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Long Beach Blues Festival goes on hiatus; Blues Bash planned instead

Citing a tough economic climate, local jazz and blues standard-bearers KKJZ-FM (88.1) has announced that the long-running Long Beach Blues Festival will be going on hiatus this year, breaking a Labor Day tradition that lasted 30 years.

On the bright side for blues fans, the Long Beach-based public radio station announced it will be carrying on the spirit of the festival with the KJAZZ Blues Bash, to be held at the festival's traditional home -- the Cal State Long Beach campus. Scheduled for Sept. 4 at the university's Carpenter Center, the Blues Bash will offer a free outdoor fair featuring food and local music, culminating with a ticketed concert that evening featuring Keb' Mo', Guitar Shorty and Jon Cleary. Ticket details and further information about the lineup are still to be announced.

First staged in 1980 (back when KKJZ was known as KLON), the Long Beach Blues Festival spanned all three days of Labor Day weekend from 1996-2000 and held to a two-day format since 2001. In its long run,  it's offered a lush buffet of blues, roots music and R&B that included multiple performances by legends such as B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley, as well as more rock-oriented acts such as the Black Crowes and Los Lobos.

While news of the hiatus is certainly troubling, KKJZ station manager Stephanie Levine remains committed to the festival's future. “The Blues Festival hiatus was a tough decision,” Levine said in a statement. “But, we will continue to work toward bringing back the festival in all its glory.”

-- Chris Barton

Photo: B.B. King performing in Memphis, Tenn.,  in 2005. Credit: Lisa Poole / Associated Press

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Comments () | Archives (5)

Although I haven't been to the Long Beach Blues Festival in quite a few years I am still saddened to see it cancelled. This comes after last year's cancellation of the San Francisco Blues Festival, which ran for 35 years.

Hopefully when the economy picks up they will be able to resume holding this festival.

Sorry to hear this!

Silver lining? This is tragic! I am a former employee of KLON/KKJZ and worked this festival for many years. I feel this is a cultural institution being taken down for a consolation prize of three acts. The festival was among the largest for blues music in the nation, drew audiences from around the US and was one of the few legacy festivals for this music. How can Ms. Levine work toward "bringing back the festival in all its glory” when she is among those that destroyed it? Plenty of other lesser festivals have withstood this economy. People need blues music now more than ever.

I find it hard to believe that the "economy" is to blame.
The Coachella Music festival boasted record ticket sales this year!

Poor management is to blame.
Thank you to the new "management" for continuing to lessen the importance
of our roots in the music that made America! It is quite obvious that your take-over did not improve the station.

I was a guest last year of KJAZZ and enjoyed the music filled weekend immensely. Wow what a line-up, I was looking forward to this year's festival and was puzzled by the hiatus. I know more people could have attended last year. Perhaps the organizers need to explore alternate ways of attracting fans, sponsors and expanding the festival. Offering lower ticket prices and researching different venues etc, can only help . I know times are tough but I've bought tickets for 3 shows this summer for only $10 a seat. Lower the ticket prices, lower the beer and food prices and expand and you can survive.


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