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Blue notes: The Big Eyed Blues Fest blows into Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Paper
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Brooklyn has got the blues.

The Big Eyed Blues Festival will get Kings County grooving for the ninth time on Oct. 10 and 11, with performances at two Brooklyn venues. The show’s founder said the whole point is to keep the musical genre she loves alive.

“I call myself a champion of the blues,” said singer Beareather Reddy, who will also perform at the festival. “Not because I sing it so well, but because I try to keep it in people’s minds and in their hearts.”

Reddy moved to Brooklyn in 1976 after growing up in Sylvania, Ga. and attending college in Massachusetts. She came for the bright lights, she said.

“I moved to New York to become a star,” she said. “Just like everyone’s back story.”

But after she had been here for a while, Reddy noticed that a key piece of her childhood seemed to be missing. She recalled her parents taking her to juke joints when she was a kid — small clubs where blues music was played and people danced.

“My folks would work hard all week long and then on the weekends they would go to the juke joints,” Reddy said. “They would have a ball. Everyone seemed so happy.”

Reddy could not find anything similar in her new home borough, she said, so she decided to start organizing her own shows.

“I didn’t see enough blues,” said Reddy. “And no people dancing and smiling like I remembered.”

One of the festival’s performers, a Chicago blues-a-dor who has been dropping 12-bar progressions for more than 60 years, said he was glad to be spreading his tunes in the borough of Kings.

“It’s always good to go and play the blues in areas where they don’t have much of it,” said Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater who will be performing on the second night of the festival.

That evening will also feature a children’s workshop to get young kids interested in the blues. Reddy works with students at PS 137, and has formed a band of young blues musicians called the Big Eyed Youth Ensemble, which will be performing on both nights of the festival.

“I want to make sure we introduce kids to the blues too,” she said.

Reddy also wants to make sure the black community holds on to an important piece of its history.

“I want us to be proud of this heritage,” she said. “Even if the blues came out of a lot of pain, it also brought a lot of joy.”

The Big Eyed Blues Festival at Jazz966 [966 Fulton St. between Cambridge Place and Grand Avenue in Clinton Hill, (800) 838–3006, www.bigeyedblues.webs.com]. Oct. 10 at 7 pm. $20. And at Kumble Theater, Long Island University [1 University Plaza on Flatbush Avenue between DeKalb Avenue and Willoughby Street Downtown, (718) 488–1624]. Oct. 11 at 4 pm. $35 ($20 for students), $100 VIP.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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