Briggs Farm Concerts is proud to announce another exciting year of Blues at Briggs Farm, Friday July 10th & Saturday July 11th, 2015. Nescopeck, Pennsylvania.
For the 18th year the Briggs family will transform their tranquil, rural farm into one of the most celebrated & award winning blues festivals nationally, that keeps music lovers and festival goers alike wanting more, from the time the first guitar rings out Friday until the gates close Sunday afternoon. Two stages will host twenty one International, National and Regional acts promising the most exciting lineup to date.
Since its first year in 1998, “Briggs Fest” has been continually captivating and attracting larger audiences with bigger and better acts annually. Along with Mississippi Delta inspired cuisine and “farm fresh roasted sweet corn,” diverse, unique vendors, on-site camping, free parking and free hayrides… This year’s festival is looking to be the best yet.
2015 Briggs Fest is offering a Who’s Who of established & up and coming Blues Artists. Headlining the Main Stage on Friday night is Devon Allman, guitar virtuoso and son of legendary Greg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band. Musically described as Muddy Waters meets Sun Ra, Allman finds inspiration from a wealth of influences; Teeny Tucker, described by James “Skky Dobro” of Blues Blast Magazine as “…the best female Blues vocalist on the scene today; Alexis P. Suter Band is back on the Briggs scene with her commanding bass baritone artfully blending gospel and blues; Butterfield Revisited, lead by Gabriel Butterfield, son of legendary harmonica player, Paul Butterfield, takes the stage with seasoned music veterans to pay their mutual respects to Paul Butterfield, a true pioneer of the blues and 2015 inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Saturday night Main Stage performances include Headliner Danielle Nicole, a powerhouse vocalist of the new generation of blues and a 2014 Blues Music Award winner, with the Danielle Nicole Band; white-hot chemistry meets world class material with Mike Zito and the Wheel, ” His music flows into the veins and move the body in ways that can only be described as free and wild, ” says Jazz Review; last of a breed of 60’s high octane rock, the Slam Allen Band is real soul and blues entertainment from the Grammy nominated bandleader, lead guitarist and vocalist with blues legend James Cotton; go back in time with Terry “Harmonica” Bean and the Cornlickers and experience authentic Delta and Hill Country Blues.
The “Delta Style” Back Porch Stage is an intimate setting providing audiences the opportunity to get “up close” with performers from several different bands.It’s here on Friday, July 10th at 4:30, an educational observance of the Blues will take place called the Centennial Blues Celebration. Michael Cloeren, Award winning Founder & Producer of Pocono & PA Blues Festivals, will feature six influential blues artists who were born in 1915: Robert Lockwood Jr., Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Johnny Shines, David “Honeyboy” Edwards and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Cloeren will discuss their life and times, their stories and connections to the Blues, and a sample of their music will be performed by Teeny Tucker, Bobby Kyle and Lonnie Shields. It’s a proud part of the American story and Briggs Farm is thrilled to offer this truly unique event on the Back Porch Stage.
Other Back Porch Stage performers include Lonnie’s Back Porch Party featuring Lonnie Shields, young and talented Jessie Loewy, Ben Singleton, and the soul man Leroy Hawkes. Bobby Kyle, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats, Teddy Young and the Aces, and Hess & Owens, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Miner Blues, and Symphonic Haze.
Briggs Farm Blues Festival is unique! If you talk to anyone who has been to a “Briggs Fest,” chances are they have not missed a year since their first experience! This is because of the festival’s growing popularity with the international and national acts wanting to play the fest; Mississippi Delta inspired cuisine including farm fresh sweet corn, diverse, unique vendors, on site camping, free parking and free hayrides! Oh, let’s not forget about the great people and good vibes.
Briggs Farm also offers a “quiet camping area” designated for those who want to enjoy a calm relaxing weekend at the Briggs family’s welcoming farm. “The Woods” hosts late night jam sessions for those who are attracted to late night, post festival activities.
Briggs Farm is sure to provide you with a great environment and great friends making your stay at Briggs Farm memorable. When the gates close Sunday afternoon, don’t worry, there is always next year!
On Friday July 10th the camping area will open at 10:30 am, and the concert field will open at 12:30 pm. The following day, Saturday, July 11 the concert field will open at 12:30 pm, and on Sunday the camping area will close at 2:00 pm. The music goes till midnight each night.
For tickets and information please on to www.briggsfarm.com or call Briggs Farm Concerts. Telephone (570) 379-3342
^^^ The above information is from the official press release ^^^
We at Blues Biscuits have been to Briggs Farm about half a dozen times and it is always a highlight of the summer. There is continuous music on two stages which is a bit of a bummer because you will inevitably miss some great performances, but they schedule afternoon and evening sets for many of the second (Back porch) stage performers so you have multiple chances to see them all. The food is outstanding, the friendly laid back atmosphere is fantastic, and the grounds are easy to navigate. There is a short walk between the stages so you don’t lose much time when traveling to the other stage. Parking is easy, the staff is incredibly helpful and friendly, and the Briggs family are true Blues fans which shows in everything they do to ensure your enjoyment of the festival. I cannot recommend Briggs Farm Blues Festival enough. Make the trip, you will not regret it.
