Blues festivals amp up in Idaho and Montana

The blues trail returns with festivals in five towns this summer

On Stage

After a pandemic lapse, blues festivals are back in July and August, beginning with the Historic Wallace Blues Festival, July 8-10. Also on tap are festivals in Noxon, Hot Springs, Libby and Billings.

Anni Piper, dubbed Australia's First Lady of the Blues, comes to Libby for Riverfront Blues.
Anni Piper, dubbed Australia’s First Lady of the Blues, comes to Libby for Riverfront Blues Festival.

Wallace, the historic mining town just over Lookout Pass in Idaho, offers a great venue for the blues, with its gritty history and friendly, walkable downtown. After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the eighth Historic Wallace Blues Festival features nearly 15 acts on three stages. Named “Best Blues Event” by the Inland Empire Blues Society five times, the gathering brings rocking blues to two stages on downtown streets, while a beer garden showcases acoustic talent from around the region.

Taking turns on Saturday’s Main Stage are MoneyPenny (from Montana), Coyote Kings with Tiphony Dames and Diego Romero, Polly O’Keary and the Rhythm Method, Joel Astley and the Second Hand and the Daniel Castro Band. The showcase wraps up from 10 p.m.-midnight with the Sammy Eubanks All Star Jam.

Other performers include Justyn Priest, Casey Ryan, Rusty and Ginger (featuring vocalist Sara Brown), the Doghouse Boyz, Dr. Phil and The Enablers and Kosta La Vista. Sunday’s Blues Breakfast at the Elks features Tina Bailey from Phoenix.

Friday is free, with blues fans meandering between venues to catch a variety of acts. Admission Saturday is $30-$50, with VIP tickets for $200 (limited to 50).

Montana Blues Festivals

Montana is home to four blues fests this summer (that we know of):

Symes Hot Springs Blues Festival, July 22-23 in Hot Springs: the 11th annual festival, hosted by the Symes Hotel, features music on Friday evening by the Kenny James Miller Band and Full Grown Band. The Saturday lineup includes The Millionaires, The Wolf Tones, and Mudslide Charley.

Big Sky Blues Festival, Aug. 5-7 in Noxon: The 11th annual festival brings a dozen bands to Pilgrim Creek Park along the shores of the Clark Fork River. The weekend line-up includes David Raitt and The Baja Boogie Band, Eddie Turner, the Kenny James Miller Band, Tullie Brae, the Rae Gordon Band, Jimmy Lane, the Cary Fly Band, Bobby Patterson and The Two Tones, Brad “Guitar” Wilson Trio, Larry Taylor and Jan Harrison.
Free music workshops for youngsters are on tap Saturday and Sunday mornings; and camping and vendors add to the fun. The festival closes Sunday with an all-star jam.

Magic City Blues, Aug. 5-6 in Billings: Now in its 21st year, the urban music festival brings top-notch talent to MetraPark, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Whiskey Myers, St. Paul and The Broken Bones, Shane Smith and The Saints, Amythyst Kiah, Robert Finley, Jon Cleary, 49 Winchester, Eddie 9V, King Solomon Hicks, the Laurie Morvan Band, Ben Rice Band and the Soul Funk Collective.

Riverfront Blues Festival: Aug. 12-13 in Libby: The 13th blues bash at Riverfront Park spans a wide range of blues styles. The festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday, with music by Blue Shadows, Anni Piper, and the Tas Cru Band. The rockin’ blues fest resumes at 1 p.m. Saturday with Johnny Long, Dirty Red and the Soul Shakers, Jay Snow and the Tonekeepers, Ben Rice and Duffy Bishop, wrapping up with the All-Star Jam.