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Rich Harper rocks the Hilton at last year's show

Phuket Blues Rock Festival: February 19-22

Friday, February 13, 2009
WITH THE global economic downturn making inroads on Phuket's island idyll, more people are singing the blues these days.

The Phuket International Blues Rock Festival is therefore coming just in the nick of time.

The live music festival is sure to bring some uplift to island residents and visitors with a four-day celebration of live music starting on February 19.

Organizer Andy Andersen says that a record number of 13 acts will take the stage at the main event February 20 and 21 at the Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa in Karon Beach, including headliner Eric Bibb, a contemporary blues artist from New York.

On both evenings, gates open at 5pm and the show begins at 6.15pm.

Tickets are 800 baht per night, 1200 baht for both nights or 3000 baht for VIP passes, available at the door or in advance at locations listed on the event website.

Other bands set to play are the Rich Harper Blues Band from the US, Mitch Woods & his Rocket 88s (USA), Bert Deivert & Janne Zander (Sweden), KNIKI (Australia), Jimi Hendrix tribute band Chasing Jimi (USA), The Blues Machine (Pattaya), Cannonball (Bangkok), The Groove Doctors (Phuket), George Cordeiro (USA) and the Fai Jang Blues Gang, Li'l Willie (UK) & Ko (Samui), Sam Wilko Band (Phuket) and Corinne Gibbons (Australia).

There will also be special jam sessions with free entry before and after the main festival.

On February 19 at 10pm, Rockin' Angels Jammin' Cafe on Yaowarat Road in Phuket City will host a 'warm-up' show.

On February 22, there will be a jam session starting at 6.30pm at Royal Phuket Marina's Town Square, followed by a show starting at 10pm at the Flamingo Splash Lounge Music Club in Kata Beach.

Four bands, including Rich Harper, are scheduled to play the post-event shows.

Andy recommends getting to the jam sessions early as the smaller venues are expected to fill up quickly.

The festival itself has felt the pinch of the economic crunch this year, with sponsors pulling out and funding down by 1.2 million baht over last year's event, Andy says.

The Hilton has kept its strong commitment, Andy says, providing some 1 million baht's worth of services, food and accommodation for the event.

Visiting bands are putting on the shows for little or no money, he says, as they welcome the chance to visit Phuket and help raise funds for charity.

Andy, a former United Airlines pilot who retired to Phuket in 2004, launched the blues festival in December 2005 to offer the island a "positive event" on the one-year anniversary of the tsunami.

The festival's aim is to raise funds to support Phuket International Women's Club education programs, but each year since its start a number of blues-worthy events have kept it from being profitable.

Unseasonal rains struck one event a few years ago, then last year the performances fell on the same weekend as local elections, meaning alcohol could not be sold.

Organizers ended up giving beer away to avoid any problems, but Andy says the alcohol ban kept many people from coming.

Despite the difficulties, Andy remains upbeat that this year's show will be a success, crediting a much better marketing effort to get the word out in advance.

"The show must go on," he says.

Sponsorship and schedule information available at www.phuketbluesfestival.com

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