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San Francisco’s Blues

11:02 AM Wednesday 2/18/09 | |

The San Francisco Blues Festival, regarded as the nation’s oldest continuous outdoors fest, has been canceled for 2009 and may not be revived, according to founder and organizer Tom Mazzolini.

Rising production costs and declining sponsorships are cited as the main factors in the fest’s demise, as well as declining attendence.

“We may well have seen the last San Francisco Blues Festival,” Mazollini told the Oakland Tribune. “That’s sad. That’s very tragic. An event like this, with so much history and so much legacy, needed to continue.”

The festival was co-founded by Mazollini in 1973, more than a decade before the more-famous Chicago Blues Festival, and has hosted such greats as Steve Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins, Willie Dixon, Albert King and local resident John Lee Hooker.

Traditionally taking place at Fort Mason’s scenic Great Meadow, last year’s lineup included Allen Toussaint, Charlie Musselwhite and Tommy Castro.

Mazzolini also casts some blame on the blues industry for the lack of marquee-level performers, most of whom have died.

“When B.B. [King] is gone, who is going to replace him?” Mazzolini said. “The problem is not a lack of talent,” he told the Tribune. “There are some very talented performers out there, but they are not getting the exposure.”

And the SF Blues Festival may also have been a victim of sorts of the success of outdoor festivals in the city. It has held down a weekend slot in September, and last year found itself squeezed between two mammoth outdoors: August’s Outside Lands and October’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festivals, both at Golden Gate Park.