Change aplenty for 2023 Limestone City Blues Festival

This year’s Limestone City Blues Festival features some exciting new changes for its 26th edition. Photo via Downtown Kingston BIA.

In just over one week’s time, the Limestone City Blues Festival returns to Kingston, as some of the biggest names in blues descend on the city’s downtown core for four days of live music and late-summer fun. The festival, which runs August 24 to 27, 2023, features a line-up of over two dozen performers, some of whom have come from as far away as the southern United States to take part in the annual celebration of blues music. 

For its 26th edition, organizers with the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area (BIA) have put together a stacked lineup, with blues industry stalwarts performing alongside up-and-coming acts, and plenty of local talent as well. While this year’s festival features a wide range of blues offerings over the four days, organizers have also branched out to include other genres, with several local rock bands invited to take part for the very first time. 

According to Jan McDonald, Director of Events for the Downtown Kingston BIA, organizers made the decision to add more variety to this year’s lineup after observing changes among festivalgoers over the past few years. “We’ve realized that [with] our audiences, the demographic is still the same, but the number of people is shrinking over time. [This year] we’re widening our scope musically for the festival,” she said of the move to add some rock and country bands to a festival that has traditionally been blues-centric. 

Kingston’s The Codas are among several local rock bands taking part in this year’s Limestone City Blues Festival. Photo via The Codas.

McDonald added, “We’re expanding and opening [the festival] up more. We’re excited [to have] bands like Oakridge Ave., The Codas, and Nice On; bands that appeal to a bit of a younger crowd.” The majority of local artists will be performing on the Confederation Park Stage, including The Codas, who will play on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 5 p.m.

According to Angus Fay of The Codas, the local rock outfit was thrilled to receive an invitation to take part in this year’s festival. “Jan just offered us the opportunity, which is really sweet… I was actually planning on being out of town for that date, but we moved some things around because we’re not going to say no to playing Limestone City Blues Festival. It’s a really great thing happening in the city,” he said. 

The Coda’s Blues Festival set will cap off a busy spring and summer for the group, as they continue to work on a forthcoming EP. “From April onward we were playing shows pretty heavily, and that led to a weekend in the studio to embed tracks for our new EP. And then we’ve kind of just been focusing on that record, doing vocal production for it and whatnot,” Fay remarked. Expect The Codas to play some new material when they hit the stage next weekend. 

While bands like The Codas and Oakridge Ave. will provide some local rock flare, festival goers will still find plenty of high-calibre blues acts; the performers that have kept the festival afloat for close to three decades. Among this year’s headliners is Jeremie Albino, a native of nearby Prince Edward County, whose unique blend of blues, folk, Americana, and country has allowed him to make a name for himself as one of Canada’s hottest emerging artists. 

After releasing his debut album Hard Time in 2019, Albino found success on the Americana circuit in the United States before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. With live performances put on hold for what felt like an indefinite period of time, Albino kept working on new music, as he released two EPs in 2021 and 2022, before putting out his sophomore record Tears You Hide in early 2023. 

“It’s been a lot of work. I put down my first record at the end of 2019, and then I toured a lot right after I put it out. Then the pandemic kind of shook everyone, and I managed [to keep on] trekking and put out a record basically every year, which I’m really proud of. I’m really fortunate to have had some really good opportunities come my way,” Albino said of his career thus far. 

As an artist whose music spans multiple genres, Albino is the perfect choice for a festival looking to find a balance between traditional blues music and other styles. According to the performer, blues is at the heart of nearly all other forms of music. “I feel like blues might just be the root of a lot of music that I make, and that other people make, even without them knowing it. Blues is the root of rock and roll, [it’s] the root of folk music, country music… It all kind of started, not exactly from blues, but all these things are connected,” he said. 

Jeremie Albino of Prince Edward County will play the festival on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 9 p.m. Photo via Jeremie Albino.

Albino said he’s looking forward to playing the famed Limestone City Blues Festival for the first time in his career. “I’ve only played Kingston two or three times… it’s always been a really good time, the shows are really fun… and it’s always just a really good audience. I’m looking forward to playing downtown.”

Aside from the move to include artists of different musical genres, this year’s festival will also have a bit of a different look compared to previous editions. For the first time in its 26-year history, the majority of the 2023 Limestone City Blues Festival will take place at Springer Market Square, with co-headliner Roosevelt Collier getting things started on August 25, at 9 p.m. “The Blues Festival has always been Friday night in the Hub, and Saturday night at Market Square,” remarked McDonald. However, after new regulations were introduced for the mobile staging the festival uses, organizers were unable to move the stage from one venue to another over the course of the weekend. 

Instead, both headlining shows will occur in Springer Market Square on Friday and Saturday nights, with additional performances throughout the weekend in Confederation Park. On top of the venue change, this year’s festival will also feature a licensed area for the first time, allowing concertgoers to purchase alcoholic beverages from local breweries. “We’re working with The Caeser Company, Mackinnon Brothers, Fine Balance, and Something in the Water, who will be there Friday and Saturday evenings. We’re also bringing in food vendors for the areas as well. It certainly won’t be the whole area, but a significant portion of the area will be licensed,” McDonald said. 

Local vendors will also be on display in Confederation Park all weekend, as the crew from Kingston Holiday Market brings artists and artisans to the park from 12 to 6 p.m. daily. According to the BIA’s Events Coordinator Sandi Griffiths, the changes and additions present a “new territory” for organizers. “With the changes we’re putting in place for Blues Festival, it’s new territory for us… We’ve changed things up, looking at the licensed area, market vendors, and stage regulations, it’s kind of a brave new world for us, as well, to learn all of these new things,” she said. 

While change is aplenty at this year’s festival, Griffiths noted the event is still committed to its standing as one of the most popular authentic blues festivals in the area. “It’s a gradual shift, and we’re still loyal to the history of the festival. It’s always going to have a blues component.” 

The 2023 Limestone City Blues Festival officially kicks off Thursday, August 24 at 2 p.m. in Confederation Park, with Quebec’s Durham County Poets capping off the first day of music with a free show in the park at 8 p.m. While Confederation Park Stage performances are free all weekend, a $25 festival wristband unlocks all Market Square shows, as well as the popular late-night Blues in the Clubs series. 

Festival wristbands can be purchased online. New for 2023, organizers will also be offering a one-day wristband, available exclusively for Saturday night in Market Square. The $20, Saturday-only pass, can also be purchased online. More information, including a detailed festival schedule, can be found on the BIA’s website

Leave a Reply

You cannot copy content from this page, please share the link instead!