One of Minnesota's favorite outdoor music bashes, Duluth's Bayfront Blues Festival, will return Aug. 13-15 with a few safety-minded tweaks and a couple beloved Louisiana players for headliners.
Organizers of the 23rd annual harborside grooveathon in Bayfront Festival Park announced their 2021 lineup over the weekend with bayou guitar ace Tab Benoit and zydeco heir CJ Chenier for the Saturday and Sunday headliners, respectively, as well as Kim Wilson's Fabulous Thunderbirds on Friday night. Other names on the schedule through the weekend include Tommy Castro, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Danielle Nicole and Minnesotans Jack Knife & the Sharps, Joyann Parker, the Cole Allen Band and Miss Myra & the Moonshiners, plus a few artists still to be announced.
With COVID-19 concerns and state restrictions still lingering as the summer concert season nears, the blues fest team is limiting the number of tickets sold for now to around 2,500 three-day passes, counting passes carried over from last year's canceled installment. Single-day tickets could be capped to a smaller-than-normal number, too, all depending on where the guidelines wind up in August.
"Who knows what can happen between now and then, so we're playing it safe for now," said Bayfront Blues Fest owner Chris Mackey, who expects the initial allotment of three-day passes to sell out soon under this plan.
"We anticipated numbers would be down this year, with many people still hesitant about going to events. But so far it's building back up better than expected."
Mackey pointed out that "the blues audience is getting up there in years," so many of their patrons could already be fully vaccinated — but they also might be more afraid of the prospective dangers of big crowds. Thus, the festival will offer areas for fans who still want to social distance, but also "not try and stop the fans who want to cram down front by the stage," he said.
Three-day blues fest passes are on sale now for $139 via bayfrontblues.com, where single day tickets are also on sale for $59. Ticketholders from last year's festival can either use their passes this year or still seek refunds, an option also being offered for fans who buy tickets this year.
Bayfront Festival Park still has some of its other annual events on the calendar for this summer, including the Bayfront Country Jam on July 2, Hairball's usual July 3 blowout, the Bayfront Reggae and World Music Fest on July 17 and the All Pints North Brewfest on July 31. However, more details on those events have not yet been released.