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Heat didn’t hinder biggest Bowlful yet

John Primer delivered on his promise during Saturday’s Bowlful of Blues concert.  The blues had indeed come to town.

Sweltering heat and a blistering sun didn’t slow down the party at Maytag Park and South Skunk Blues Society Secretary Deanna Williams estimated “Finally Legal” was the biggest show in the 21-year history of the Bowlful of Blues.

“It’s been good. The music has been great and Poppa Neptune was really good,” SSBS President Craig Peterson said during Terry Quiett’s performance earlier in the day. “They’re getting better and better and I’m just glad to see that. The turnout and the music has been great. This is what it is all about, people getting together.”

Quiett himself was impressed by the crowd despite the heat and his very early performance time.

“I felt a little sweaty and hot, but other than that it felt great,” Quiett said. “Other than that, the crowd is great, especially for such an early show and sun being out and everything. People have been great. Nice breeze, people sitting in the shade under the trees. It’s a beautiful set up and a really nice amphitheater. I loved it.”

Quiett and his band also led the post-show after party at the Newton VFW and said he was very open to playing in Newton again.

“We’d love too, anytime. Absolutely, we would love too,” Quiett said.

SSBS Community and Venue Liaison Elaine Mattingly was also thrilled with the entire event Saturday. Mattingly is the one who coined “Finally Legal” for this year’s show.

“There has been a whole lot of preparation leading up and whole lot of momentum thanks to so many people,” Mattingly said. “It’s just incredible how many volunteers from the Des Moines-Newton area (we have). And how many people paid attention and spread the word through social media, traditional media, word of mouth, and other festivals all over the Midwest and internationally to spread the word.”

“This festival is on several national websites and we can see that this has paid off, because the crowd is bigger and it’s a big crowd early in the day,” she continued. “Every year, the crowd just keeps building all the way up to the evening. It’s an exciting day. The bowl looks fantastic with all of the renovations and it’s just a wonderful way to use this park as it was intended, especially on a hot Labor Day weekend.”

In addition to getting the word out, this year’s festival boasted arguably the strongest line-up in history, which is saying a lot. Past shows have hosted the likes of Phil Guy and the Chicago Machine, Watermelon Slim and the Workers, Tab Benoit, Gary Primch, Bo Ramsey and the Backsliders and numerous other prominent blues acts.

Besides Primer, who is a Grammy nominee, and the critically acclaimed vocalist and guitarist Quiett, several other acts rocked the stage and the triple-headliner event. Local band Poppa Neptune kicked things off with a funk-inspired set. Guitar and harmonica player Denny Garcia played between sets and Walter Trout and Shaun Murphy were the other two headliners along with Primer.

“It was hot and beautiful. I like the heat you know? It’s good for the circulation and if you don’t pass out you are going to be alright,” Garcia said jokingly.  

Trout didn’t let broken ribs stop him from performing and dedicated much of his performance to his good friend and blues legend Luther Allison.  Murphy’s set showcased her vocal range and dabbled into soul and R&B, which caused a few couples to dance in front of the stage.

Like the members of the SSBS, Garcia loved the large, blues-crazed crowd at the festival.

“It puts me away for people like this, who are here to appreciate real music and (support) a real American art form,” Garcia said. “I got to meet a lot of the old great blues people before they died off and the old stuff gave us a real good foundation to continue.”

Those foundations were on full display Saturday with the young guns like Quiett’s band and Poppa Neptune sharing the stage with the veterans like Murphy, Primer and Trout. Mattingly praised this year’s line-up for the festival’s success and all but guaranteed that the blues would be back for number 22 next year.

“We are particularly delighted at the level of talent we were able to harness for this ‘Bowl,” Mattingly said. “Much of Newton may not realize what level of national and international talent that is here in this moment in time and I don’t say that to exaggerate. I’m speaking the truth. These people travel internationally, they worked with some of the biggest names in popular music throughout the years and we have them here and we do this every year.

“I expect it to get bigger and better as time goes on. Especially now that we are Finally Legal, we can really do it, she continued. “We appreciate all the attention that we have gotten and this is a nice showcase for Newton and a nice way to showcase the mission of the South Skunk Blues Society.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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