists, and blues documentarians
and biographers. Musicians Chebon Tiger and Tina
Dietz performed, and blues documentarians and biographers Mark Hoffman, Jim
Basnight, and Steve Franz shared their favorite blues songs and presented fascinating
works on ‘The Howlin’ Wolf Story”, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Chicago’s
Maxwell Street. These
artists drew a steady flow of crowds into the galleries.
The evenings were also captivating. For three consecutive nights, the artists
received standing ovations, moving some audiences to “shake it” in the aisles
while singing along to timeless tunes. Starting
off with Tiffany Wilson on Thursday night, each evening was electrifying. Tacoma’s Stephanie Anne Johnson delivered on Friday
night and Mark Pickerel & the Peyote 3 and Ian Moore & the Mescal 4 played
to a sold-out audience on Saturday night.
“This was our first festival and it went well,”
said Ziebart. “Blues provides the canvas
of popular music. To do this on the
island and make it accessible was really worthwhile.”
Looking ahead, Ziebart said BIMA will be presenting
a jazz festival, silent movie series, poetry and many more cultural offerings
going into fall, winter, and next year.
To be sure, BIMA’s MOJO Rhythm & Blues
Festival will return in 2020. With such
a strong start, islanders can only expect another impactful cultural offering.
Etta James sums it up well:
“I wanna show that gospel, country, blues, rhythm and blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll are all just really one thing. Those are the American music and that is the American culture.”
For more highlights of the festival, read Jesse Ziebart’s blog.