New Blues Revolution and Bill Grisolia are no strangers to the LA Beat. Bill is not only known as the singer/pianist/frontman of the powerful New Blues Revolution, the blues based group that’s been a fixture in Southern California for years, but he also wears a few other hats. He’s currently President of the Long Beach Blues Society and has also been instrumental in bringing major acts to the LB/OC area via the New Blues Festival in Long Beach and Huntington Beach. Not one to just sit around, Bill has used his time and musical connections during the COVID pandemic to organize several charitable fundraisers for musicians, their families and others affected by the current pandemic.
Friday night, November 6, the New Blues Revolution will perform a show at the iconic Harvelle’s Blues Club in Santa Monica. This show will not only be COVID safe for those attending but will be livestreamed for those unable to make it or still concerned about venturing out. The Los Angeles Beat talked to Bill about Friday’s show and some of the projects both the New Blues Revolution and the Long Beach Blues Society have going on currently.
Q: It’s been an interesting year for everyone. How did the year start for you?
A: We had a good year personally and professionally even in spite of COVID. We started off the year strong with the New Blues Revolution Band. We had a couple of sold out shows—New Years Eve we opened for Los Lobos—that was a sold out show at the Canyon Club in Montclair. Then we co-produced an event with the Aquarium of the Pacific for Valentine’s Day; it was a blues and jazz concert and the New Blues Revolution appeared there as well and it was also sold out. It was the first music show, the first concert in their new $53 million dollar facility, so it started out with an auspicious beginning.
Q: It’s been a long year without live music. You’re finally bringing some to Harvelle’s in Santa Monica., which is an intimate sort of club. Will you still be able to practice safe social distancing while knocking everyone’s socks off?
A: Yes, socks are optional! The way that the nightclub has been doing their concert season is Completely COVID Compliant—that’s three C’s in a row! What’s happened is that they have set up an area behind the nightclub with tables and chairs and they project the performance, which is also livestreamed, they project that onto the wall and we perform inside the nightclub, on the stage. The audience is all outside and compliant with COVID. It’s a model that other places are using and they have been doing this now for a few weeks and have had good success with it, so we’re excited to be part of the new Harvelle’s, if you will.
Q: Does New Blues Revolution have any new musical treats you’re going to be sharing Friday night?
A: Yes we do; and we’re going to be doing an hour that’s going to be livestreamed and use that. We have a couple of favorites; we’re doing a lot of original music and we always have a twist on that . We also have a couple of standard blues covers and we do them in our own way, one of which is the famous Take Me To The River by Al Green, the Righteous Reverend Al Green. It was also famously covered by Talking Heads, but we do our own version which you may have heard something before like on our first record. Secondly, we’re doing a tune by Robert Cray, a hot tune called Smokin’ Gun, which of course features our hot guitarist Chad Cooper.
Q: Music Connection Magazine will be profiling you as on of the artists talking about music in the age of COVID in their December issue. Has COVID influenced your songwriting?
A: Yes it has, in fact this Friday, our second set, we’re going to be doing a couple of other tunes ; one of ours which is called A Soul On Fire, which we have rewritten partially in light of this. Then we’ve also done a little rewrite on that classic—but we do it in a completely different style—Jumpin’ Jack Flash,; and we have added our own stanza of lyrics to that and we’re approaching it in a little different way but that’s all right for sure.
Q: The COVID pandemic has really brought livestreaming into mainstream recognition. You’ve been very proactive with using that for several charitable events and fundraisers through the Long Beach Blues Society, haven’t you?
A: Absolutely! We have done a couple of online festivals using talent from our New Blues Festival that we also founded. We’ve done seven festivals in three cities in five years, so we’ve worked with a lot of top talent. These headlining musicians have also been kind enough to help with our fundraising efforts and have contribute music videos, so we’ve done at least a couple of those festivals in conjunction with our organization called Can’t Stop the Blues which has a great team. We’ve done that work and we’ve created the other one that we called A Day of Music and that is ten hours. Those are all things that we have done in addition to the other assorted fundraisers and programming.
Q: What do you have next on the agenda for the Long Beach Blues Society?
A: We have one coming up to note that for the future that it’s called A Day of Artists Music and we’re doing that in conjunction with the national campaign. Every Thanksgiving there’s something called Thanksgiving Tuesday—it’s called Giving Tuesday is the name of the promotion nationally. That’s where the non-profits get together and they raise awareness about their activities and they raise funds for those activities. This year I believe it’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Tuesday December 1st. As part of Giving Tuesday we will be putting together a day of Art and Music. We’ve had contributions of art—paintings and photography, etc. From local, regional and national artists that we will be exhibiting and also auctioning livestreaming for that day of Thanks.
Q: I know you must have a good story to tell…….
A: Well, this goes back to the COVID crisis and livestreaming. Years ago, I met a guy on a plane from Australia and we’ve stayed in touch. He and his crew in Sandringham, which is near Melbourne and part of the state of Victoria. We’ve stayed in touch, so his crew started to do a weekly livestream, an “open mic” if you will and invited me. I’ve now been doing it for six months. They’ve had such success with this that they’ve started doing a separate show; and then recently we did a fundraiser all with videos from people on four continents. Musicians on four continents! That crew, they call themselves “The Hobson’s Crew”, because they’re centered around a nightclub in Sandringham called Hobson’s. So the Hobson’s Crew contributed about two dozen music videos to an event that we called A Day of Music, where we put together 10 hours of recorded music from musicians on four continents. Even our sister Blues Society in Valencia, Spain also contributed. We had all this music, picture and videos contributed to the Long Beach Blues Society during COVID for this program called A Day Of Music; and this also has been helpful for our direct relief program called Give a Gig. With that we’ve raised about $20,000 to give to musicians and their families.
Bill Grisolia and New Blues Revolution will perform live Friday, November 6 at Harvelle’s, 1432 4th St., Santa Monica. Showtime 9pm. Table of 4 $40. Table of Six $50. Tickets available here. Info: (562) 762-8317 or visit http://harvelles.com.