Limestone City Blues Festival returns to mark 25th year

This year’s Limestone City Blues Festival features performances from (L-R) Dione Taylor, Crystal Shawanda, and Albert Cummings. Photo via Downtown Kingston.

This coming weekend, a popular summer tradition returns to downtown Kingston, as the 25th Limestone City Blues Festival takes place from August 25 to 28, 2022. Event organizers are promising “four days of head-bopping, hip-shaking, foot-tapping entertainment,” as award-winning musicians from all over North America descend on Kingston for the festival.

“It’s just fun,” says Downtown Kingston’s Jan MacDonald, Artistic Director of the event. “As soon as the stage starts to go up, you can feel the energy. It’s a great way to close out the summer.” 

This year’s event is the first full-scale running of the festival since 2019. In 2020, organizers were forced to cancel due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A scaled-down version of the festival was held last August, with two days of concerts featuring an all-Canadian lineup. This year, the event is back at full capacity, with three nights of headline concerts, as well as live music in Confederation Park and select downtown clubs. 

The festival officially kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, with a full afternoon of music set for Confederation Park. At 8:00 p.m., featured performer Dione Taylor hits the stage. Taylor is a Canadian singer/songrwriter from Saskatchewan who has performed in front of both former U.S. President George W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth II. Her most recent album, Spirits in the Water, was nominated for Blues Album of the Year at the 2021 Juno Awards.   

Friday night will see the festival journey up Princess Street, with a stage in the Metro parking lot. Juno nominee JW-Jones will kick things off at 7 p.m., before the evening’s headliner, Crystal Shawanda, starts her set at 8. Shawanda, an award-winning Ojibwe blues artist, says she’s “super excited” to be making her Limestone City Blues Festival debut next weekend. 

As for what audiences can expect during Shawanda’s set, the singer says, “It’s an emotional roller coaster ride — a little bit of everything. Very high energy. You know, songs that make you want to dance and songs that make you want to cry, but you’re gonna leave feeling a whole lot better.”

Last year, Shawanda took home the Juno for Best Blues Album, with her sixth record Church House Blues. This September, the artist will release her seventh studio recording, Midnight Blues, the lead single of which ‘How Bad Do You Want It,’ and is available on streaming services now. 

Shawanda’s latest single, ‘How Bad Do You Want It,’ was released earlier this year. Video via Crystal Shawanda on YouTube.

Shawanda says part of the album was inspired by her band’s experiences during the early days of the pandemic, including the song ‘Take a Little Walk With the Moon.’

“That’s actually something we used to do every day. We were in Nashville, [and the state of Tennessee had surpassed] 25,000 [COVID-19] cases… so we wouldn’t go out during the day,” the songstress shares.

“We waited until the sun had set and there weren’t as many people.” 

The title for the song was inspired by her child, Shawanda says, noting, “My daughter said, ‘Mommy, let’s take a little walk with the moon.’ So we wrote that song, and it just kind of talks about us taking refuge in the night.”  

As for what it means to be performing again after the pandemic shut down performances for close to two years, Shawanda says the experience has been “amazing.”

“The fans have been incredible. Every show, you know, it’s been either sold out or standing room only, and the excitement is natural,” she says

“The fans are excited to be back and we, as musicians, are so grateful to be back… it’s been really awesome.”

Market Square is the place to be Saturday night, as decorated American musician Albert Cummings hits the stage at 9 p.m. Cummings has released nine studio albums throughout his career, including 10, which came out earlier this year. Several special guests will get things started on Saturday, with The Jerome Tucker Band performing at 7 p.m., ahead of HOROJO Trio at 8 p.m. 

The music keeps going all three nights after the main stage shows wrap up, with Blues in the Clubs featuring about a dozen performances at local bars. Sunday will then see a full day of free shows at Confederation Park, as the 2022 Limestone City Blues Festival comes to a close.

Audience members will need to purchase a festival pass in order to access the main stage shows, as well as club performances. Passes can be purchased for $20 in advance or $25 at the gate (both at outdoor shows and at shows in local bars), and are good for all four days of performances. 

Aside from the electrifying blues music, organizers have also lined up some food and merchandise options for festival attendees. Throughout the entire festival, many downtown restaurants will be participating in Homegrown Blues Food, offering up special “southern-style” menus. According to organizers, “Patrons can dine on everything from fried okra tacos to oyster po’ boys and buttermilk fried chicken sandwiches.” The specialty menus will be offered from 5 p.m. daily. 

And to mark a quarter century of the Festival bring thousands to downtown Kingston, organizers will also be selling a special 25th anniversary T-shirt throughout the weekend, featuring headliners from previous Limestone City Blues Festivals. 

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