Bill Sims Jr. Courtesy photo


Bloomington devotees of boogie-woogie, a hard-driving, uniquely American blues piano style, can immerse themselves in the music come August at the second annual Bloomington Boogies: Blues and Boogie Woogie Piano Festival.

Festival organizer and performer Craig Brenner says the first Bloomington Boogies event in 2015 drew a beyond-capacity crowd to its main attraction — a concert at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center featuring blues piano artists from the Cincy Blues Fest in Cincinnati, Ohio, held the same weekend. Brenner, a veteran of the Bloomington music scene and a nationally known boogie-woogie performer, had played at the Cincy festival and built a network of blues players who agreed to come to Bloomington when their gigs there ended.

With initial grant funding, Brenner began tapping that artist network. Headliners returning from 2015 include Bob Seeley, an internationally renowned boogie-woogie proponent, and Mark Braun from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Artists appearing for the first time this year include pianists Cynthia Girtley and Ricky Nye; zydeco accordionist and pianist Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes; guitarist Bill Sims Jr.; and New Orleans percussionist Alfred “Uganda” Roberts.

The August 14 festival kicks off at 1 p.m. at The Waldron, 122 S. Walnut, and will include outdoor performances, weather permitting. Food and beer vendors will be on-site. A free “after hours” event, set to begin at 8 p.m., will feature concert artists jamming at Malibu Grill, 106 N. Walnut. Attendee players can sit in at the piano as well.

There also is a free concert for students at Templeton Elementary on August 15 and a piano workshop for young players interested in the blues.

The 2015 festival was a box office success. “We sold out in advance — some people showed up at The Waldron upstairs without tickets, and they had to be turned away,” Brenner says. “But they were welcome at the after-hours concert at Malibu Grill.”

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