JAY – As this rain-plagued summer dampens the spirits of outdoor music enthusiasts, there is reason for hope as folks emerge from their homes and look for a place to gather and be entertained.

Those at the Spruce Mountain Ski Club have a destination in mind, as they prepare for the annual Spruce Mountain Music Festival at the family-oriented ski slope just over the Jay-Livermore Falls town line.

This year’s event is set for Saturday, Aug. 23, and will run from noon to about 8 p.m. Six bands will entertain listeners in one-hour sets, headlined by a nationally known blues band from Chicago.

“I’m very excited to bring Studebaker John and The Hawks to Spruce Mountain this year,” said Matt Bilodeau, event organizer and member of the Spruce Mountain board of directors. “His appearance has all of us blues fans excited, but we also have a great lineup of local acts from other genres for a mix of music that should appeal to a broad audience.”

Taking his stage name from a classic car he used to drive, Chicago blues original Studebaker John, who started playing harmonica at age 7, is a master slide guitarist and blues harpist.

He has played all original music throughout his 30-year career.

He just finished recording his 11th album, “Waiting on the Sun,” set to be released this month on Avanti Records. The album was recorded with backing from one of Chicago’s best rhythm sections, bassist Bob Halaj and drummer Paul Ashford, both of whom will be accompanying Studebaker John at the festival.

“People who are not familiar with Studebaker’s music should come out to see him. He’s not just an everyday player. He’s an entertainer who puts on a great show. We are pleased to have a bluesman of his caliber headlining our festival,” said Bilodeau. “Also, we’ve made several improvements to the festival site, including a new stage that we plan on using throughout the year.”

Studebaker John & The Hawks will perform from 5 to 6:45 p.m.

Also the artist roster for this year’s festival are Jump “N” Billy (noon to 1:15 p.m.); Steve Bailey & John Donahue (1:15 to 2:20 p.m.); Mark “Guitar” Miller & the Baby Boomer Blues Band (2:30 to 3:45 p.m.); Poke Chop & The Other White Meats (3:45 to 5 p.m.); and Matt (Bilodeau) & The Barnburners (6:45 to 8 p.m.).

Bailey and Donahue won the Maine Blues Society’s 2008 Road To Memphis competition in the solo/duo category, sending them on to represent Maine in the 2009 International Blues Challenge. Matt & The Barnburners claimed top honors for the second straight year in the band category and will join their fellow artists next February at the prestigious IBC.

“The idea of a locally based music festival still appeals to a lot of people. This is easily the club’s largest annual fundraiser, so I hope it continues to thrive well into the future,” said Bilodeau.

Festival gates will open at 9 a.m., rain or shine. (Follow signs posted on Route 4.) Parking is free. Saturday night camping is available. Food and refreshments will be available onsite, and coolers may be carried in. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets. Tickets at the gate will be $20, $5 for children age 14 and under. Advanced tickets may be purchased for $15 at the Ski Depot in Livermore Falls.

All proceeds will benefit the ski club, which was formed in 1956 and has operated continuously ever since. Several state champion ski teams have trained and skied there over the years. Spruce Mountain offers nine alpine trails serviced by four rope-tows, along with three miles of cross country trails. It is one of only two rope-tow ski slopes still active in the United States.

For more information, contact Bilodeau at 897-5182 or log on to www.sprucemountain.org/.

Blues fan Michael Dixon contributed to this article.


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