The first annual Blythe River Blues Festival was held May 26, 2012 at Quechan Marina. The festival featured Paul Winer, Blythe's own South Main Street Blues Band, Bernie Pearl Blues Band, 7th Sons with Bill McFadden, Deacon Jones, and Fran Banish.
Over 400 came out to enjoy this event on the river. Stay tuned for next year's festival.
BLYTHE - Fran Banish, the Chicago bluesman who headlined the first ever Blythe River Blues Festival last year, is returning this year with an even more exciting band and a new CD hitting the market. Banish kept the crowd on its feet throughout his performance at BRBF1 and has plans for an even more exciting and powerful performance.
"We have a slightly different lineup this year," Banish said. "We've got Paul Allen on drums - a great all-around kind of drummer - funk rock, jazz and blues. Dale Jennings is a great roots and blues bass player. Carl Byron is on keyboards, and we've got Lisa Newberry doing some singing together with me and featured on a few songs."
Banish said that Newberry's background is in soul, rhythm and blues and blues.
"It's a becoming a really cool funky blues and rock band in a kind of classic style," Banish said. "The band evokes '70s blues rock and funk. We'll be playing things with a little more of a funky slant that will be high energy."
Tragedy befell Banish shortly after his headline performance at the Blythe River Blues Festival. While touring the Midwest and eastern states with Kofi Baker, son of Cream and Blind Faith drummer Ginger Baker, Banish, after a show in Chicago, fell while carrying equipment down a dark stairway, breaking his wrist and having to wear a cast from his elbow to his fingers for six weeks, sidelining him for the rest of the tour.
"I couldn't gig last summer and then recovered in the fall," he said.
The anxiety of being a guitarist physically unable to work weighed heavily on Banish during his time of recovery, but finding side work as a guitar teacher in Hollywood, Banish said he really appreciated his students who stuck with him during the time he was injured, as they made it possible for him to pay the bills while he was unable to perform.
As winter approached though, Banish and his new band began playing gigs again, including an appearance at the House of Blues in West Hollywood right before Christmas. He's also back playing gigs with Kofi Baker and he's been in the studio finishing up new material that he plans to perform at the Blythe River Blues Festival.
"It's my best work ever," Banish said.
Banish said he was looking forward to returning the Blythe River Blues Festival and felt that the location on the Colorado River was perfect for an outdoor festival.
"It was an exciting event because it was new," he said. "This one should be even better as people get more experienced with running a festival, the word gets out more and the crowd grows. Last year's show was pretty diverse in terms of the bands and everyone, though they all played the blues, had a different slant on it. This year going to be even better."
Banish, who began his career in Chicago, moved to Los Angeles more than 20 years ago and has enjoyed a lot of success as a performer, teacher, and in the studio, where in addition to recording his own material, he co-wrote a pair of songs and played lead guitar on Duncan Sheik's 1996 self-titled CD on Atlantic Records, which went Gold.
He's also worked off and on for 10 years with bluesman Keb Mo, who won Grammys in 1997, 1999 and 2005 for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Banish played guitar on Keb Mo's 2006 CD, Suitcase.
Banish also recorded a five-song EP, Chicago To LA, a blues sampler, playing some classic tunes as well as an original. The music ranges from modern Chicago blues to some old time country blues as well as funk blues. You can hear it on the music page at www.franbanish.com
Banish said that there's a difference between playing the blues in Chicago and playing them in Los Angeles
"In L.A. there's an expectation of being polished and sort of putting on a show where in Chicago things are generally more casual. When you're playing in L.A., there are more expectations and so you want to live off that expectation to some degree. I'm more of a guitar fanatic than I've ever been - I love playing blues guitar."
The Blythe River Blues Festival, a fundraiser for the Blythe Area Chamber of Commerce and the Joe Wine Recreation Center, is scheduled for May 25, 2013 (Memorial Day weekend), at Quechan Marina on the Colorado River in Blythe, Calif. Eric Gales will headline the show with Junior Watson, Cadillac Zack and The Record Company also on the bill. Also returning will be Blythe's South Main Street Blues Band and Quartzsite's Paul Winer and his boogie-woogie blues.
Gates open at 9 a.m. and music runs all day and night from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets are $15 and available at the Blythe Area Chamber of Commerce, 145 N. Spring Street, (760-922-8166) the Joe Wine Recreation Center, 127 S. Main Street, Desert Music at 246 W. Hobsonway, or online at blytheriverblues.com.
The venue is on the Colorado River so beachwear is appropriate. Only water is allowed in coolers. Beer, sodas and food will be sold at the event. Bring your own chairs, blankets, towels and pop-ups.