RENO — Ever tried barbecued thunderbird?
That is the main course in this weekend’s 17th Annual Great Eldorado BBQ Brews & Blues event. Highlighting the lineup of musical acts will be The Fabulous Thunderbirds, an American blues-rock band formed more than 30 years ago by lead vocalist Kim Wilson and known for the 1980s hit singles “Tuff Enuff” and “Wrap It Up.”
“I’m just learning how to do it, why would I quit now?” Wilson said in a recent phone interview about his longevity in the music business. “I didn’t even get halfway good until just a few years ago. I’m ready to keep going as long as my health holds out, so far so good.”
Wilson, the only remaining original member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, is joined in the band’s current incarnation by Jay Moeller on drums, Johnny Moeller and Mike Keller on guitar, and Randy Bermudes on bass. Wilson’s talents have garnered him numerous accolades. In 2006, he was named “Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year” by the Blues Foundation, and “Lookin’ for Trouble!” was named Blues Song of the Year in 2004. Wilson has contributed to the work of many other great artists such as the legendary Muddy Waters (who called him his “son”), contemporary artist Bonnie Raitt, guitar legends Stevie Ray Vaughan and brother Jimmie Vaughan, and Martin Scorsese’s movie “The Blues.”
The group recently finished work on a new album, the title of which is not yet official but likely will be “On the Verge,” Wilson said, and could be released this fall. Wilson describes it as blusey with a lot of “souly R&B stuff.”
Most importantly, perhaps, “I’m very happy with it. By far it’s the best record I’ve ever made,” Wilson said.
The new album also includes a reggae-style track and has what Wilson describes as a “poppy” sound, though he admits that what is “poppy” to him sounds like blues rocker Jimmy Reed to everyone else. Wilson also said the process of making this new record was nothing but good experiences, which is different from any other record he has ever made —including the ones he has produced himself.
“Everybody has to be on the same page with each other in the band, and everybody has to be on the same page with me,” Wilson said. “You have to be really open and have to be able to do a lot of things and able to do them as a team. That’s a lot to ask of any musician because there are so many different directions within the roots music genre.”
Having shared the stage with The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, Carlos Santana and blues legends BB King and Buddy Guy and countless others, The Fabulous Thunderbirds continue to tour Europe and the North America, though Wilson said at this point in his career he is content to stay in the US of A.
“I was just in Switzerland and it was beautiful over there and I had a great situation but I really don’t care about leaving my own country very much these days,” the 61-year-old Wilson said. “In fact, I don’t care about leaving the state of California.”
Wilson and The Fabulous Thunderbirds will be hopping the state line this weekend to come to Nevada, however, joining co-headliners Canned Heat and Mobility, the U.S. Air Force Band. Additionally, attendees can see Charlie Musselwhite, winner of two Blues Music Awards; singer-songwriter Edwin McCain; American roots music artist Shane Dwight; Reno favorites the Blues Monsters and the Jason King Band; soulful South Bay guitarist and vocalist Maxx Cabello Jr.; and Rockin Down the Highway.
A selection of the Eldorado’s own Brew Brothers’ custom microbrews will be on tap along with more than 40 microbreweries from around the world including Lagunitas, Red Hook, Sam Adams, Anhueser-Busch, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Boddingtons, Anchorsteam, Lindemans, Unibroue, Negra Modelo, Pacifico, Newcastle, Rogue Ales, Speakeasy Ales and Lagers, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Full Sail Brewing Co., Firestone Walker Brewing Co., North Coast Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Co., Great Basin Brewing Co., Alaskan Brewing Co., Kona Brewing Co., Anderson Valley Brewing Co., High Sierra Brewing Co., Big Sky Brewing Co., Mad River Brewing Co., Mendocino Brewing Co., Ruby Mountain Brewing Co., Deschutes Brewery and Lost Coast Brewery. Beer lovers will will have a choice of a $30 daily or $50 weekend flat rate tasting fee, both of which include an 8-ounce souvenir cup and unlimited tastings during the festival tasting times of 2 to 7 p.m. on Friday and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Beer tastes also will have a say in which brew is crowned the winner. Instead of a professional judging panel, the winner will be determined based on a “People’s Choice” award this year.
Admission to the festival is free. Food booths will line Virginia Street serving everything from American favorites to tacos and Korean barbecue.
Third Street Stage
12 to 1:30 p.m. – Blues Monsters
2 to 3:30 p.m. – Jason King Band
4 to 5:30 p.m. – Shane Dwight Band
11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. – Jason King Band
12:30 to 2 p.m. – Edwin McCain
2:30 to 4 p.m. – Charlie Musselwhite
4:30 to 6 p.m. – Rockin Down the Highway
6:30 to 8 p.m. – Maxx Cabello Jr.
Fourth Street Stage
4:30 to 6 p.m. – US Airforce Mobility
6:30 to 8 p.m. – The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Featuring Kim Wilson
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Blues Monsters
1:15 to 1:30 p.m. – Man in the Mirror
2 to 3:30 p.m. – Shane Dwight
4 to 5:30 p.m. – Canned Heat
6 to 7:30 p.m. – US Airforce Mobility