NORWICH – The Chenango Blues Association is presenting the NBT Bank Free Thursdays Summer Concert Series every Thursday through the end of August this summer, bringing the some of the biggest artists the area has ever hosted to Norwich's East Park.
The summer series kicked-off last Thursday with Victor Wainwright and the Train's performance, which followed a community block in east park.
“I think we had nearly 1,000 people for the show, that's kind of our target,” said Chenango Blues Assocation President Eric Larsen. “We have a couple good shows this year that we hope will draw even more people than that.”
Larsen said this year's summer series will feature the two biggest bands the CBA has ever put on: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and Yonder Mountain String Band. Southside Johnny will perform on August 16, and Yonder Mountain on August 23––sandwiching Chenango Blues Festival weekend.
"Our summer series is gaining recognition in its own right, and now with the profile of the artists that we're putting on this year – which was clearly the highest that we've ever been able to do – we got extra support from NBT Bank, R.C. Smith Foundation, Greater Norwich Foundation, and for the first time the Community Foundation. All of that combined to give us the resources to book these bands," said Larsen.
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes was at one point home to artists the likes of Bruce Springsteen, John Bon Jovi, and Steve Van Zandt. Considering Southside Johnny's band as a “breeding ground for rock & roll royalty,” Larsen said, "He's definitely somebody to go see. He's a great performer and just has a great history."
If not for Southside Johnny, Yonder Mountain String Band would be the biggest band the CBA has ever booked, Larsen said, adding, "They're a very high profile band, headlining some of the biggest festivals around. They were one of the original new-wave modern bluegrass bands that kind of reenergized that whole music form.”
Presenting a wide variety of music genres including bluegrass, zydeco, country rock, jazz, big-band swing orchestra, and more, Larsen said organizers of the summer series cast a wide net looking for artists in an effort to introduce people to different kinds of music.
“A lot of people don't realize how much they like all kinds of music until they get exposed to it,” said Larsen.
Artists who are returning to the summer series having played in Norwich before include Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, which Larsen said is at the forefront of zydeco music, and Honey Island Swamp Band, which Larsen calls “...one of our most presented bands, but one of our most well-liked bands.”
Larsen said it's his hope people will continue to come out to the summer series concerts to ensure it continues to grow.