Bringing Back the Blues

FD Fine Arts bring Hamilton Loomis to local stage

The blues are back in Fort Dodge. For one night only on May 20, the newly-renovated Phillips Auditorium will come alive with the sounds of the blues.

Soulful, energetic, and so well-needed after years of living in a pandemic-driven world, the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association is breaking out the blues with a performance from Texas Blues artist Hamilton Loomis.

While it has been several years since Loomis has performed in Fort Dodge, his name may be familiar to many local blues aficionados. His shows here in the past always packed in a crowd and never failed to deliver anything but a terrific experience, according to Shelly Bottorff, executive director of Fort Dodge Fine Arts.

“He came to Olde Boston’s, and actually he played a couple of times,” she said. “The people went nuts for this guy. He’s not just an amazing musician, he’s also an amazing performer. People still talk about seeing him down there.”

Show honors O’Leary

The show on May 20 will be in celebration of the late Tim O’Leary, a legend himself on the local blues scene. O’Leary and his wife, Sara, were founding members of the Lizard Creek Blues Society and instrumental in bringing professional blues performances to several local venues over the years, Bottorff said.

O’Leary passed away in January 2020, shortly before the pandemic really settled in. With shutdowns mounting that spring, large gatherings were not possible at the time.

“We couldn’t do a concert in celebration,” Bottorff said. But O’Leary has not been forgotten, and friends have now come together, spearheaded under the umbrella of the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association, to bring a concert to Fort Dodge.

“We have the space at Phillips Auditorium, and we just decided to make it happen,” Bottorff said. “Several supporters from the former Lizard Creek Blue Society, have joined us. I can’t even name them all yet, but we’re getting great support.”

To make the evening even more festive, beer and wine will be available for purchase, as well as non-alcoholic drinks.

“This is our very first concert in the space and the board is super-excited to bring the blues back to Fort Dodge,” Bottorff said.

Ronley King Band opens for Loomis

Opening the show on May 20 will be The Ronley King Band. Winners of the Iowa Blues Challenge, the group that includes Ronley King, Kaleb Ferry and Ethridge Netz recently represented the state in the Memphis Blues Challenge.

The group will be a fitting complement to Loomis’ reputation for a powerful stage presence. Loomis is known for engaging the crowd. Blues, as he offers up the music, is not a singular experience, but something that draws in the audience from within.

“Passion drips from every note,” was the review from BillTown Blues on just one of his albums.

Loomis is a protege of the legendary Bo Diddley. He met Diddley at the age of just 16 and the legend quickly took him under his wing as friend and collaborator. Didley has appeared on two of Loomis’ albums.

Phillips Auditorium makes

for perfect venue

The working agreement between the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association and the Foutch Brothers, LLC, owners of the Phillips Luxury Apartments, is key to the project.

Bottorff credits city officials for bringing the two entities together. By keeping the auditorium intact, the Foutch Brothers were able to tap into historical tax credits that otherwise would not have been available to them, she said.

Fort Dodge Fine Arts pays no rent for use of the auditorium, but did agree to invest at least $150,000 in improvements over the next 10 years. Just a few years in to the contract, the group has already invested $130,000 in improvements, including repairing and cleaning all the seats on the main floor, replacing the top of the stage as well as some curtains, and some plumbing and electrical improvements. The next phase, Bottorff said, will be permanent lighting and sound improvements.

“The acoustics that are just built-in to that auditorium are some of the best in the area,” Bottorff said.

She is very pleased with the working agreement with Foutch Brothers and what the historic auditorium’s significance means to the community. While most recently a middle school, long before that it was home to decades of Fort Dodge Senior High students in the early and mid-20th century.

“The fact that the owners (Foutch Brothers) found value in our organization, and in working with us is very gratifying,” Bottorff said.

Tenants in the Phillips Apartments benefit as well, receiving free or discounted tickets to all performances in the auditorium.

Get your tickets

Tickets are $20 per person and can be purchased at the door or in advance at Eventbrite.com.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. on May 20, with the music set to start at 6:30 p.m.

Phillips Auditorium is located at 1015 Fifth Ave. N. in Fort Dodge


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