Friends Of Downtown Revives Retired Jazz And Blues Festival

Jul 25, 2019

Credit Star City Blues and Jazz /Facebook/ https://www.facebook.com/events/1091817474341618/

A rebirth of the late Uptown Jazz and Blues Festival will make its debut this weekend in downtown Lafayette. Friends of Downtown’s development of the Star City Blues and Jazz Festival could fill a void in the Lafayette festival scene.

Two years have passed since Greater Lafayette Commerce’s decision to retire two summer staples -- Dancing and Cruising in the Streets and the Uptown Jazz and Blues Festival.

The decision, still confusing to many, was not forgotten by members of the community.

Friends of Downtown President Ken McCammon says he got numerous requests for the creation of a festival similar to Uptown Jazz and Blues since the event’s 2017 cancellation.

“A lot of people would attend it every year and enjoyed it, and it was just like something taken away from the community when it got stopped," McCammon says.

Friends of Downtown also organizes the monthly Mosey Down Main Street events, as well as Beers Across the Wabash, and McCammon says members were initially unsure about committing to another event. However, a late-night bar conversation became the final nudge McCammon says was needed to begin making plans for the first Star City Blues and Jazz Festival.

Though the new festival will have many qualities similar to Uptown Jazz and Blues, it’ll only host local musicians this year. McCammon says avoiding the costs of booking large acts allows the first-year budget some flexibility.

“The difference is that, rather than bringing in bands from all over the country and paying big, big bucks to get them, we decided to stay local and try to get it back on its feet," McCammon says.

One of those local acts is the Scott Pazera Implosion, whose members are a rotating collection of whoever Pazera can find to jam with.

Pazera says he hopes the festival will invigorate locals who’d like more, similar music to be performed in Greater Lafayette. But he says the audience is only so big.

"It makes it sound like I'm saying Lafayette has like way too many cultural options, which I don't think it does. There's definitely enough going on, but there's only so many people that are able and do support it and it's hard to kind of make them come to every event," Pazera says.

Because of the festival’s infancy, McCammon says the best indicator of whether it’ll become an annual event is the size of the crowd.

“If we had 3,000 people show up, we’d have the money that we need to expand it next year. We need about half of that to break even,” McCammon says.

Bill Brose of the band Uncle Buck believes the festival could further the revitalization of downtown that began with the first Mosey Down Main Street twelve years ago.

“In order to have a vibrant business scene and a restaurant scene, you gotta put some effort into your downtown, and I know that Ken and those guys on the committee -- girls, whatever -- put a lot of effort into downtown,” Brose says.

Although Friends of Downtown has restarted a jazz and blues festival, requests to recover the canceled Dancing and Cruising in the Streets will go unfulfilled for now. McCammon says the organization may consider it in the future.

“We do have too much on our plate to take on that festival. Maybe down the road once this one gets established we could bring something like that back, but for the time being we have enough to do,” McCammon says.

The Star City Blues and Jazz Festival will feature performances on two stages from 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday in downtown Lafayette on 5th St. between Main and Colombia.