Legends and Vibes: Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan, Brittany Howard, and Big Freedia Light Up the 2024 Austin Blues Fest

From Buddy Guy’s soulful riffs to Jimmie Vaughan’s Texas blues mastery, Brittany Howard’s electrifying vocals, and Big Freedia’s booty-shaking bounce, the 2024 Austin Blues Festival celebrated the rich tapestry of blues with a dazzling blend of legends, emerging artists, and high-energy dance music

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Credit: Austin Blues Festival

After a hiatus, the Austin Blues Festival returned to Waterloo Park this weekend for its second year at Waterloo Park, bringing a perfectly balanced artist lineup that included the likes of Buddy Guy and Jimmy Vaughan to Big Freedia, Brittany Howard, and Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas. 

However, this year’s 2024 festival expanded to two days after a successful one-day run last year upon the festival’s revival. Hosted by Antone’s and Waterloo Greenway at the Moody Amphitheater, the 25-year old festival began at the original Antone’s Blues Festival in 1999, which showcased prominent blues musicians Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker. 

The entire ethos of the historic festival was part of Clifford Antone’s original vision of wanting to spotlight blues musicians who he felt were “too big” for his original downtown venue at the iconic Antone’s nightclub. 

True Hollywood Talk attended this year’s 2024 Austin Blues Festival, with editors Andrew Rossow and Cassie Bilyeu attending. 

Highlights from 2024 Performances

Having just visited New Orleans for the first time in March, the appreciation I had in not just covering the festival, but taking in that true blues rhythm was a much different experience than what I had been expecting ahead of this year’s second annual festival here in Austin. 

Jimmie Vaughan

Taking the stage before Buddy Guy’s headline performance on day one, Austin-native Jimmie Vaughan proved why he remains a blues legend as he and his Tilt-A-Whirl Band delivered a captivating set that showcased his mastery and deep understanding of Texas blues and swing. 

His set kicked off with the upbeat “Roll, Roll, Roll,” immediately setting the mood with his smooth tenor vocals and masterful guitar work. Vaughan then dug into Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s “Dirty Work at the Crossroad,” highlighting his skill on the Stratocaster as he effortlessly tickled, bit, and gouged the strings. 

Throughout his performance, Vaughan collaborated with Sue Foley on “Howlin’ for My Darling” as well as Soul Man Sam for their soulful performance of “St. James Infirmary.”

It was a performance that confirmed the elder Vaughan brother hasn’t lost a step.

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy delivered a powerful headlining set as part of his final tour before officially retiring. 

Guy opened his set with a casual warmth, blending anecdotes and jokes with searing blues riffs. He invited fellow bluesman Jimmie Vaughan and 90-year-old singer and harmonica player Bobby Rush onstage, infusing the performance with an air of camaraderie and celebration. The presence of these special guests enriched the experience, adding layers to the musical conversation that unfolded on stage – and through the crowd as Guy walked his way through Waterloo Park for about 10 minutes. 

The legendary Chicago bluesman delivered a powerful headlining set, marking one of his final tours before retirement. His gritty vocals and searing guitar solos electrified the audience, reminding everyone why he’s often called the “Last of the Greats.”

Brittany Howard

Day two of the festival brought Brittany Howard, the former lead singer of Alabama Shakes, to the stage as she captivated the audience with her soulful voice and magnetic stage presence that showcased a wide-range of musical influence.

With a smooth blend of rock, funk, and soul, Howard showcased her solo material with gusto, starting with a selection from her acclaimed album Jaime. Songs like “History Repeats” and “Stay High” highlighted her signature vocal intensity and lyrical introspection.

There’s no denying Howard’s status as one of today’s leading artists in modern blues. Her time with Alabama Shakes garnered her four Grammy Awards, which included “Best Alternative Music Album” from nine nominations. 

Later in her career, Howard played bass, acoustic guitar, and double bass for the trio Bermuda Triangle in the side project “Thunderbitch.”

Big Freedia

On Sunday, the New Orleans bounce artist had the crowd dancing with her infectious beats and high-energy dancers. Her set included classic hits like “Rock Around the Clock” and “Azz Everywhere”​ (Austin Chronicle)​.

Widely known as the New Orleans “Queen of Bounce,” Freedia brought her signature high-energy performance to the Austin Blues Festival, transforming the event into a joyous celebration of dance music, powered by DJ Juane Jordan who spun that iconic Triggerman beat with dancers executing death drops, splits, and twerking moves that brought that “power of ass” – as she eloquently described on her Instagram – to the Waterloo Park crowd. 

Freedia’s set included her 2023 pop-infused track “$100 Bill,” but she primarily stuck to her classic bounce hits like “Rock Around the Clock,” “Y’all Get Back Now,” and, of course, “Azz Everywhere.” Each song was punctuated by call-and-response moments that kept the audience engaged and dancing, especially during “Gin in My System,” where the crowd chanted along with the lyrics.