The festival weekend will kick off with a free Downtown Blues Concert on Friday, from 7 to 10 p.m. featuring three incredible blues performances produced by the North Central Florida Blues Society.
This soul-moving show kicks off with local blues musicians, Cassie Keenum and Rick Randlett. Although this duo has only been performing together for a year, both are longtime Alachua County favorites. Keenum is known for her stunning vocals, soulful lyrics and charisma. She has been compared to Big Mama Thornton and Susan Tedeschi for her strong vocals and original compositions. Randlett has released two acoustic blues albums in the last four years, which have received excellent reviews. He has been well known in the Florida Blues scene for more than 15 years.
On stage next is JuJu Junction, an energetic blues band from Gainesville, Florida. The three-piece group aims to entertain the crowd with original songs, as well as their interpretation of traditional songs. They strive to overcome the sadness of heartbreak by turning it into positive energy and creating a positive vibe, which is reflected and amplified by the audience.
This year’s headliner, and rising star, Annika Chambers takes the stage at 9 pm. The powerhouse singer from Houston, Texas is known for her soulful, heartwarming and ground-stomping performances. She was a 2015 Blues Music Award nominee for Best New Artist, and gives her all every time she is on stage to provide the audience a show with long-lasting memories. Her influences include Etta James, Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson. Chambers has performed at numerous festivals, including Las Vegas’ Big Blues Bender and is touring Brazil later this year.