To get you familiar with this year’s lineup we put together a playlist featuring many of the artists performing this year. if you do not subscribe to Spotify, you can still listen to this playlist, and all our other Spotify playlists through our website.
On Saturday November 15 marked the launch of the second season of the “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” concert series at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The Chandelier Lobby series will feature one performance per month beginning in November and run through April 2015. This year, Michael Cloeren, founder of the Pocono/Pennsylvania Blues Festival and director of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, will serve as emcee for each performance. Michael will be introducing the performers and conducting brief Q&A sessions with the artists. The setting is the intimate Chandelier Lobby of the F.M. Kirby Center, with soft lighting and general admission seating featuring some tables, soft cushioned benches, and other chairs. Every seat gets terrific sound and there are multiple opportunities to meet the artists.
Alexis P. Suter Band and special guest Norman Taylor kicked off the second season with hot sets of blues on a cold November night. Norman Taylor released his CD Blue Soulearlier this year and he performed several tracks from the disc for an appreciative crowd. Taylor later said he received his first standing ovation that night and it was well deserved. His powerful and deep voice resonated throughout the lobby and his intricate guitar picking provided depth for his one-man performance. Taylor is a throwback to the early days of Blues and traveling musicians. He is a lone musician with guitar and voice, using both to great effect as he entertains the crowd with originals, traditionals, spirituals, and popular covers. Mr. Taylor took a few steps out from under the blues umbrella and treated the audience to a plaintive version of Bobby Womack’s tale of urban struggle “Across 110th Street.” Mr. Taylor’s set, however, was the calm before the storm.
The Alexis P. Suter Band is Blues rockin’ force of nature and cannot be denied. Their new album Love The Way You Rollhas been on top of the charts since it came out last summer. The band has been touring around the East Coast, building their following one show at a time. Brothers Jimmy and Peter Bennett, on guitar and bass respectively, and drummer Ray Grappone is the power trio at the heart of the band. They work together like a well-oiled machine. A machine that takes full flight once Alexis P. Suter starts to sing. Back-up vocalist Vicki Bell provides the high harmony that keeps the music soaring. On the evening of November 15th, the band was joined by keyboardist extraordinaire John Ginty. Ginty and the band are old friends and he locked right into the APSB groove.
Alexis P. Suter Band covers a lot of ground in their live shows. They will take you up to the mountain top and kick your ass – in the best way possible of course! Alexis’ Gospel roots and message of love permeates the music yet the band still rips it up with Devil’s music riffs flying fast and furious. They presented many tunes from their hot new album Love The Way You Roll but it was the stunning, heart wrenching performance of “Let It Be” that left the crowd slack-jawed and dazed. Alexis’ mother had been ill for a while and concern for her mother came through crystal clear in her impassioned performance. Her voice cracked with emotion as Alexis belted out “Mother Mary comes to me!” toward the end of the songs. With tears in her eyes and love in her heart she took ownership of Sir Paul’s Beatles classic. This is her song now and she shares it, and herself, with the audience every time she sings it.
The night ended with the band’s trademark closer of Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips.” Showing she is a woman of good humor, Alexis demonstrated the proper way to shake that booty. After an emotionally powerful set, it was a great way to cut loose and send everyone home smiling and in high spirits. The Alexis P. Suter Band is the real deal. Their original songs are compelling, the musicians give everything they have, and the smiles all across the stage let everyone know they’re music is a labor of love. If you love live music with heart, energy, and road-tested grit this is your band. Shake your hips on out to see them as soon as possible.
For more information about “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” concert series at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre, PA visit their website at http://www.kirbycenter.org. The next act on the roster is Cabinet, who will play two nights – December 19th and 20th 2014.
I was looking for some pictures to commemorate Buddy’s Guy’s birthday and for Throwback Thursday on our Facebook page. I was led to a nice set of shots taken at Bluestock, the ill-fated festival in the Catskills that literally and figuratively took a bath thanks to Hurricane Irene striking far inland three years ago. The post led to a conversation on Facebook with ChefJimi Patricola and Chris Lyon, our ticket winner for Pennsylvania Blues Festival, and it got me thinking about that fateful weekend at Hunter Mountain in New York state.
So let’s get in the WABAC machine once again and revisit the one, and so far only, Bluestock…
Skies were blue and spirits were high on Friday afternoon as the first annual Bluestock festival kicked off with two time IBC winner Lionel Young and his band, but a sense of foreboding was palpable as attendees wondered what Sunday would bring as Irene left a wake of destruction in her path up the east coast.
