Corey Ledet brings Louisiana zydeco to Fort Worden’s Acoustic Blues Festival this week while Jenny Peterson, right, returns to her native Port Townsend to teach blues piano. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Corey Ledet brings Louisiana zydeco to Fort Worden’s Acoustic Blues Festival this week while Jenny Peterson, right, returns to her native Port Townsend to teach blues piano. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Acoustic Blues festival to warm up Fort Worden stages

PORT TOWNSEND — Surrounded by lovers and players of the blues, Robert Birman started Sunday night at the Wheeler Theater by expressing his feelings.

“You’re catching us on an incredible high right now,” said Birman, executive director of Centrum and host of the Fort Worden State Park party called the Acoustic Blues Festival. Thoroughly warmed by June and July festivals from Voice Works to Fiddle Tunes to Jazz Port Townsend, he’s looked forward to this one “like I can’t even describe.”

Then Birman stepped aside for the woman who runs the show.

Mary Hilts Parry, Acoustic Blues program manager, welcomed the faculty for the workshops happening all week: 36 performers from Georgia, Virginia, Montana, Kentucky, California, New York City, Chicago and New Orleans. Looming over them all in his denim overalls was artistic director Jerron Paxton, the multi-instrumentalist from Queens, N.Y.

He proceeded to introduce each of the players to appear at this week’s Blues Dance, gospel concert, main-stage showcase and two nights of Blues in the Clubs on the fort campus.

Singer-guitarist Cary Morin will bring his music to the Commons lawn at noon Friday. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Singer-guitarist Cary Morin will bring his music to the Commons lawn at noon Friday. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

“We have been sent here,” he said, “to learn from each other,” in back porch jam sessions, open mic nights and, at last, public performances.

“It’s a beautiful cycle,” said Paxton. “You learn a lot from teaching your friends … y’all grow, in music.”

And one after another, they played a spoonful: Pianists, harmonica men, bassists, guitarists of every persuasion. Jug player Jonathan Piper and Washboard Chaz Leary likewise wowed the crowd with short tastes. Del Rey and Christopher Davis-Shannon played their ukuleles, “the guitar that has been washed in hot water,” as Paxton put it.

Singer Mara Kaye brought further sass: “I came all the way from Brooklyn. I need some love, you know?” she said before dishing up a snippet of a song. She got the love, in the form of loud applause.

Jerron Paxton is artistic director of Centrum’s Acoustic Blues Festival. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News

Jerron Paxton is artistic director of Centrum’s Acoustic Blues Festival. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News

This Acoustic Blues Festival, like Centrum’s Jazz Port Townsend event just last week, has changed its routine. The nighttime circuit of shows called Blues in the Clubs will take place not in downtown Port Townsend nightclubs of yore, but at seven all-ages venues at Fort Worden. They’re within walking distance of one another, but for those who like a lift, a blues van will circulate all night long.

Hilts Parry checked out Jazz in the Clubs last weekend. She went in not sure if it would fly; after all, she said, “people don’t like change.”

But the scene was “exactly what we were hoping. I saw the youth not feeling excluded. They were running from club to club, because they can run,” while each spot was lit up and welcoming.

“What pleased me most is that it was a listening environment” at each venue, “and not a drinking environment with a band in the background. Every single club felt like music was the first thing. “We’re honored to present the artists in a format for listening.”

Paxton, for his part, summed up the experience of playing and listening to music together.

“You can get a lot accomplished,” he said, “by pulling in the same direction.”

What’s up where for blues festival

Centrum of Port Townsend presents the Acoustic Blues Festival at Fort Worden State Park, 200 Battery Way.

For information and tickets, see Centrum.org or call 360-385-3102, ext. 110.

Tickets are also available from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Centrum office on the Fort Worden campus.

Wednesday

• The Blues Dance featuring Jerron Paxton with the G Burns Jug Band and friends

• 7:30 p.m., McCurdy Pavilion, $20

Friday

• Free Fridays at the Fort concert with singer-guitarists Jontavious Willis and Cary Morin.

• Noon, Fort Worden Commons lawn, free. Refreshments for sale. Lawn chairs welcome.

Friday and Saturday

• Blues in the Clubs fans out across the park, to the Fort Wooden Chapel, Wheeler Theater, Building 204, Rainshadow Recording Studio, the Seminar Building, the Schoolhouse and the JFK Building.

Performers include Daddy Long Legs, the Rev. John Wilkins, Ernie Vega, Craig Ventresco, Christopher Davis-Shannon, Clinton Davis, Del Rey, Pat Donohue, Cary Morin, Dean Mueller, Jerron Paxton, Jonathan Piper, Lauren Sheehan, Fred Sokolow, Brian Farrow, Jake Faulkner, Mary Flower, Ben Fox, Jimmy Duck Holmes, Chaz Leary, Corey Ledet, Ethan Leinwand, Lazy Lester, Andrew Alli, Roy Book Binder, Darren Loucas, Tim McNalley and Jontavious Willis.

A $25 wristband per person per night provides access to all venues.

Saturday

• Free concert with the Port Townsend Gospel Choir with Rev. John Wilkins Band, featuring singers Tawana Cunningham, Tangela Longstreet and Joyce Jones, drummer Eric Eagle, pianist Jim Nyby of Port Townsend and Ben Fox on bass.

11 a.m. on the lawn outside the Fort Worden Chapel, where lawn chairs and blankets are welcome.

• Acoustic Blues Showcase concert featuring Andrew Alli, Roy Book Binder, Daddy Long Legs, Del Rey, Christopher Davis-Shannon, Pat Donohue, Mary Flower, Jimmy Duck Holmes, Chaz Leary, Ethan Leinwand, Lazy Lester, Cary Morin, Brian Farrow, Craig Ventresco and Jontavious Willis.

1:30 p.m., McCurdy Pavilion, reserved seats $27, $40, $48.

Festival ticket packages

Includes Blues Dance, Acoustic Blues Showcase and Blues in the Clubs. Package Pricing for McCurdy Pavilion reserved seating in Section A is $110, Section B $90 and Section C $80.

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