Music

Blues, Brews & BBQ

Signs of summer

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

It is here.

Not summer, exactly. As we saw last weekend, sunny days are not quite here again. And the skies above are not yet clear again. It is, after all, still Juneuary.

However, I’ve checked the forecast and things are looking good—and I’m not just talking about the weather.

What’s here is the start of the abundance of outdoor music series, the majority of which are set in scenic locales and nearly all of which take place during hours convenient to many and at prices and in places that make them as affordable as they are accessible.

As they traditionally do, Boundary Bay Brewery kicked things off with the opening of its beer garden during Memorial Day weekend and were joined in short order by La Conner Live, which sees local and regional bands performing in Gilkey Square every Sunday.

From there, the hits keep coming, with everything from the Elizabeth Park summer concert series to Burlington Summer Nights to Downtown Sounds all priming to stage a takeover of our streets, parks and collective summer schedules.

In Bellingham, no one has a more enviable setting for summer music than Hotel Bellwether. Within walking distance of the downtown core, perched right on the bay and with some pretty stellar amenities to offer, all they really had to do was plug in a PA and book some bands, and we’d have been perfectly content.

Instead, they did us one—or three, in this case—better, combining this area’s passion for beer with its appetite for music as well as a menu designed for outdoor eating into a series they’ve dubbed, appropriately, Blues, Brews & BBQ. What that means is starting at 5pm every Thursday (and a couple of additional dates because the blues cannot be confined to just Thursdays) from June 14 through Sept. 13, you can eat, drink and quite likely be merry by the shore of Bellingham Bay.

Not such a bad way to spend a summer. Now for the specifics.

Shannanagins have been granted the honor of playing the June 14 opening show of Blues, Brews & BBQ, and then GrooveBot will take things over a week later (June 21). After that, on June 28 comes the first of two performances by SpaceBand (they’ll also close the series Sept. 13). From there, comes the first time Blues, Brews & BBQ will break the Thursday template, and they’ll do it in honor of freedom when the Atlantics, Bellingham’s official all-occasion holiday band, play Wed., July 4 prior to the fireworks show.

Not only can Blues, Brews & BBQ not be confined by a single calendar day, but it also refuses to adhere to its chosen genre of music. The series will “go country” a couple of times, courtesy of Miller Campbell, who will host a hootenanny July 5 and again Sept. 6. You need not possess cowboy boots, but if you know how to two-step, I imagine such skill might come in handy.

After that, the series takes a week off before roaring back to life with Baby Cakes, which is not a blues band, but we’ve already established Blues, Brews & BBQ as being open-minded on these matters—so open-minded, in fact, that Baby Cakes will make a second appearance on Aug. 30. July 26 brings things back to the blues with the Stacy Jones Band, but things go rogue again when the LowDown Brass Band rolls into town from Chicago for a Tues., July 31 concert.

August and September are filled with the aforementioned return visits by the aforementioned bands, with Mama Dirty Skirt (Aug. 2), the Staxx Brothers (Aug. 9), the Atlantics (again—Aug. 16), and Chris Eger (Aug. 23) rounding out the lineup. By the time it all wraps up Sept. 13, summer will likely be in its waning days as well.

Although the music is that piece of Blues, Brews & BBQ that I personally find to be most compelling (surprise, surprise), it is just one of the three components named in the title. The brews in question will come courtesy of the local breweries that craft the elixirs that now course through the veins of 90 percent of all those older than 21 in this town. As for the barbecue, it’s cooked over mesquite lump charcoal and the menu features everything from St. Louis spare ribs, barbecue chicken leg quarters, peel-and-eat shrimp and burgers to more unexpected items like cedar-planked salmon, kalbi beef short ribs, paella, and Portobello mushrooms stuffed with kale and quinoa.

To be sure, Blues, Brews & BBQ is far from the summer’s only music series trying to lay claim to our hearts, minds and time—it isn’t even the only one that happens on Thursdays. But it’s a heckuva kickoff to a musical season spent in the great outdoors.

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