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Local fan favourite gearing up for city festival

Kelly Joe Phelps will be on stage at blues and roots fest on Saturday

Fresh from his Japan summer tour, Kelly Joe Phelps is back in North America and getting ready for the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival at Deer Lake Park this Saturday.

The American folk-blues guitarist played four shows in the Tokyo area, where the largest venue held only about 150 people.

It's pretty much the opposite type of experience from playing at a festival, Phelps said.

"In a small venue, the tendency is to explore the dynamic range, which isn't necessarily an option at a festival, but what the festival offers that the little gig doesn't is sheer energy."

At the festival this weekend, Phelps will play for about 5,000 people.

A regular in the Lower Mainland, he's played at the Vancouver Folk Festival several times, but this will be his first gig in Burnaby.

"I'm really looking forward to it," he said.

His set will feature some tunes from his new record - Brother Sinner and the Whale, to be released Aug. 21 - as well as some older songs from his nine previous albums.

Phelps was born and raised in southwestern Washington State, and he now lives in Vancouver, Washington.

Since 1991 he has been working as a musician, teaching and performing, and since 1994 has made a full-time living from playing live shows and selling albums.

Phelps' signature style is the lap slide, but lately he's moved more into the bottle-neck style slide guitar, using a glass tube to get that distinctive bluesy sound.

This month, he is taking it relatively easy before starting another overseas tour.

From all over Europe to all over Australia, Phelps won't have more than about a week between any of his shows in those six months.

"This summer is kind of rolling around and doing a few festivals here and there, and then September through February is going to be really slammin,'" he said.

Headlining the Burnaby Blues and Roots festival is the American folk duo, the Indigo Girls.

The lineup also includes blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughn, older brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn; Mamadu and Mariam, a duo from Mali; singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello; as well as Canadian bands The Deep Dark Woods, The Washboard Union and No Sinner.

Gates open at 12: 30 p.m. and the show starts at 2 p.m.

The west gate closes at 6 p.m. and the main gate closes at 9 p.m.

Parking near Deer Lake Park is limited during the festival, therefore organizers encourage ticket holders to use alternative modes of transportation such as taxis, carpools, bicycles and public transit. There are bike racks on site, and there is a free shuttle bus service available from the BCIT campus (payparking in effect).

Organizers also encourage anyone interested in purchasing tickets to review the guidelines on the festival website:

The Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival is produced by the City of Burnaby and the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts.

Tickets will be available at the gate for $75, and children aged 12 and under get in free with an adult.

For more information and tickets, call the box office at 6042053000, or visit www.burnabyblue

NOW reporter Marelle Reid, along with photographer Jason Lang, are scheduled to be at the festival on Saturday. Keep an eye on next week's edition for photos and a review of the annual event.