The 8th annual Cross River Roots and Blues Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday at Port Cape Girardeau, and according to local musician Ivas John and the show’s founder, “it’s all centered around the music.”
“My idea with starting this mini festival was to bring together musicians I’ve met in different places in Chicago, Missouri and in Kentucky,” John said Wednesday.
And that’s where the name “cross rivers” comes from, he explained, adding that musicians from both sides of the river come together for the one-night event.
The festival gives people a chance to experience music they may otherwise not come into contact with, he said.
John started the festival after moving from Carbondale, Illinois. Before that, he lived in Chicago and has lived in Cape Girardeau for about six years, he said.
He’s been playing music professionally for the last 15 years, and throughout his experiences and travels, he’s met many different musicians around the Midwest, John said.
“It’s big for me, in a sense, that I get to see a lot of these musicians that maybe I don’t run into but maybe a couple times a year,” he said. “It’s also great for the fans of the music, to have the music come to them right here in Cape.”
John explained his longstanding relationship with Port Cape Girardeau and the sentimental value the establishment holds.
“Even before I moved to Cape, I was playing at the Port,” he said. “My first gig in Cape Girardeau was at Port Cape. I’ve always loved that room, upstairs. It’s got a lot of character and history.”
John said, “It was just kind of a natural no-brainer to have the show there. … It’s pretty intimate up there. It’s not too big.”
Artists performing include Lew Jetton 61 South, Ivas John Band, Bruce Zimmerman and the Water Street Band and Jimmy Burns.
“Lew Jetton and 61 South, they’re a band in the Paducah, Kentucky area,” John said. “I’ve known Lew for years, and we’ve played at different regional festivals.”
And, John added, “We couldn’t really have a blues event in Cape and not have Bruce (Zimmerman) be a part of it.”
John said he grew up listening to Chicago native Jimmy Burns and has even performed with him.
“So we kind of know his material,” John said. “We’ll just back him and let him do his thing.”
Overall, John said the festival will be “a real treat for everybody.”
There will be some collaborating throughout the show, he said, but the bands will perform mostly separate sets. An all-night appetizer buffet also is included with the ticket, John said, provided by Port Cape Girardeau.
“I wanted to make it so people can have everything they need right there,” he said. “The music goes all night. You’ve got food, drinks, dancing, music; you’ve got everything you need all under one roof.”
John said he encourages people to arrive early, expecting 200 attendees this year, similar to last year.
“The show always, always comes together, one way or another. … It’s always packed,” he added. “Usually we play until they turn the lights on.”
Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets and additional information can be found on the event’s Facebook page.