Coco Montoya plays a recent set ahead of Vashon’s debut Blues and Brews festival this weekend (Marilyn Stringer Photo).

Coco Montoya plays a recent set ahead of Vashon’s debut Blues and Brews festival this weekend (Marilyn Stringer Photo).

Legendary artist Coco Montoya will headline at Rotary’s blues festival this weekend

“If it feels good to us, we hope it feels good to the crowd.”

Renowned blues artist Coco Montoya will headline Vashon’s debut Blues and Brews festival on Saturday, June 29, at Open Space for Arts & Community.

The festival was organized by the Vashon Island Rotary Club (VIRC) and will also include a host of other blues artists, including Vashon favorites One More Mile, Bill Brown and the Kingbees, and Northwest blues hero Nick Vigarino.

Montoya, who has produced 10 albums and is critically recognized for his guitar and vocals, is excited to revisit Vashon. During the 1970s, he lived in Seattle for approximately two years, in the Greenlake area, so he is familiar with the island.

“I loved visiting it,” he said. “I remember it being so beautiful.”

Montoya will be flying in from California. He plans on playing a title from each of his albums to please his hardcore fans, but he also said that he will be playing what feels right at the time.

“If it feels good to us, we hope it feels good to the crowd,” he said. “We like to fly by the seat of our pants.”

Montoya is also excited to be performing with a new member — but old friend — keyboardist Jeff Paris, who has worked with Keb Mo, Bill Withers and Ringo Starr. Other members of Montoya’s band include Nathan Brown on bass and Rena Beavers on drums.

“It is going to be a real treat to showcase these great musicians,” he said.

Jan Milligan, former president and active member of Vashon’s Rotary, says the festival is one of the club’s more ambitious recent projects. The festival concept was triggered by the success of the Des Moines, Washington Rotary’s Blues and Brews festival, which is now in its 10th year and continues to grow in attendance each year. Milligan said the Des Moines chapter was helpful with background assistance and advice about coordinating the event, but there were still some surprises and learning curves that came along with organizing this first-time festival.

“We didn’t realize how costly it can get,” said Milligan, referring to the expenses of paying talent, renting equipment and setting up stages.

However, Rotary has already recouped expenses and is thrilled by the community response. As of press time, over 500 tickets have been sold, and even more sales are expected on Saturday.

Along with the performances, there will be beer, cider and wine provided by local Vashon and Northwest breweries and wineries, and food trucks serving local cuisine.

Milligan said that all funds from the festival will be distributed to local nonprofits and possibly one international project with a Rotary presence in a developing country. Past local Rotary projects include building the first garden for the Vashon Food Bank, expanding and enhancing the trailhead parking lot for Shinglemill Preserve, giving out college scholarships and distributing dictionaries to every third-grade student on the island. Vashon’s Rotary has also contributed funds to developing communities in Nepal, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Mexico.

As for the logistics for Saturday’s festival, Milligan is relieved to know Montoya is familiar with the island.

“It’s so good he knows Vashon,” said Milligan. “We were afraid he would end up on the Southworth ferry.”

Montoya said he can’t wait to revisit Vashon, even if it is a short trip — the band has to be at SeaTac by 11 a.m. on Sunday.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been there,” he said. “That place is so gorgeous … I hope it hasn’t changed.”

The Blues and Brews festival will be held from 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at the meadow at Open Space for Arts & Community. Tickets are $35 in advance at brownpapertickets.com and $40 at the door. Doors open at 3 p.m. and One More Mile kicks off the show at 4 p.m. The event is for ages 21 and older only. Debra Heesch is co-presenting Coco Montoya’s appearance at the festival.

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