By Adam Strunk
Blues Brews and Barbecue, our annual music festival to support local journalism, will take place Sept. 24 at Athletic Park.
Gates open at 3 p.m. Music starts at 4 p.m. and will go until 10 p.m.
We’ll have four bands and on tap will be craft beers from Walnut River and Salt City, as well as a few domestics and wine. Local favorites Wings and Tails Barbecue and TacoMike will be feeding the hungry crowd.
Tickets can be purchased day of the show or online here.
Here’s a preview of the lineup.
Dustin Arbuckle and the Damnations
Electric blues roots, old-school country, rock, jazz, soul. It’s hard to pin down an exact sound for Dustin Arbuckle & the Damnations.
“It all creeps in there,” lead singer Dustin Arbuckle said. He describes their shows as a mix of original and old school American Roots music.
“We have a pretty eclectic cross-genre electrified Americana sound,” he said.
Their music’s full and smooth, driving at times, soulful at others. Guitar and harmonica riffs throughout serve as a vehicle carrying the different energy and emotions of each song to the audience. More simply put, the songs have a way of making you feel.
However you want to describe the music, it works.
The band’s been crossing the Midwest playing festivals and shows and has a European tour planned in November.
But before that, they will return to Newton to play Blues Brews and Barbecue on Saturday, Sept. 24 at Athletic Park. The band’s been a staple of the event through the years, due to the large following they draw, as well as the good feedback attendees give about their performance. Arbuckle said he’s looking forward to the show, as well as hearing the rest of the lineup.
“One thing that’s cool this year is they’ve gone a bit more cross-genre, having a blues band and a band like us, playing Americana roots,” he said. “Then, you’ve got the two blue grass bans like Pretend Friend that’s absolutely outstanding and 80 Proof Engine,” he said.
He added that he enjoys performing at the event.
“It’s a great setting,” he said. “It’s a cool thing bringing together a lot of local aspects. Harvey County Now is a local paper. That’s a cool thing that we need more of. There are some local food trucks. It’s a great community event for Newton. I think it’s a great vibe and a great kind of locally oriented event.”
Arbuckle will be joined on stage with Amos Vega on Guitar, Colby Aiken on drums and Caleb Drummond on base.
“There’s something really beautiful about getting to make music you enjoy, people you like making it with,” he said. “There’s something very unique about the exchange of energy between an artist and a band and the audience with live music.”
Arbuckle will also be adding his stylings to the performance on blues harmonica, which helps drive many of the band’s songs between smooth full vocals.
“I spent a lot of time as I was younger driving around listening to CDs of old blues records doing my best to emulate what I was hearing from a lot of the great blues harmonica players,” he said, adding that he also had a lot of help honing his skills from local players such as Lee McBee, David Graham and Bill Garrison.
If you’re looking to get a feel of the band and haven’t seen them, a few good songs to check out would be “Across the Desert” and “Say my name.”
80 Proof Engine
If you’ve spent enough time listening to live music in the area, you’ve more than likely heard the stylings of 80 Proof Engine and are already pumped to see them.
And if not, well, you’ve missed out.
The band’s been around since 2009, bringing its own blend of what upright bassist and vocalist Dustin Nesser described as “Pumped up Party Bluegrass,” or nasty grass.
What does that exactly mean? Traditional bluegrass meets high-octane tempos with relatable and honest original lyrics.
The band has Newton roots and has often performed at venues such as Moxie’s and the Coneburg when not doing shows in Winfield or Wichita. Now, they’ll take the stage at Athletic Park.
Pretend Friend’s adding a little grass to this year’s Blues Brews and Barbecue festival.
The progressive bluegrass band out of Wichita brings a unique sound that “sounds like the quick-pickin’ offspring of Robert Plant and the Stanley Brothers.”
Since 2017, the band has toured 13 states throughout the Midwest and south and performed locally at events such as Riverfest and the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield where they won the 2020 Battle of the Bands contest. The band has high-energy sets loaded with harmony and jams, and has musical chops to back it up.
Talented songwriter and guitarist Grant Boesen, is joined on stage by Kansas champion mandolinist Evan Ogborn, bassist and sound engineer Brody Wellman, and banjoist Garrett Briggeman.
“Pretend Friend respects tradition and its musical heritage while consistently breaking new ground,” wrote Jedd Beaudoin, Host/Producer of Strange Currency with KMUW (NPR).
“The combination of expert writing and outstanding musicianship places the band in rarified company—one of those bands that wows fellow musicians with its acumen and leaves everyone tapping their toes and singing along to songs that seem to have always been.”
Bag of Blues
Bag of Blues will bring some Americana to help kick off Harvey County Now’s fifth annual Blues Brews and Barbecue.
Bag of Blues, out of Wichita specializes in providing a mix of both covers and original numbers of blues music and Americana.
“Bag of Blues is thrilled to be a part of this event once again and back in the area,” stated the band. “This is always an amazing event that you don’t want to miss.”
The band features well known faces on the Kansas music scene such as Paul Bland, Lynn Avants, and George Graybill and can be heard at venues throughout Wichita, having played at The Cotillion, The Shamrock and Barleycorns.