Blues in the District returns with live performances starting Friday, June 11

Johnny Burgin

Johnny Burgin, left, plays with harp player/songwriter Johnny Sansone at Johnny's Blue Monday Party at the Broadside Theatre in New Orleans in April 2021. (Photo courtesy of RockinJohnnyBurgin.com)

QUINCY — Blues in the District just wasn’t the same last year.

The pandemic forced organizers to forego attempts to have live concerts in Washington Park last summer. Instead, two concerts were held in the Washington Theater, and blues lovers could watch the events on Facebook.

“People still loved it,” said Bruce Guthrie, executive director of the District. “We staged it online, and it was professionally done in a historic theater. But (two) was enough.

“I can say this. I’m tired of Zoom meetings. I’m not a big online watch-the-concert guy. Last year was fine, but everybody missed the blues, and everybody’s thrilled to be going back outside.”

The 24th year of the annual free blues concerts will kick off at 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 11 with Johnny Burgin out of Chicago playing in the Washington Park gazebo. Five more concerts have been scheduled — one more in June, two in July and two in August.

Guthrie is asking people who bring their lawn chairs and blankets to the park this summer to “be responsible.”

“It’s time for everybody to be an adult,” he said. “There was a stretch when the city and the health department had to approve events or whatever else might be going on downtown, but everything (about the pandemic) was changing on a weekly basis. Well, we’re out of that now. Things are really opening up.

“Hey, if you feel uncomfortable coming downtown, that’s OK. Don’t come. If you feel like you need to wear a mask, social distance and sanitize your hands, that’s OK. And if you’re in your own group of family and friends, that’s fine. Sit with them. What we’re saying is: Things have changed. The dynamics and the environment have changed. 

“We don’t need a mask police. Be responsible, act like an adult and be courteous.”

Guthrie helps with the booking of all the concerts. He said this year’s lineup is the same that it would have been for 2020, except the order of the lineup is a little different.

“This is these people’s livelihood,” Guthrie said. “They sat there last summer and didn’t have anything to do because concerts everywhere were being cancelled. We’re very fortunate. All of them could come back, and they all know about the great blues that are on display in Quincy. Word has gotten around in the blues community about Quincy.

“People are hungry to play, and people like to play in Quincy. We’re really excited about this year’s group.”

All shows begin at 5:30 p.m. and end at 9:30 p.m. Guthrie is expecting huge crowds.

“It’s been funny, some of the calls I’ve received,” he said. “Some people have said, ‘We’re looking forward to it because we need to get outside,’ and then I met some people who said, ‘You better have the blues or else.’”

Blues in the District summer 2021 lineup

Friday, June 11 – Johnny Burgin

Friday, June 25 – Mississippi Heat

Friday, July 9 – Kent Burnside

Friday, July 23 – DownRiver Dan

Friday, August 13 – Flood Brothers

Friday, August 27 – Avey Grouws Band

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