Big Muddy Blues Festival and Bluesweek to Face Off This Weekend

In the epic battle between Laclede's Landing and, well, the rest of downtown, who will prevail?

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We're talking, of course, about the dueling blues festivals going head to head in the two areas: the inaugural St. Louis Bluesweek in the downtown corner, and Big Muddy Blues Festival representing Laclede's Landing. 

The ten-day Bluesweek began August 27, presumably with the support of Mayor Francis Slay, if his presence at the early August press conference announcing the festival is anything to go by. 

Big Muddy will muck in on Labor Day weekend, September 4 and 5, for its fifteenth year.

In interests of full disclosure, we should mention that the RFT is a corporate sponsor of Bluesweek. And, in fact, the two festivals have full-page ads facing each other across the binding on pages 27 and 28 of this week's print edition of the RFT.

Obviously, that's not going to stop us from raising an (obvious) question: Is this town big enough for two music festivals on the very same weekend?
Mike Kociela, of Entertainment St. Louis, was asked at the press conference whether combining the two festivals had beens considered. No, he said, the two are different animals. 

"St. Louis has a pretty big appetite for blues music; there's plenty of blues fans to go around." 

There may be "plenty" of blues fans, but are there enough to support two festivals simultaneously? 

Maybe. 

Big Muddy's acts begin at 1 p.m. on both days, with the last shows scheduled to begin at 9 and 9:30, depending on the stage. The only event Bluesweek has scheduled for Saturday is the Soulard Blues Cruise, a $10 crawl through Soulard bars showcasing different blues acts, scheduled for 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday night. Similarly, Bluesweek's St. Louis Blues Awards are scheduled from 8:30 p.m. to midnight -- only a few hours' overlap with Big Muddy's scheduled shows and afterparty. 

Emily Kochan, executive producer of Big Muddy, agrees that the festivals are very different, stressing that Bluesweek has a focus on local blues acts and charges admission, while Big Muddy is free and will deliver Grammy winners and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members as well as local acts -- some of the same ones featured at Bluesweek. She also stresses Big Muddy's longevity, and the many out-of-town concertgoers it brings in. 

"A lot of Midwesterners see this as their last summer vacation getaway," she says.

Kochan focuses on the positives -- more music is more music, and more music is never a bad thing. 

"It makes for a great week for a blues-lover in town, to have all these options," she says. "It makes for a fun week."

But when asked if she'd like to see Bluesweek find a new timeslot to host their festival next year, Kochan replies without hesitation:

"Yes, I do."
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