Guitar Festival with Headliners Elvin Bishop and Sugaray Rayford in March
This year, the Walla Walla Guitar Festival is coming back in a very big way. The 12th annual festival you’ve been waiting for will be a three-day event on March 10, 11 and 12, and all the shows you’ve enjoyed in previous years are back — the Opening Concert at the Marcus Whitman Ballroom, the Acoustic Showcase at the VFW, the multi-venue Guitar Crawl, the Large Show in the ballroom, and the Sunday Gospel Brunch. All of the venues are within walking distance in the downtown area.
Delayed by the pandemic in 2021, a scaled-down festival was held in 2022. But this year it will be big party again, with more than 25 bands booked for the festival. “The whole downtown will come alive with music over that weekend,” said organizer Robin Barret, frontman for the local Coyote Kings.
The Opening Concert on Friday will feature Sugaray Rayford, who has won the BB King Entertainer of the Year honors at the Blues Music Awards, and is up for the title again along with a nomination for Blues Album of the Year. The Opening Concert will be followed by the Friday Kick-off Party with the Dirt Angels, the Wasteland Kings, Gary Winston and the Real Deal, Mike Mendoza and Feedback, plus Vaughn Jensen.
Big Font featuring Thacher Carter will entertain at Saturday’s Acoustic Showcase at the VFW. The group includes percussionist Jeffrey Townsend, guitarist and vocalist Thacher Carter and bassist Bob Johnston.
The legendary Elvin Bishop, who’s in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame, will headline the Large Show. Rolling Stone has called Bishop “a legendary guitarist” and “a distinguished American player.” Starting out with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1965, he has blazed his own musical trail, including such hit songs as “Fooled Around And Fell In Love.” Touring the world for decades delivering his original countrified blues, Bishop has always inspired fans with his rowdy guitar playing and witty, slice-of-life songs. He’s been nominated multiple times for Grammy Awards.
The Large Show will also feature the festival host band Coyote Kings with Tiphony Dames, and Ben Rice with special guest Tevis Hodge Jr. But the Large Show is limited to 400 tickets, and many have already been sold, so don’t delay in getting your tickets online.
Saturday night is the multi-venue Guitar Crawl from 8:30 p.m. to midnight with Rae Gordon, Polly O’Keary and the Rhythm Method, Steamboat Rocks, Whack A Mole, Diego Romero, and the Shades. The crawl will be followed by the Tarwater All-Star Jam at midnight, hosted by Vaughn Jensen.
On Sunday you can wrap up your festival weekend at the Gospel Brunch, featuring Rae Gordon’s Gospel playing their acclaimed inspirational music, followed by Jazz at the Fest, hosted by Michael Agidius. It’s the perfect way to spend a Sunday and wind down the weekend.
Added to all this will be shows in tasting rooms in downtown Walla Walla all weekend long. In other words, you’re invited to a sensational party with great food and drink and some of the best music known to man. The 12th annual Walla Walla Guitar Festival is going to be a large time!
The best way to enjoy the festival is with a $150 weekend pass, a $120 Friday and Saturday all music pass, or the Saturday all music pass for only $80. Lodging and festival packages and tickets for individual shows are also available.
All tickets are now on sale at wallawallaguitarfestival.com, where you’ll also find more information about the festival and the artists.