Big Bull Falls Blues Fest
Fri.-Sat. 8/18-19 | Fern Island Park, Wausau
This has been an iconic summer event in Wausau for 26 years. It’s also the longest-running blues fest in the state. Music lovers from all over come for the national and international performers. This year brings back some old (yeah we said it) favorites, plus some cool Midwestern acts. Music plays under the large tent, while the park is filled with food and drink vendors. Bring a chair, hang around the whole time, or come and go. Bring a box of mac & cheese on Friday to contribute to Blessings in a Backpack to help feed kids in the community. Gates open at 4 pm Friday, at noon Saturday. Fri. $15; Sat. $40 in advance, $45 at gate; 2-day $45 advance, $50 gate. Tickets at 877-220-7340. wausauevents.org.
5 pm | Altered Five Everything about this band is big. Big voice, big songs, big sounds, from this church style revival blues band from Milwaukee. These guys are likely to blow the roof off the tent before the crowd even knows what’s happening. Real soul. A real treat.
7 pm | Reverand Raven Rick is back with his Chicago jump style once again, but now cooler and better. He has been a road warrior, made some life changes (bypass and grey hair), and now sounds better than ever. The Rev is a real Wisconsin legend.
9 pm | Toronzo Cannon This Chicago player has a clear idea of following in the footsteps of reigning King of the Blues Buddy Guy (RIP B.B.) His band lays down the groove, and he paints a slashing guitar style over the top, just like Buddy. He brings strange-looking guitars out on the road, and matches his guitar playing with a great voice.
1 pm | Moreland & Arbuckle This is a clear nod to low-fi country blues. They’re a fuzzy sounding three-piece with lots of buzzy energy onstage. Word is the band is breaking up, so this is your only chance to see them in town.
3 pm | Mr. Sipp seems to be filling the “traditional blues” slot, but he’s more than that—a lot of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, but also quite a bit of Stevie Wonder. He’s the artist many blues fans are really looking forward to see live.
5 pm | Mike Zito is the Southern-rock-meets-blues guy for the day. Where Mike stands out is his clear, awesome love of modern country music but with enough blues to give you something to dance to.
7 pm | Samantha Fish This dual threat is a straight ahead ripper on guitar—her playing is just amazing. Lately she has added a real element to her singing and stepped up her game. You might think of her as a sort of torching singing Stevie Ray Vaughn.
9 pm | Tab Benoit The iconic Benoit returns to Wausau, and closes the fest with his shuffling New Orleans blues. It has been a few years, and Tab has a new band, and from his record a new love of the grooves. It will be a real treat to have this legend come back.
Jazz on the River: Denise Sauter and Riverlife Illumination
Sunday 8/20 | Plaza behind Library and Riverlife area, Wausau
The Jazz on the River series continues this Sunday with Wausau singer Denise Sauter and her band playing their eclectic mix of great jazz standards plus more contemporary sounds of Norah Jones and Sting. Bring chairs, tables, and picnics to the new stage behind the library to hear her perform (rain location: Wausau Center Mall.)
After the concert, head down the Rivers Edge Trail to the gorgeous new pedestrian-bike bridge in what the city now has dubbed the “Riverlife” area. Join Mayor Robert Mielke and others in a grand opening type event when they’ll activate the waterfall, fire pit and showcase the newly completed landscaping, bridge and wharf lighting features. This area has been under construction for the past year, so check out the beautifully finished area. Jazz 5-7 pm; illumination 8 pm. Wausauriverdistrict.com, 715-261-6800.