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Blues & Views Festival Rocks for 12th Year

By James Lomuscio

On the Levitt Pavilion stage, the Memphis, Tennessee band Southern Avenue was firing up the mostly adult, afternoon crowd today. Original, smokey and somewhat raw tunes rang out while the lead female vocalist rocked and gyrated.

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Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band, a soul band based in Burlington, Vermont, were early performers. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Down below and under a tent in the Westport Library’s parking lot, the group Infinity Edge belted out the more familiar tunes of such as the Doobie Brothers’ “Without Love” and the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Under crisp azure skies and a sharp, late summer sun, the 12th annual Blues & Views Festival on the east bank of the Saugatuck River was in full swing. Opened at 11 a.m., it goes through 10 p.m. today and continues Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a $40 admission charge.

Started by Bob LeRose as the Blues, Views and BBQ Festival, this year due to late approvals, the event was scaled back from including its signature barbecue competition run by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.

“That’s not to say that we won’t bring it back, but not this year,” said LeRose, owner of Bobby Q’s in Norwalk, previously an 11-year mainstay on Westport’s Main Street until 2016.

The festival was LeRose’s brainchild when he headed the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. Last year, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce ran it. LeRose retook the reins this year for the event that is owned by the Levitt Pavilion.

The Jesup Jam in the parking lot attracted families, their children enticed by the bouncy games set up. Hungry teens and adults lined up in front of six food vendor trucks. Others were just pulled in by the bar band sounds.

Richard Keith, eponymous lead singer and guitarist of Richard Keith & the Occasional Playboys, nursed his drink and moved with the music. His group wasn’t set to perform for two hours.

“I’m Richard Keith, Keith Richards backward,” quipped the Stamford native who occasionally plays at the Black Duck.

Unlike other bands, Keith said his group only performs original songs. He rattled off some pieces his group would perform: “Settle Down,” “City Man” and “On My Line.”

Noticeably absent were the wafting, heady aromas of southern barbecue from the competitions held annually down in the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The only hint of the festival’s previous namesake were the barbecue scents emanating from Bobby Q’s food truck and tent.

“It was a smooth setup with great teamwork and great weather,” said Henry LeRose, Bob LeRose’s nephew.

“It’s a long day of music,” said Bob LeRose, adding that he expected about 6,000 attendees this weekend.

Some felt the lack of barbecue smells, made music, not eating, the central focus. That seemed to be the case at the Levitt where concertgoers on blankets and beach chairs seemed riveted by the performers. Many only got up for refills served up by New Belgium Brewing at the Levitt’s rear concession stand.

“It’s my favorite festival,” said Rich Simons, who’s been coming to the event for past seven years from Walpole, Massachusetts to hawk tie-dye shirts. “Great music.

“It’s almost like two different festivals, young families during the day and an elegant crowd at night,” he added.

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