The Scene: Blues fest to celebrate 20 years in the Port City is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Local musician Randy McQuay, this year's solo champ at the International Blues Challenge, is among the long list of performers for this year's blues festival. Courtesy photo.
Local musician Randy McQuay, this year’s solo champ at the International Blues Challenge, is among the long list of performers for this year’s blues festival. Courtesy photo.

A local music tradition is turning 20 this weekend.

The Cape Fear Blues Festival takes over the Port City Friday through Sunday, celebrating two decades of bringing the authentic twang and muddy backwater holler to the area.

In 1996, the Cape Fear Blues Society hosted its inaugural blues festival on Wilmington’s riverfront. Each July since, the event has continued to grow and evolve with an ever-constant attention on soulful performances from regional and national acts in a variety of blues sub-genres.

This weekend is no exception. In addition to artists from Tennessee to New York City, the three-day festival also features a blues workshop and an all-day blues jam.

It kicks off Friday with the popular Blues Cruise on the Cape Fear River. Blues lovers can board the Henrietta III Riverboat in downtown Wilmington at 6:30 p.m. and depart at 7:30 for an on-the-water concert featuring three bands on three decks–and with three cash bars, to boot.

Elliott and The Untouchables bring the gritty Chicago boogie to the main deck, with The Rusted Nails’ belt rockabilly and retro-blues on the upper deck. International Blues Challenge solo champ and Wilmington resident Randy McQuay plays an acoustic set on the atrium level.

Advance cruise tickets are $55. The Rusty Nail Saloon, 1310 S. Fifth Ave., hosts the after-party beginning at 9:30 p.m., with fatback and boogie master Rickey Godfrey ($5 cover at the door).

On Saturday, a free acoustic blues workshop gets underway at 11 a.m. at Ted’s Fun on the River, 2 Castle St. This year’s featured musician is roots artist and Raleigh native Tad Walters, who has performed with Billy Boy Arnold, Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin. A member of the Music Maker Foundation’s Next Generation Artists program, Walters will demonstrate the tools of his trade: guitar, harp and voice. Seating is limited. Call (910) 231-3379 for more information.

The Rusty Nail is home to the blues concert and beer tent at 4 p.m., featuring New York Blues Hall of Famer Dave Fields. Local rhythm and blues ensemble Nelson and The Rock-A-Fellas and soul-blues diva Rose Lucas and her band are the opening acts. Onsite vendors will be slinging food and beer. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

The music continues at 9:30 p.m., when The Rusty Nail moves the party indoors for a show by up-and-coming act The Marcus King Band. Admission is $5.

On Sunday, the free blues jam gets jumping at noon at The Rusty Nail, featuring a variety of acts playing through the day. Bring a lawn chair for this outdoor show. No coolers or pets are allowed; drinks and food will be available for purchase.

Click here for ticket information and a complete schedule.

If you’re in the mood for something rather upbeat–a beloved children’s musical, perhaps–or are just craving more live music, we’ve got you covered in our weekly arts and entertainment roundup.

You’ll find the items below–and so many others–on The Scene, where it’s always free to post and peruse the latest events.


Flytrap Brewing hosts free live music from singer/songwriter David Dixon at 8 p.m. tonight (Thursday), with Funky Fresh Food Truck serving up gourmet local street food from 7 to 10. On Friday, Jesse Jewell and Richard Welch perform at 8, and Pepe’s Taco Truck will be onsite from 7 to 10. Kim Dicso plays at 8 p.m. Saturday and A & M’s Red Food Truck serves tacos and sliders from 7 to 10.

Nashville alt-country musician Rayland Baxter, son of the legendary Bucky Baxter, plays Bourgie Nights tonight. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9. Tickets are $16.

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood comes to Greenfield Lake Amphitheater Friday. Photo courtesy Greenfield Lake Amphitheater.
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood comes to Greenfield Lake Amphitheater Friday. Photo courtesy Greenfield Lake Amphitheater.

Local performer Kim Dicso plays a free show at 9 p.m. tonight at Costello’s.

98.3 FM The Penguin and Huka Entertainment present The Chris Robinson Brotherhood in concert Friday at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. The blues rock band, featuring the Black Crowes frontman, will perform at 7 p.m. (gates open at 6). General admission tickets are $24.

Pleasure Island’s free summer concert series continues Friday with a concert from modern country and rock band Eastbound at 6:30 p.m. at Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area.

Wilmington jam band Dubtown Cosmonauts performs at 8:30 p.m. Saturday during a Natty Greens Brewery tap takeover at Burnt Mill Creek. Admission is free.


The classic drama, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” produced by the Thalian Association, continues at 7:30 p.m. tonight through Saturday at Red Barn Theatre. Tickets are $25.

Performance Club Studio Theater presents the musical adaptation of the beloved Disney movie, “The Jungle Book,” at 3 and 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Thalian Hall. Admission is $15.

Funnyman Jarrod Harris performs at Dead Crow Comedy Room this weekend. Photo courtesy Dead Crow Comedy.
Funnyman Jarrod Harris performs at Dead Crow Comedy Room this weekend. Photo courtesy Dead Crow Comedy.

San Francisco Comedy Competition finalist Jarrod Harris takes the mic at Dead Crow Comedy Room this weekend. Harris performs at 7 and 9:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday. Admission is $13.

Thalian Association Community Theater’s Broadway on 2nd Street presents the classic, “Alice in Wonderland,” at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday at Hannah Block Community Arts Center. Admission is free.

Summers at Seabreeze: Songs and Remembrances of Freeman Beach” continues at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at TheatreNOW. The multimedia dinner show by Zach Hanner celebrates the memories of a special getaway for African Americans during the age of segregation and features special musical arrangements by Grenoldo Frazier. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $34 ($20 for show-only option).

Brunswick Little Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A matinee performance is set for 3 p.m. Sunday. All shows are at Odell Williamson Auditorium on the campus of Brunswick Community College in Bolivia. Tickets are $19.25 for adults, $13 for students and $6.50 for children.

Detour Deli and Café hosts Film Noir Thursdays from 8 to 10 p.m. each week. Tonight’s film is “Asphalt Jungle.” Admission is free.

Illustrator Char Oden exhibits her works at Detour Deli and Cafe from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. This free event features live music from Austin Glover and Death by Fireworxxx.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or