2018 Festival Line up

2018 Lineup

Thursday June 21, 2018

Blues Weekend Kickoff Party
At Warren’s Rec Room in Alma, AR

John Calvin Brewer

Friday June 22, 2018

At Harry E. Kelley Park in Fort Smith, AR

  • Austin Calvillo
  • The Wanda Watson Band
  • Hadden Sayers
  • Frank’s Garage


Saturday June 23, 2018

  • Gary Hutchison & Kirby Kelley
  • The Eric Mathews Band
  • Victor Wainwright & The Train
  • BRains Band


The Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Festival is proud to announce the entertainment for the 28th annual event to be held June 22nd and 23rd at Harry E Kelley Park, 121 Riverfront Drive. Prior to the Blues Festival itself, we are proud to partner with Warren’s Rec Room in Alma to present the 2018 Kickoff Party featuring the John Calvin Brewer Band from Hot Springs. When blues and rock-n-roll collide you get a high energy, gritty blues band like John has assembled over the past several years. Honing their skills in clubs from Nashville to Dallas, they will be bringing their award winning sound to Warren’s to help us get the weekend blues party started right. Door opens at 7:00, music at 7:30. Smoke free and all ages admitted.

Gates will open on Friday at 5:00 pm with local musician Austin Calvillo who was the solo artist winner of the Fort Smith area International Blues Challenge qualifier last year. For the past few years Austin has paid his dues in the local music scene playing with a variety of bands. Last year he stepped out as a solo artist and went to Memphis to represent Fort Smith in the IBC. Drawing on influences like Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton, Austin has developed a simple yet joyful style that fits well within the blues genre.

Taking the stage next is local favorite Wanda Watson. With a seasoned and very solid band backing her powerful vocals, Wanda has been commanding attention on stages all over this area for many years now. Very rarely will you find an entertainer whose style and charisma matches their talent but Wanda delivers on all that and more. Her devoted fans will tell you her performances make every audience member feel that she is there for them and them alone. Performing both stunning original songs and time tested standards, Wanda is the consummate entertainer. Prepare to be wowed!

The featured performer on Friday night is native-Texan Hadden Sayers. Not only is he a triple-threat singer/guitarist/songwriter, Hadden is a masterful storyteller with a stage presence that puts the audience at ease one minute then has them dancing about and going wild the next. Equal parts blue-eyed soul and red-hot guitar he is truly a mesmerizing performer. With his new album “Dopamine Machine” Hadden takes his songwriting and playing to a new level. This promises to be an entertaining show and there may be a couple of surprises as well.

Frank’s Garage is a multi-generational collective of eight musicians from Fort Smith, Arkansas who love playing music together and hanging out in, where else but, Frank’s Garage.

Each member brings his/her own musical influences and experiences to the mix along with an open mind for learning new material and adding new techniques.

Dave Robertson, one of four members who can front the band, likes to say that Franks’ Garage is a bunch of beer-drinking buddies with a music problem!

Band members include Frank Wozniak on the drums and impact wrench. Dave Robertson on vocals, harp and rhythm guitar. Jeremy Turner wails on lead vocals and harmonies and plays rhythm and lead guitar.  Landon Turner is a magician on the bass guitar and backing vocals.  Logan Cruce shreds on lead guitar and is the band’s spiritual advisor. Larry Nelson tickles the ivories and is the band’s senior member.  Joshua Robertson writes songs, sings and plays guitar and banjo.  And representing the fairer sax is Ms. Kellie Lindsay singing and playing the saxophone.

On Saturday the gates open again at 5:00 pm and the entertainment starts at 6:00 with two masterful blues guitarists, local legend Gary Hutchison and Dallas area phenomenon Kirby Kelley together on stage. For those who know Gary “The Guitar Monster” Hutchison, what can you say other than wow!…? The man has been on stage from Joplin to Dallas to Memphis with bands like Kamikaze, Gary and The Grinders and many others for the past 4 decades. He was, and is, the driving force behind Oreo Blue, arguably the most prominent and successful blues band in Arkansas. An extraordinary songwriter, a master class guitarist, a music teacher and a friend to every musician in the area, he is truly one of Arkansas’ legendary entertainers.

And if that wasn’t enough for getting Saturday night started off right, we’re putting Kirby Kelley up there with Gary. That’s right, two master guitarists together, setting the pace for a fantastic night of music. Kirby is a true guitar virtuoso that may pull out a 12-string acoustic, a lap steel guitar or a dobro with a slide, probably all those and more. And his singing is just as impressive as his playing. He has taught at the prestigious National Guitar Workshop, opened for Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival and won the 2009 Guitar Center King of the Blues. With a unique delta blues style and awe inspiring performances, Kirby Kelley is definitely someone you need to see to believe.

Eric Mathews and his band take the stage next on Saturday night. Taking inspiration from guitar greats such as Eric Clapton, Jimmie Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Eric Mathews Band represented the Fort Smith area in Memphis at the 2015 International Blues Challenge and has opened for several national touring acts over the past decade. Eric’s dedication to guitar based blues is evident in both his original songs and the tasteful covers he includes at his shows. An ardent supporter of local music, Eric and his business, Garrison Music Company, are helping keep the blues alive in the River Valley.

If you are a fan of honky-tonk piano then Saturday nights featured performer is going to be right up your alley. And if you aren’t necessarily a piano fan, you’ll still be smiling and tapping your toes right along with the incomparable Victor Wainwright and The Train. Three time Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year, 2016 BMA Entertainer of the Year, 2016 blues album of the year are just some of Victor’s awards and achievements. On top of the awards, Victor has been playing 300+ shows a year and being the crowd favorite at blues festivals and on the annual Blues Cruise since 2012. The Savannah Georgia native has a sharp sense of humor and a knack for storytelling that draws listeners into his world. With wild boogie woogie piano playing and a soulful voice reminiscent of Doctor John, his high octane show will leave you wanting more of “The Piana from Savannah”.

And finally, closing out this year’s festival, is Fort Smith’s own BRains Band. Front man Brett Rains, guitar and vocals, has been playing local stages for several years working with dozens of other local musicians and bands. With the BRains Band, he has his own platform to create his unique singer-songwriter style of music. As the winner of last year’s IBC competition in Fort Smith with local drum legend Dale Fraze accompanying him, Brett was able to take his downhome style to the stages of Beale Street in Memphis along with the rhythm section of “King” George Hughen and Brock Reather. Brett has hinted at some possible guests appearing on stage with him June 23rd and maybe even bringing something to the blues festival stage that has never happened there before. Be sure to catch this one of a kind show to wrap up three great nights of blues!