The soulful sound of the blues filled the Hayti Heritage Center Saturday during their annual Bull Durham Blues Festival.
The festival is one of the biggest of its kind and was staged by the Center for the 26th consecutive year, said Angela Lee, the center’s executive director. This year, the event is brought in acts from all over the country, including local groups like the Jimmy Haggard Band and Jason Damico and the New Blue.
Although the center hosts a variety of activities throughout the year — from dance classes to dramatic performances —Lee said the blues festival is the center’s signature event.
One of the goals of the festival is to emphasize the importance of this musical style.
“When you look at the birth of the blues, jazz and gospel — they all came from the same seed,” she said.
“They all came from the same culture.”
Jimmy Haggard, the Triangle Blues Society’s president, said the festival taps into a lot of the history of this region.
“Durham is one of the cradles of early blues music,” Haggard said.
Haggard, whose band performed at the festival, said he first became interested in blues music when he was 16-years-old and realized that many of his favorite rock’n’roll bands were inspired by old blues artists.
“I can’t listen to anything without hearing blues in it,” Haggard said.
The Raleigh-based singer, originally from Los Angeles, describes his band’s style as electric and high energy blues, and he plans to play a mix of originals and cover songs at the festival.
Jason Damico, the guitarist and singer of Jason Damico and the New Blue, is relatively new to the blues music scene, having taken an interest in the genre three years ago. The 19-year-old, who writes his own songs, said he felt an instant connection to the musical style.
“It’s all about feel — everything is feel in this music,” Damico said. “This is the best genre to communicate feelings with.”
Damico said he has been involved in other events hosted by the Hayti Heritage Center and was humbled and excited to be asked to play at the festival.
“If I had to give my two cents to the pot, I really believe there needs to be an uprising of us young artists to carry the music with us,” Damico said. “It’s our responsibility to do so.”
The festival aims to foster blues artists and preserve this timeless musical style, Lee said.
“As long as there continues to be festivals like the Bull Durham Blues Festival, these artists will continue to have a platform,” Lee said.
“As long as there are people that continue to appreciate (the blues), it’s going to be around for a long time.”
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