The city of Clearwater's parks and rec department has produced the Knology Clearwater Sea Blues Festival since it debuted in 2006, and I gotta say I'm pretty damned impressed. The more than 20 hours of live music over three days features a strong lineup of performers from the blues and blues-related genres. One thing the fest is not is a succession of Strat-stranglin' Chicago-style blues guitar players. Nothing wrong with that stuff (for the most part) but hour after hour of it gets tedious. Friday night headliner (9 p.m.) Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes (see feature story) hail from the same Jersey shore stomping grounds as Bruce Springsteen, but bring a much more horn-heavy, R&B feel. They're one of the best bar bands you'll ever see. Lil Ed & the Blues Imperials (Sat., 6:45 p.m.) play such a loose, raucous brand of the blues you'd swear they were raised on The Ramones. Jonny Lang, at 28 a 10-year recording veteran, combines a variety of talents, among them a facility for blue-eyed soul belting and sizzling guitar solos. Singer/harmonica man John Nemeth (Sat., 4:45 p.m.) mixes suave with heat. Leggy Marcia Ball (Sun., 4:30 p.m.), a longtime regular on area stages, always delivers a rousing, boogie-driven show. Lil' Malcolm totes his accordion from Lake Charles, La. along with his band the Houserockers to serve up a helping of zydeco (Fri., 7 p.m.) That's just a sampling: Go to clearwaterseablues.com for the full lineup.
Knology Clearwater Sea Blues Festival '09 w/Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes/Jonny Lang/Elvin Bishop/Marcia Ball/Lil Ed & the Blues Imperials/John Nemeth/others Fri., Feb. 20, Sat., Feb. 21, Sun., Feb. 22, Coachman Park, Clearwater. Free general admission (VIP tickets available).