South Charlotte

Young ‘Smokin' Jake' kicks off blues festival

The blues and art come together at the 4th Annual Downtown Blues Festival, Thursday through Saturday in Rock Hill.

Two free events kick off the weekend. Jake Haldenwang & the Highway 61 Blues Band, led by a 13-year-old blues phenomenon, perform Thursday evening at the Center for the Arts. Nicknamed “Smokin' Jake Haldenwang,” the Tega Cay teen is already a seasoned music pro. He's joined on stage by lead singer John Haldenwang, Jamie Stewart on rhythm guitar, Wendy Haldenwang on bass and John Murray on drums. John and Wendy Haldenwang are Jake's parents.

The free performance is part of an opening reception for a new exhibit at the Center for the Arts, “Jennifer Kincaid, Allison Luce and Alyssa Wood Clay Exhibition.”

Gallery Up hosts a free artist talk and reception at 6 p.m. Thursday. “Hominy, Paintings by Kevin Morrissey” will be on exhibit, and a short film, “Joy,” by R.A. Gunter and Moon Runner Pictures will be screened. Morrissey and Gunter will discuss their works, and Charlotte bands Yard Work and Calabi Yau perform.

Festival events begin officially with bands performing 7-11 p.m. Thursday at the Old Town Amphitheatre in front of City Hall on Black Street. Matt Walsh plays first, then Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen.

From 7-11 p.m. Friday, Scott Bristow performs at the Cookie Café, Ironing Board Sam plays at Old Town Bistro, Willie “The Bluesman” Roach at McHale's and Robin Rogers at Thi's on Main.

Lineup for the grand finale Saturday from 4-11 p.m. at the Old Town Amphitheatre includes Biscuit Miller and the Mix, Gene Gene and the Blues Machine and The Plair Allstars.

Kids can enjoy inflatable slides, rides and games in the Black Street parking lot across from City Hall.