The Steepwater Band unloads a boatload of rocking blues at the 19th Marquette Area Blues Festival with Corey Dennison and Friends in Marquette.
Marquette Area Blues Festival
With our Friday night in Marquette wide open, we headed downtown to the Mattson Lower Harbor Park on the waterfront for a night of blues at the Marquette Area Blues Festival. This year marks 19 years of the Marquette Area Blues Society bringing top performers to the Queen City for three days on Labor Day weekend. The Friday night gig is free, thanks to the generosity of Ore Dock Brewing and Higher Love Cannabis.
A Sea of Blues Fans
The wind was whipping, but the sun was full and bright as we set up our camp chairs amongst the sea of blues fans gathered on the shore of Lake Superior. The Marquette Area Blues Festival has a temporary bandshell and stage facing the water. A dance floor is on stage left for those inclined to boogie. Along the dockside are a variety of food trucks to keep you fueled for the festival. At the back of the park, we found the beer and wine tickets and made a bee-line for the beer tent to snag a Reclamation IPA from Ore Dock Brewing fresh off the tap. Beverages in hand, we settled in for an amazing night of music.
Corey Dennison and Friends
Opening up the Marquette Area Blues Festival was Corey Dennison and Friends. Soulful blues poured from the stage. Easy, sweet, loving licks, down deep grooves, and hip-swinging beats made for a sumptuous blues stew. While the tasty licks and grooves were outstanding, the shining star during this performance was Corey’s sultry vocals. The man radiates deep soul. For a party like no other, check out the Corey Dennison band.
The Steepwater Band
I discovered the electric hot blues of The Steepwater Band back in 2015 when I caught them for the first time at Hopcat in Detroit. They blew me away with their amalgam of Chicago blues infused with soul and southern heat. Happening upon them again here in the U.P. was divine. If you are new to the band, The Steepwater Band includes Jeff Massey (vocals/guitar), Eric Saylors (guitar/vocals), Joe Bishop (bass/vocals), and Joe Winters (drums). While they typically call the road their home, they got their start in Chicago.
The Steepwater Band kicked off with the groovy southern rocker called “Please the Believer” from their Turn Of The Wheel album. I couldn’t help but think of The Black Crowes and The Allman Brothers as we watched The Steepwater Band perform. They have a natural, honest vibe that invites you to kick back with a beer and enjoy the show.
The rock-solid rhythm the two Joes provide (Bishop on bass and Winters on drums) is formidable. Both men look focused yet relaxed as they keep the band rocking deep in the groove. These guys are two peas in a pod.
Adding color and dynamics are the guitars of Eric Saylors and Jeff Massey. Watching them gets you thinking of the powerful duo of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. Both guitarists can burn it up or dial it back to let each note sing. They’ve got a magnetic passion in their playing that stokes the fire in the music.
While the Steepwater Band played many of their excellent originals, including “Abandon Ship” and my favorite, “High and Humble,” they also kicked out some dandy covers. Their covers of “Tell The Truth” and “Key to the Highway” by Derek and the Dominos were spot on. The electric vibrancy on “Midnight Rambler” by the Rolling Stones was fantastic. The Steepwater Band channeled the core essence of these classic tunes and made them their own.
After a solid 90 minutes of music, The Steepwater band took a minute to appreciate the audience before coming back for an encore. They invited Corey Dennison to join in the fun. This resulted in a phenomenal cover of “Going Down” by Don Nix, dedicated to Freddie King and Jeff Beck, who each made that tune popular.
With the hum of the amplifiers ringing in our heads, we packed up our chairs and headed to our home away from home. The Sweetwater Band and Corey Dennison and Friends each put on terrific sets of music. Many thanks to the awesome folks at the Marquette Area Blues Festival for making our Friday night in Marquette exceptional.
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