George Daily Community Auditorium ignited with the pronounced passion of blues music Friday night.
Oskaloosa Community Theatre hosted the first-ever Blues for Food, which featured local guitar-slingers Jared Boisen, Bob Ballard and Justin Kesterson. They were joined on stage by keyboard player Anita Mienert, bass guitarist Charles Hixenbaugh, percussionist Rick Vogel and Iowa Rock n’ Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame inductee and drummer Eric Boetger Sr.
Those bringing food items for The Ecumenical Cupboard received a discount on their ticket price. Around 130 food items were donated Friday.
After only a handful of rehearsals, these musicians took to the stage and knocked out blues numbers including ZZ Top’s “Jesus Left Chicago” and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy.”
Every musician has their start somewhere.
Boisen said he first picked up the guitar around 20 years ago. When asked what inspired him to pick up the guitar, Boisen’s answer was straight to the point.
“Girls,” said Boisen.
Kesterson has been playing the guitar for about 16 years now, he said. At Friday’s gig, Kesterson offered up both acoustic and electric blues guitar flavors.
“I just happened to have a buddy give me an acoustic guitar and I caught on rather quickly,” recalled Kesterson. “So, I’ve just been playing ever since, man. I can’t stop.”
Ballard said his history with the guitar stretches back approximately 35 years. He pointed to the fact that his father was a musician who taught him a lot about playing music.
“He taught me and I later kind of gravitated to rock and blues,” Ballard said.
Boisen said when he first began playing the guitar, it was more rock oriented. He later started learning some blues techniques from a friend around the age of 18. Ballard noted that he’s been playing blues for about the past 25 years, while Kesterson said he’s been playing in the style since he first began playing the guitar.
Blues music isn’t all about being sad and depressed, noted Ballard.
“It chases away the blues a lot of the time,” Ballard said.
Kesterson explained that the term “blues” is simply a label for a certain style of music. He said there are different feelings and emotions one can get from both listening to and playing different blues songs.
“It’s a feeling that you get,” said Boisen.
The influence of blues can be found in numerous other styles of music. Boisen said you can hear blues influences in rock and country music, for example.
“Blues is pretty much the foundation of where our music comes from,” said Boisen. “They incorporate blues in to almost everything you hear out there today.”
Kesterson said most of the rock n’ roll that is beloved by many is, in fact, blues based.
Every artist has their influences. Boisen, Ballard and Kesterson are no different in that regard.
Boisen pointed to the late blues guitar legends Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Healey as personal influences. He also noted that guitarist Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society and formerly of Ozzy Osbourne’s band has been influential to his playing.
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s influence on Kesterson runs deep. He said SRV’s music is one of the reasons why he started playing the guitar. Another notable influence on Kesterson’s playing is Johnny Lang.
Ballard is also a big fan of SRV. He also pointed to blues artists from earlier eras in the genre’s history like Hound Dog Taylor, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins and Willie Dixon as influences
“I like a lot of the old stuff,” Ballard said.