The Bradenton Blues Festival is still more than three months away, but you don't have to wait that long to see some of the festival's biggest stars.
Realize Bradenton is sponsoring a concert series called "Blues Bar Buzz" that's meant to start building excitement for the festival. Rick Estrin & the Nightcats will be at Ace's Live Sept. 4 as part of the series. They'll also be at the festival, which is scheduled for Dec. 5 on the Riverwalk.
Estrin is recognized as one of the best blues harp players in the world. He won the 2013 Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist -- Harmonica in 2013. He took over leadership of the Nightcats after Little Charlie Baty retired in 2008.
On Oct. 10, Janiva Magness, this year's Bradenton Blues Festival headliner, will be at the Blue Rooster in Sarasota. Magness was named the Blues Foundation's Contemporary Artist of the Year for 2015.
The Blues Bar Buzz concerts are announced one at a time. Magness's show at the Blue Rooster doesn't look to be an official Blues Bar Buzz concert, probably because it's in Sarasota. But at Estrin's show and all the other Blues Bar Buzz shows, you can buy tickets for the Bradenton Blues festival for $25, which is $5 less than the regular price. You can also buy festival hats, T-shirts and stuff like that.
Call 941-795-3886 or go to aceslivemusic.com to find out more about Rick Estrin & the Nightcats' show. For Magness, call 941-388-7539 or go to blueroostersrq.com. To keep up with Blues Bar Buzz, go to realizebradenton.com/blues_bar_buzz_2015.
Sarasota's Fuzion Dance Artists do some beautiful work and they're getting bigger and better all the time. They've just announced their new season, which expands to five concerts for the first time in the company's 10-year history. They're also offerings season subscriptions for the first time.
Here's what they have coming up:
Sept. 16, Alfstad & Contemporary Gallery, 1419 Fifth St, Sarasota: "10th Season Kick Off." Food, drinks, a dance
performance, and a display of plans for the company's new studio and office space. $10.
Oct. 15-18, New College of Florida Black Box Theater: "Close Up." An intimate view of Artistic Director Leymis Bolaños Wilmott's choreography including "Aftermath," which was performed at the Kennedy Center.
Dec. 3-6, Cook Theater at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts: "Voices of Fuzión." An annual favorite that features works by emerging choreographers.
March 17-20, Cook Theater at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts: "Retrospect." A look-back at dance featuring former company members and some pieces from past Fuzion seasons that have been especially popular with dancers and audiences.
June 2-5, Cook Theater at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts: "Evolving/Revolving." A mixture of old and new works.
For the opening season kick-off event, call 941-366-6400. For season tickets or individual tickets to the other concerts, call 941-359-0099.
Go to fuziondance.org for information.
Maybe it's a matter of artistic minds thinking alike. Or maybe it's nothing but coincidence. But as companies started announcing their 2015-16 seasons over the past few weeks, the number of duplicates was surprising.
Sarasota Opera and St. Petersburg Opera are both doing "La Boheme," though it's opening the Sarasota season and closing St. Petersburg's. Players Theatre in Sarasota and American Stage in St. Petersburg both have "The 39 Steps" on their season schedule, and there's only a few weeks between them.
There's nothing wrong with that, of course -- the companies are very stylistically different, and all those shows are good enough that they'll draw plenty of people. It's just curious that with thousands of plays and operas to choose from, the dozen or so major performing arts groups within a half-hour of Bradenton choose the same ones so often.