The festival program consists of the main concerts on 2 stages (House of Culture and Jam Stage), an afternoon concert on the Jam Stage on Friday, concerts in the monastery church, a Saturday afternoon concert on the main stage, a Saturday film screening in the Oko cinema, lectures, exhibitions and music workshops.
The festival operates its own merchandise shop selling promotional items from participating artists where you can buy CDs, LPs, T-shirts and other souvenirs. Often these are records that are not available anywhere else in the country. Most artists sign the purchased merchandise at the booth after the concert. The booth also sells various souvenirs directly related to the Blues Alive festival.
After the program on the main stage, jam sessions begin on the other two stages: in the foyer of the House of Culture and on the Jam Stage.
The roots of the festival
The Blues Alive festival began in Šumperk in 1996 as a local one-day event, which over the years has developed into the current form of a three-day music marathon with a world-wide prestige where the world’s biggest stars of the blues genre perform each year.
The idea of establishing the festival was born with Petra Matysová, the then producer of the House of Culture in Šumperk, whose director Vladimír Rybička fully supported her idea from the beginning and subsequently headed the festival for a quarter of a century. The first foreign performers appeared at the second edition of the festival, and from the following year, the first two-day festival, musicians from the blues homeland of the United States of America slowly began to appear on stage. In 1999, the music publicist Ondřej Bezr took over as program director, bringing with him the experienced booking agent Štěpán Suchochleb. Together with Vladimír Rybička, they managed to gradually invite an increasing number of foreign, especially American, performers to the festival, including the biggest stars of the genre.
The worldwide prestige of Blues Alive is confirmed by the many awards the festival has collected in the quarter of a century of its existence. Undoubtedly the most important one was the 2019 Keeping The Blues Alive Award given to the festival by The Blues Foundation in Memphis, the most important award a non-musician can receive on the blues scene. In the Czech Republic, the festival is one of the priority events of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the Olomouc Region and the town of Šumperk. The prestige of the festival is also evidenced by the fact that in recent years it has been sold out long in advance.
The festival is annually attended by top blues bands and soloists from the United States, Europe and, of course, Czech bands. There are three main program lines running parallel through the history of Blues Alive. The first one is driven by an attempt to make up, at least as far as possible, for what fans of blues, but also of rock or jazz, genres that are closely related to blues, were deprived of in the times of totalitarianism, namely to present live the greatest still active musical legends.
The second program line seeks to capture the most contemporary events in the blues genre right at its peak, i.e. at the time when the musicians performing on the Blues Alive stage normally triumph at the same time at the Grammy ceremonies or the most important genre awards, the Blues Music Awards. The third major program trend is the role of the search engine. The dramaturgy keeps a close eye on what is happening in the underbelly of the world scene and brings to Šumperk discoveries that are often at the beginning of their career. For Czech as well as foreign talents from neighbouring countries such as Poland, Slovakia or Austria, the festival has its Blues Aperitiv search competition, the winners of which get the chance to play in the main Blues Alive program alongside their more famous colleagues.
Visitors and the musicians themselves appreciate the atmosphere at Blues Alive. It is also a result of the already established practice of nightly jam sessions where musicians from the ranks of professionals and amateurs meet in several places in Šumperk, including the biggest overseas stars on the one hand and even novice (brave enough) musicians from the city and the region. Many of these jam sessions have already entered festival mythology. International musicians, seasoned from performing at comparable and much larger events on several continents, agree that this part of Blues Alive is quite unique in a global context.
Blues Alive is a proud member of The Blues Foundation, the European Blues Union and the Czech Festival Association.