Since its modest beginning in the parking lot of the Rex eight years ago, the Magic City Blues Festival has continued to grow in size. Now, the festival includes 12 bands across two stages — one in the middle of Montana Avenue — and closes traffic to Montana Avenue between North 23rd and 25th streets for the weekend.
This year’s event features headliners Little Feat, an eclectic jam band that fuses rock, funk and boogie, on Friday night, and rock/blues band Los Lonely Boys on Saturday.
“We’ve got really great bands on both stages, probably our strongest lineup across the board that we’ve had,” said event promoter Tim Goodrich, who is particularly excited to see Little Feat. Formed in the late 1960s by legendary rock musician Lowell George and acclaimed piano rock and blues musician Bill Payne, Little Feat rose from George’s exit from Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. Kicked out of the band, he approached Payne to start a funky fusion band rooted in blues, jazz and folk.
Though traditionally held the weekend of MontanaFair, Magic City Blues Festival never seems to lack for crowds.
“It’s never been an issue for us,” Goodrich said. “I’m sure there’s some overlap, but not much. We really draw a lot of people from out of town.”
Goodrich notes he’s sold tickets to people living as far away as Florida, Texas, California, Washington and even Canada to attend the two-night outdoor event, taking place Friday and Saturday on Montana Avenue.
“It’s really surprising to me, but the thing about Montana is that it’s a destination already,” Goodrich said.
MontanaFair concerts that directly compete with the Blues Fest are gospel performers The Gaither Vocal Band, performing at the Rimrock Auto Arena on Friday, and country star Trace Adkins’ performance Saturday.
The fair’s largest acts take the stage Sunday and Monday, leaving Blues Fest attendees a few hours of recuperation if taking in Grammy-winning artist Peter Frampton Aug. 9 or pop superstar Kelly Clarkson Aug. 10.
The Magic City Blues festival features two stages of blues and rock acts. For the full lineup, see the Insider Calendar in this issue.
Stage set-up begins Friday morning, and all bands are expected to perform. Montana Avenue is closed to motor vehicle traffic between North 23rd and 25th streets starting at 9 a.m. Friday and reopens Sunday at noon.
Yellowstone Public Radio will conduct a live broadcast from the festival on Friday evening, but due to staffing constraints, will not broadcast the Saturday concerts.
General admission tickets, costing $40 in advance and $45 at the gate, are available for both nights, and reserved tables are still available for Friday evening. Tickets are available by phone at 670-2329, online at www.magiccityblues.com, at Holiday gas stations in Billings, or at the Rimrock Mall ticket counter. Patrons must be 21 or older to attend the event.