Big Muddy Blues Fest Showcases Hometown Talent

 In Culture, Event

This Labor Day weekend, the 21st annual Big Muddy Blues Festival presents 45 blues bands on outdoor stages and in clubs located throughout Laclede’s Landing.

But instead of scheduling a mix of area bands opening for headlining national acts this year, every one of those bands will have roots in the vibrant St. Louis blues scene.

According to Laura Tobey, executive director of the Laclede’s Landing Merchants Association, the local focus for this year’s Big Muddy came about through a combination of factors.

“Laclede’s Landing merchants have had challenges recently because of construction on the Arch grounds as well as the repaving project on the Landing,” she explains. “We were faced with the challenge of how to be fiscally responsible and still produce a quality event.”

For Tobey, two factors came into play; the depth of talent on the St. Louis blues scene, and the opening of the National Blues Museum earlier this year.

“Our local bands have always made up the large majority of the bands that play the Big Muddy, she adds. “As St. Louisans, we tend to look at these musicians as locals. But many are nationally known, and tour both the United States and Europe.”

Tobey reached out to St. Louis musician Jeremy Segel-Moss, who plays with the Bottoms Up Blues Gang and is also president of the St. Louis Blues Society, to handle booking for the Big Muddy. She also reached out to the National Blues Museum as a potential partner for educational events tied to the Fest.

“I definitely know there’s enough St. Louis talent to fill the lineup for a world-class festival,” states Segel-Moss. “And with three outdoor stages as well as bookings for three clubs, we can showcase 45 St. Louis acts on the Landing for this year’s Big Muddy.”

The Main Stage, located at 2nd St. and Morgan, will feature groups such as the Funky Butt Brass Band, Big George Brock and Renee Smith on Saturday from 3:30-11pm. On Sunday, the stage will open with a piano showcase that includes Ethan Leinwand, James Matthews and Dean Minderman, and spotlight Jeremiah Johnson to close out the Fest.

The other outdoor stages at 1st St. and Morgan and 2nd St. and Lucas, as well as the club lineups at Morgan Street Brewery, Gateway Sports Emporium and Big Daddy’s are also packed with talent.

“We’ve got solo acts, duos and trios booked at the indoor venues,” explains Segel-Moss. “Sometimes those acts tend to get lost on big stages, and really shine in more intimate club settings.”

The National Blues Museum will host tributes to two St. Louis blues legends on Saturday and Sunday from 12:30-2:30pm. Johnnie Johnson will be honored Saturday by a host of musicians, including Tom Maloney. Keith Robinson, Gus Thornton. Sunday, a tribute to Henry Townsend will feature music by Ron Edwards, Leroy Pierson and pianist Silvercloud as well as a rare screening of filmmaker Kathy Corley’s rarely seen documentary, “That’s the Way I Do it: The Life and Times of Henry Townsend.”

Tickets to the Big Muddy are $8 per day in advance and $10 at the gate, or you can buy a two-day admission for $15 in advance. In addition, there’s a reciprocal ticket discount between the National Blues Museum and the Big Muddy offering a $5 discount if you show a ticket purchased at either the Fest or the Museum.

To add more excitement, Lumiere Place is sponsoring a 15 minute fireworks display (www. Saturday night at approximately 8:30pm.

“We’ll be stopping the music at all the stages when the fireworks start, then getting the music started again afterward. It should be a fun addition to the Festival.”


Photo of musician Big George Brock by Lou Bopp, courtesy of Big Muddy Blues Festival.

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