The 25th anniversary of the longest running blues fest in Wisconsin is no time to change things up. It’s time to bring back beloved acts to give people what they’ve screamed for. Wausau Events has done that with a familiar, all great lineup—from international stars to regional and local favorites.
All music happens rain or shine under the big tent on Fern Island Park, Wausau. You’ll find a multitude of food, drink and merchandise vendors. Bring a chair if you plan to stay awhile, or come and go as you please. It’s open to all ages.
Friday Aug. 19
Big N Tasty (5 pm) This Green Bay band is a traditionalist dream. Straight ahead, entertaining as can be, and seriously in touch with the form. Hear good playing all around, with some highlights in their harmonica work.
Big Bull All Stars (7 pm) The flyers point to local favorites John Altenburgh, Otis McLennon, Mitch Viegut and Chris “Cuda” O’Keefe. But if you’ve seen Altenburgh and Viegut recently you know the stage likely will be filled by musicians from their large, longtime network. Expect a good time for all.
Guitar Shorty (9 pm) I once saw Shorty do a back flip on stage wearing a purple suit. The last time he was here he leaped over the barrier and into the crowd. He’s a blues legend, and Jimi Hendrix reportedly called Shorty one of his main influences. To this day, Shorty’s guitar riffs are famously intense and off the wall.
Saturday Aug. 20
Renee Austin (1 pm). Renee headlined festivals around the Midwest for years. She’s been compared to Janis Joplin and Tina Turner—with an incredible five-octave range. Austin’s singing has become richer over the past few years and a lot jazzier, and will prove a smooth way to open the day.
Mathew Skollar (3 pm) This harmonica star brings a lot of Chicago style and boogie jazz to the stage.
Tommy Castro (5 pm) His Blues Fest fans here are passionate, because he performs a rip-roaring show of soulful gritty blues. He’s a powerful guitar slinger, and this set is sure to please.
John Mayall (7 pm) This icon, this “Godfather of British Blues” has trained and fostered the greats (Eric Clapton) and tons of players (Coco Montoya and Walter Trout). His style of ripping English blues carries just enough rock and traditional to keep it going. Mayall is a headliner all to himself.
Elvin Bishop (9 pm) Elvin Bishop is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Boom. A founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, he has played with everyone, has done everything. Bishop gained fame for his feel-good, down-home blues-rock fun. His 1976 pop hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” appears in the Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy. His voice is iconic, his guitar playing is elite—a perfect wrap for the 25th anniversary of Blues Fest.
Two-day general admission $45 in advance, $50 at gate. Friday only $15. Saturday only $40 in advance, $45 at gate. VIP tickets sold out. Buy advance tickets at WausauEvents.org or call 877-220-7340 • No carry-ins, but you may bring a cooler for ice and a lawn chair (recommended). Must show ID to purchase alcohol.