For the past 14 years, one event has filled the air in downtown Visalia with the sounds of rocking tunes, the scents of ales poured fresh from the tap and a sizzling hot grill.
Most, if not all Visalians, are familiar with it. It's Blues, Brews & BBQ, and it's returning once again at 6 p.m. Friday, April 1, to Garden Street Plaza in downtown Visalia.
The free event remains a highlight throughout the summer season. It brings together not only the best blues bands but the community itself. All proceeds go to the Visalia Emergency Aid Council to aid in their effort to feed, clothe, and provide housing for families in need in Tulare County.
Event promoter Bruce Bucz, the man responsible for starting Blues, Brews & BBQ, is returning after a three-year hiatus.
“I’m coming back to help freshen it up and give it a new look,” he said. “Some guys have played over and over, and my plan for the next couple years is to mix it up a bit and bring in acts that we maybe don’t ever get a chance to see because they only play in LA or San Francisco.”
The first act scheduled for Friday, April 1, is the Shari Puorto Band. The band has toured together since the 1990s and have shared the stage with the likes of other blues legends such as Tab Benoit, Jimmy Vivino, Tommy Castro, Johnny Winter, Dave Mason, among many others.
"We know how to bring an audience together and allow them to feel something deep within their souls they never thought existed." Shari Puorto said in her press statement.
Puorto's music is the perfect opening act for Blues, Brews & BBQ, Bucz said.
“She travels all over the country,” Bucz said. “She has some very extensive track records for opening up for some pretty big acts and she has great reviews for her album coming up. So we’re looking forward to having her open the season for us.”
The season includes a concert on the first Friday of every month from April to September.
The full schedule includes blues bands from both near and far:
- Shari Puorto Band performing April 1
- Blue Collar Men: A Tribute to STYX and Great Rocks Classics on May 20
- Brad Wilson on June 3
- Glen Delpit & the Subterraneans Jon on July 8
- John Clifon Band on Aug. 5
- AJM Band on Sept. 9.
For Bucz one of the biggest highlights isn’t on bringing the blues, but the rock and roll.
“I’m trying something a little bit different for the month May where I booked a really great STYX cover band from the Bay Area,” he said. “They play a good hour and a half of Styx music and then they go into classic rock hits. We’re real excited about that one.”
The Sacramento-based band has taken the greatest STYX hits across the country along with the hits of other great bands from the same era including Journey, Kansas, REO Speedwagon, and many others.
It’s a bit of a switch considering that the blues tend to end up with toes tapping rather than tossing up the sign of the horns to keep rocking on.
In the same way, though the variation in mixing up the usually expected track list of blues tunes also extends to the food, which this year guests can expect to come from a popular downtown food vendor just next door to Garden Street Plaza.
“This year we’re featuring food from Dickey’s BBQ from downtown Visalia, which is a first for us,” Bucz said. “I’m working out a system where people can come to Blues and Brews and place an order and then be served by Dickeys.”
Currently, Bucz is working also to improve the seating area of Garden Street Plaza by providing upgraded tables and chairs.
But despite all of the new sights and smells expected, it’s the sound of the blues that still takes precedent.
“I’m just proud of the quality of talent we have playing this year,” he said. “We’re really excited.”
How to attend
Shari Puorto Band headline Blues, Brews & BBQ at 6 p.m. Friday at The Garden Street Plaza. Admission is free. Food and drink are available for purchase. For more information contact: 732-0101
Blues Brews & BBQ 2016 Schedule:
- April 1: Shari Puorto Band
- May 20: Blue Collar Men: A Tribute to STYX and Great Rock Classics
- June 3: Brad Wilson
- July 8: Glen Delpit & the Subterraneans
- Aug. 5: John Clifton Band
- Sept. 9: AJM Band