PAXICO – This town might only have a population of 220, but it draws crowds from across the Midwest and beyond for its annual blues festival.
Cars from Arkansas, Missouri and Colorado parked along side streets here Saturday, the crowd having filled the main street with lawn chairs and tents. Some of the seats were empty, but only because people were buying food from vendors lining the road.
Saturday’s 10th annual rendition of the event featured five bands playing from 11 a.m. pretty much straight through until 7:30 p.m. The five were Connie Hawkins & the BluesWreckers, the J-Love Band, the Rachelle Coba Band, Cassie Taylor, and Samantha Fish.
Joe Rotolo and his wife, Sharen, drove from Omaha, Neb., to attend the festival for the second time.
“It was a great party last year, so we came back brought friends,” Rotolo said. “And we’re having a great time.”
Jamie Pulliam Chase, better known on stage as “J. Love,” said the crowd brought a great energy during the performance of the band that bears her name, and for which she sings lead.
“The crowd was awesome,” she said. “They came here to get down in Paxico.”
The J. Love Band originated in Kansas City, Mo., around five years ago.
“I was working on my music and this guy called me and said ‘I heard you can really blow, and we need a lead singer,’” Pulliam Chase said.
Since then, the band has frequented clubs in Kansas City such as Quasimodo, Llywelyn’s Pub and, most regularly, the Phoenix Jazz Club.
The theme of this year’s festival was the Women of the Blues, and Pulliam Chase said the theme made her think of something serious and deep.
“When I think of the blues I think of a true story,” she said. “It’s something someone’s going to tell and it’s going to be real.”
The band closed its set with the classic “At Last,” and the Rotolos came to their feet dancing in front of the stage.
“We’re big blues music fans,” Rotolo said. “We like to dance and we love the music.”
Even though they had to drive three hours to get to the festival, Rotolo said this will not be the last time they make the trip.
“The only reason we wouldn’t come back would be if it was raining or snowing. This is going to be an annual trip for us now.”