FESTIVAL READY: 8 Ball Aitken really had the stage rocking recently when he performed in Agnes Waters.
FESTIVAL READY: 8 Ball Aitken really had the stage rocking recently when he performed in Agnes Waters. Contributed

Blues and rock festival to captivate region this weekend

FRESH from the streets of Nashville, performer 8 Ball Aitken will captivate crowds at the inaugural Mackay Blues Rock Sessions this weekend.

From noon on Saturday, July 6, the Mackay Turf Club will change pace, and host the laid-back event.

The event will be a first for the region, and will bring together some of Australia's favourite award-winning blues festival acts.

The line-up of thrilling entertainment includes the funky New Orleans grooves of The Dillion James Band, the edgy Hendrix inspired Zed Charles guitar blues, saxophone extraordinaire Damon Stone, the award-winning Melbourne blues 4-piece Dreamboogie, and the swamp blues of chart-topping, 3-string playing, Nashville-based Aussie swamp-rocker 8 Ball Aitken plus none other than local stars Roller cam.

8 Ball Aitken, a much loved and claimed local, played a big part in organising the event and was looking forward to bringing some of the best blues musicians to Mackay.

"I'm really excited to bring really authentic, legit cool blues to Mackay. We've got bands coming from Brisbane and Melbourne, and some local acts doing blues," he said.

"This is a festival that's really about music. It's a good chance for people to have a lot of fun because blues is funky and it's groovy."

8 Ball Aitken (yes, that is his real name) has worked hard to bring the event, along with his passion, to the region.

Mackay means a lot to the internationally acclaimed artist, who has two long-term connections to the region.

"I came on holidays here when I was a kid because the guy that used to own the music shop for 20 years, him and my dad went to school together," he said, while in Mackay yesterday.

"So I have close links to the region even though I've never lived here. The beaches are nice here. And there are some great musicians in town."

His fondness of the region comes from being a passionate North Queenslander.

"The place reminds me of Cairns; it's a very similar vibe. No matter where my music takes me, it still reminds me of home, I am still in North Queensland," he said.

8 Ball's love of blues music stems from listening to musician BB King at a concert as a 15 year old.

"To show my dedication to blues, I caught a train from Cairns all the way to Brisbane and then back again just to go to that one concert," he said.

But that first trip was nothing compared to the lengths 8 Ball had gone to for blues since, with the musican travelling internationally for work and becoming one of the hardest working names in the industry.

This hard work was recognised earlier this year with 8 Ball being nominated for a prestigious APRA award.

He said that it was a valuable achievement and one that he never really expected.

"It was with a song called High Water, which is a really groovy, bluesy, kind of song," he said.

8 Ball's manager and agent, Linda Mahood, is one of the musicians biggest fans and spoke out about the achievement.

"It's nice to know that what he has been perfecting for so many years is being recognised. It is good to get that kind of mastery of your craft," she said.

It was not the first major achievement for the musician, with his album Swamp Blues, released in 2017, nominated for two Australian Blues Awards.

The album also hit number two in the Australian Blues Charts and stayed in the charts for more than a year.

From a love that started with BB King to organising six of his own festivals, and performing live music everywhere from Cairns to Texas, 8 Ball has brought his passion for music to the Mackay event.

He was most excited about the All-Star Jam, that was scheduled for the last act of the day, and would involve band members working together in a way that only blues musicians could.

"That's the sort of thing where you'll never see anything like it ever again, you get all these talented people and just put them together and say play and the jams get really crazy and really cool," he said.

There are 100 VIP tickets at $150pp with an all-inclusive package and best seats in the house. Tickets online for $55 through Mackay Tickets at mackaytickets.com.au/event/8816 or $60 at the gate on the day.

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