Barbecue and blues are Americana manifest. Not tied down to antique shops, these traditional art forms will remain relevant and unmoved through any century and Michigan has access to a deep pool of talent for each.
Brighton's Smokin' Jazz and Barbecue Blues Festival is in its 10th year, with an exquisite lineup of live acts featuring local and national jazz and blues artists. Opening the festival will be Cliff Bell's veterans Soul Cycle, a groovy instrumental trio that is at the intersection between funk and jazz. They have the earthiness of Stax with the sophistication of Blue Note, which makes them fierce genre benders that give your ears a wild ride through small skirmishes when these forces are stretched. Don't miss their set at 6 p.m. Sept. 11.
On the blues side, songstress Tosha Owens will also be on the bill. Owens is a pillar of the Detroit blues scene. From hosting a blues open mic at Pub Froggy to headlining Boo's Blues Club, Owens is a versatile and powerful singer. She'll ensnare you with a soft spoken line and belt it out in gritty soulful cry the next beat. If Thornetta Davis is the Queen of Detroit Blues, Owens is definitely its princess.
But half of the art at this festival is in its food. The patient barbecue extraordinaires that sit for long hours quietly stoking their barrels with wood chips through the night deserve as much recognition as the stage performers. You don't have to cheer for them, only lick your fingers. Vendor Paul "Big Moe" Pritchett from Big Moe's BBQ has been barbecuing for over 30 years in Kalamazoo and operates Big Moe's Express BBQ in the city. Winning the Kalamazoo Ribfest for the last two years, Big Moe's sauce recipe caught the eye of Meijer and Sam's Club, which now stocks it in their sauce aisles.
The Brighton Smokin' Jazz & Barbecue Blues Festival takes place in downtown Brighton, from Fri., Sept. 11 to Sat., Sept. 12; Starts at 5 p.m.; 140 W. Main St., 810-227-5086; brightonsmokinjazz.com; $5 admission, 18 and under free with adult.