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Chase Those Blues Away

by Mark Wright
photos courtesy of Blues at the Crossroads

According to Wikipedia (yeah, I know it’s not a scholarly source, but this is not a research paper), the crossroads of America is an intersection in Terre Haute, Indiana.

“At about the same time [1926, when U. S. highway 40 was named The National Road], U. S. Highway 41 was commissioned between Chicago, Illinois, and Miami, Florida. This north-south highway through downtown Terre Haute followed Seventh Street at the time, and met U.S. 40, which followed Wabash Avenue, the main east-west street in town. The Seventh and Wabash intersection thus became known as the ‘Crossroads of America,’ an appellation now memorialized with a historical marker at that corner” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossroads_of_America).

Something else now memorializes that particular intersection: The

Blues at the Crossroads—one of Terre Haute’s most popular events. It’s been happening every September for the last 14 years. And this year, on Friday and Saturday, the 11th and 12th of September, once again Terre Haute will be the place to be for a rocking, bluesy good time.

In this 15th edition, nineteen bands will appear on two stages, one outdoors in the middle of the intersection, and the other inside the Verve, a couple of doors down. Seven or eight thousand (let’s hope for ten thousand) people will be dancing, drinking, sitting in lawn chairs in the middle of the street, wandering in and out of the Verve, and having a great time. It’s quite a party. A new wrinkle this year is a “silent disco” tent, which will offer those who like to dance a venue in which they can put on headphones and shake it all night long. And Saturday from 5:00 to 7:00 will be a “kid-friendly” version.

Connie Wrin, owner of the Verve, is the driving force of the festival, a job that comes from her heart. “At first it was just a little street party in front of The Verve, but it caught on, and five or six years into it I decided to start a non-profit so I could get some sponsorship and help it grow.”

An interesting mix of performers grace this year’s stages, varying from some relatively big-name acts such as Samantha Fish, Freekbass, and Jeremiah Johnson, to some local and regional bands that frequent The Verve. Connie invites bands based on past performances and what she thinks the crowd will like, and she has a pretty good sense of that. “There are a couple of acts I have special ties to,” she smiles. One is Indianapolis-based Travis Feaster, who has been a part of The Verve practically since it opened and he was a young, beginning musician. “He is like family. I think he did his first gig here.” Another sentimental favorite is Jazz Metamorphosis, whose members started getting together as youngsters and playing informal sessions at the Verve shortly after it opened in 2001. Most have moved away, but they return every year for a reunion gig to close the Verve show on Saturday night. That makes Connie smile.

Photo provided by Blues at the Crossroads.
Photo provided by Blues at the Crossroads.

This year promises to be special. Here is the schedule for Friday the 11th:

Main Stage

Nation Anthem by Rondrell Moore @ 6:15 p.m.

Henthorn/Feaster @ 6:30 p.m.

Blind Mississippi Morris @ 8:00 p.m.

Mike Milligan and Steam Shovel @ 9:30 p.m.

Midnight Motive @ 11:00 p.m.

Verve Stage

ToeKnee Tea @ 7:00 p.m.

War Radio @ 9:00 p.m.

Lou Shields @ 11:00 p.m.

Photo provided by Blues at the Crossroads.
Photo provided by Blues at the Crossroads.

On Saturday the 12th:

Main Stage

National Anthem by Sycamore Singers @ 3:15 p.m.

Guitar Club @ 3:30 p.m.

Moonshine Junction @ 4:00 p.m.

Eric Steckel @ 5:30 p.m.

Tweed Funk @ 7:00 p.m.

Samantha Fish @ 8:30 p.m.

The Jeremiah Johnson Band @ 10:00 p.m.

Freekbass @ 11:30 p.m.

Verve Stage

Hannah Aldridge @ 4:00 p.m.

The Drifter Kings @ 6:00 p.m.

Crowe Committee @ 8:00 p.m.

White Light Revival @ 10:00 p.m.

Jazz Metamorphosis @ midnight

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This is one massive undertaking. I asked Connie how she deals with the myriad of problems that inevitably arise. “There is always a solution for everything. I can’t let that bother me.” She does sometimes regret having to deal with complainers. “People will gripe about the bands, about having to pay admission, about the crowds, about how much money I make. “ Yes, it costs ten dollars to get in. Wow. Connie lays out somewhere around a hundred thousand dollars just to get the event going each year. Bands are all paid, equipment rented, insurance purchased. If she is lucky, the few thousand she might end up with will be distributed to several community organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club, the Red Cross, the Community School for the Arts at ISU, and Catholic Charities.   “This is not about money, and I hate even talking about what we do with it.” She is not one to toot her own horn. So I will: few know that after Hurricane Katrina hit, she arranged for a couple of trucks, filled them with water and diapers and supplies, and drove one of them to Louisiana herself, using some of the little money from that year’s festival.

It’s going to be a blast. And if you look closely, you‘ll see Connie Wrin standing off by herself somewhere. “I love standing back and finding a little spot somewhere and watching people have a great time. That’s the most fun I have.”

Check out more info at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blues-at-the-Crossroads/134825183529?fref=ts

Photo provided by Blues at the Crossroads.
Photo provided by Blues at the Crossroads.

About Mark Wright

After almost 40 years teaching high school English—most of them at South Vermillion—Wright now teaches composition part time at ISU. A member of the Wabash Valley Musicians’ Hall of Fame, Wright and his Band—The Crowe Committee—have become a popular attraction in the Terre Haute music scene.

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