Bluesfest jams into 15th year

Photo courtesy of Ray Mulvey
The 15th annual Bluesfest, aka the Santiago Shakedown, takes place 3:30 p.m. Aug. 26 to 1 a.m. Aug. 27 at the Baley Ray’s Roadhouse in Santiago.

Santiago – “The whole idea was to put Santiago on the map,” said Ray Mulvey about the blues festival he started 15 years ago and calls the Santiago Shakedown.
One of few blues events in the region, the annual concert takes place 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26 at Bailey Ray’s Roadhouse, 2120 165th Ave., Santiago. Six acts help celebrate the anniversary, give fans a variety of blues tunes to anticipate and once again benefit the Princeton Food Pantry.
Artists playing this year’s Bluesfest bring a range of sounds:
—Mississippi Driftwood provides music for the pre-party
—Lisa Wenger and Her Mean Men play 3:30 p.m., during breaks and from midnight to 2 a.m.
—Joyann Parker sings 4:30-6 p.m.
—Tracy K plays harmonica 6:30-8 p.m.
—The Lamont Cranston Band rocks the house 8:30-10 p.m.
—Joe Louis Walker, a blues hall of fame inductee, takes the stage 10:30 p.m. to midnight.
The festival is for adults 21 years and older, admission costs $25, tickets are available at the gate, and the festival cannot accommodate pets.
Mulvey co-owns Bailey Ray’s Roadhouse with partner Terry Scheck. The business is named after their daughter.
He said the effort to raise the profile of tiny Santiago worked, especially after Jim Belushi headlined the Bluesfest in 2004. He said people still remember that year, when the festival was only a few years old but the Belushi concert pulled in about 2,000 music fans.
Mulvey and Terry Scheck bought the bar in 2000 and have withstood one flood and a devastating fire. Mulvey jokes that they’re waiting on a wind event and said it was adversity that prompted the first blues festival date.
When the bar owner was a young man, he was hit by a drunk driver and suffered terribly from burns on the majority of his body, a fractured skull and other maladies. He said he’s always called it the “summer of burn.”
Mulvey said about the first blues festival, “It was really to celebrate my own damn survival.”
The first Santiago Shakedown was held in June to coincide with the anniversary of his long-ago accident. Then he kept hearing how the date conflicted with graduation parties and Father’s Day, plus the weather was usually wet, so the Bluesfest was moved to August.
Mulvey said his rural-roadhouse setting, with Centra Sota as the “best neighbors ever,” provides the perfect place for an outdoor stage and overnight camping. He’s welcomed free camping (no RV hookups) from the start because he doesn’t want people drinking and driving.
Bailey Ray’s has an outdoor patio, eight volleyball courts, a covered area to serve food and drinks, as well as a 2,000-square-foot gathering tent. Mulvey said he uses Rico Entertainment to help put together the concerts because the promoter has its finger on the pulse of the blues world.
Mulvey said about suggested bands, “I get hundreds of emails from all around the world.”
Mulvey mentioned to him how he’d sure like to get Joe Louis Walker and said it was a “big deal” to have him as the main act.
He said the other musicians are also legends in their own right. For example, Lamont Cranston once opened for the Rolling Stones, and he has been to the Bluesfest all of its years except one. Mulvey said he was pleased to secure three, talented female artists for this year and said he’s always made a point of involving black and women artists.
Besides music at the festival, everybody remembers the pork chops. Mulvey said he remembers one year a blues-magazine writer attending the festival; the opening line of his story referenced the chops.
Mulvey and Scheck live in rural Princeton and each year of the Santiago Shakedown have supported the Princeton Food Pantry. Guests are encouraged on the concert bill to “please, bring a food donation.” While cash and non-perishables work, Mulvey said people also need things like toilet paper, diapers and other products.
The roadhouse sets up a big bin where people drop items and donations, and then well-known Princeton personality Bruno Gad collects and delivers it all. Mulvey said Gad simply “takes care of it,” and is probably the most active and hardworking volunteer he knows.
Mulvey and Scheck used to be registered nurses but have been steadily building the bar business, priding themselves on from-scratch food and the signature Bluesfest. Bailey Ray’s opens 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. Sundays.