No, Bluestock did not exactly happen as planned. Gregg Allman, Saturday’s scheduled headliner, had to cancel due to illness. Mysteriously, or perhaps enigmatically, Steven Seagal and his band Thunderbox (yes! this is a real thing) were no where to be found. Shemekia Copeland was a late addition to the lineup and Robert Cray was added as a headliner. Then the unexpected, unwanted guest arrived: Hurricane Irene. Producer Steve Simon probably never had an inkling that hurricane season could disrupt his monumental undertaking of combining the Blues Cruise with Woodstock. A hurricane? In the Catskills? Never. Well, think again.
By the end of Friday night, Sunday’s schedule had been scrapped and the festival, originally intended to take place outdoors, with two side-by-side stages for continuous music, was to be moved indoors on Saturday. Thankfully, Hunter Mountain Ski Resort had several halls to accommodate the indoor festival allowing them to keep the original plan of adjacent stages and continuous entertainment. To everyone’s surprise, the headliners Robert Cray and Buddy Guy were to play outdoors on Saturday afternoon and all the other acts that could make it would be playing indoors for a marathon thirteen hour show.
Of course, many were displeased by the turn of events and several angry customers shared their opinions on social media sites like Facebook. Some were angry about cancellations and many felt the festival should have been cancelled altogether. However, the majority of people gathered on the mountain thought the show must go on. And go on it did. Crammed into two days of music were nineteen acts featuring a veritable who’s-who of modern blues. Performers ranged from longtime favorites like Elvin Bishop, Tommy Castro & The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue, Tab Benoit, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Shemekia Copeland to relatively newcomers Moreland & Arbuckle, Alexis P. Suter Band, Trampled Under Foot, and Port City Prophets to local favorites Bruce Katz Band and Chris O’Leary, who made a surprise appearance with Bob Margolin & Matt Hill (Matt now plays full time in his wife Nikki Hill‘s band).
While Saturday had illustrious acts seemingly every hour on the hour, Friday’s lineup was stellar in itself. The Lionel Young Band got the early birds moving with their leader’s guitar pickin’, fiddle pluckin’ boogies and a rollicking version of “Got My Mojo Working.” Literally moments after the closing notes of their set, Bob Margolin & Matt Hill continued the show on the adjacent stage allowing the crowd nary a second to catch its breath. Bob Margolin is a proven crowd pleaser but 2011 BMA Best New Artist winner Matt Hill stole the show with possibly the best AC/DC cover ever in “Hellz Bellz” – done Jerry Lee Lewis style, it was a nearly unrecognizable revved up rock n’ roller that would have left Malcolm and Angus Young drop-jawed and stupefied. Matt Hill then upped the ante with a song presumably called “Lemon Squeezer.” He sang about squeezing your lemons, woman, showed you his technique, bounded around the stage and removed his belt to whip you into submission. His infectious energy spread through the crowd and band. When Chris O’Leary came out to blow some harp it seemed the hurricane may have come early. They laid waste to preconceived notions of legendary jams when Lionel Young came out with his fiddle and joined the fray. This supergroup tore into another version of “Got My Mojo Working” that had the Catskill evergreens shimmying on the slopes.
The Bluestock crew kept the music going, operating like a well-oiled machine, getting BMA nominees Trampled Under Foot on stage just as the jam with Bob Margolin ended. The band appeared on many “best” lists in the last few years and it is immediately apparent why. This trio of siblings plays almost telepathically, locked in the groove and playing hard. Once their fiery set ended, the festival modeled after the Blues Cruise found ports of call in Louisiana with sets from Tab Benoit and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Benoit’s laid back delivery and sinewy grooves took us deep in the heart Cajun Country. Exuberant fans threw plush alligator hats to the band and Tab obliged by donning the cap while playing. His searing solos were hot as a raging skillet in a blackened shrimp contest, and were twice as tasty.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue took us from Benoit’s rural bayou to the Crescent City with an effervescent set full of New Orleans funk and jazz. Many concert goers later commented that the band seemed out place at a blues festival, but enjoyed them nonetheless. Blues and jazz are inextricably linked, born of similar circumstances and using the same musical language. It was a master stroke to remind the fans of this oft forgotten musical relationship and the powerful music of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue certainly had the crowd in the palm of its hand by the end of the set. Shorty’s passion and connection to his instruments was nearly tangible as he breathed life from the trombone and trumpet into the air around Hunter Mountain. The band was one of only a few selling their CDs for less than twenty dollars – theirs were merely ten – and I hope everyone who enjoyed the set took one home. A better value for ten bucks could not be found at the festival.
Friday’s closer Elvin Bishop took the stage and played a set roughly based on his recent CD “Raisin’ Hell Revue” recorded on one of the Blues Cruises. Unfortunately he told some of the same stories from the CD but his good humor helps overcome the familiarity. His guitar playing helps a little too. Well, it helps a lot. The jamming kicked up a notch when Tab Benoit joined Elvin Bishop and the band for a few songs to close out the set. They didn’t play “Got My Mojo Working” and I’m glad for that. After the first two acts of the day did it I was getting worried.
Due to a bizarre twist of weather-related fate, Saturday noon found Robert Cray on stage while the crew set up the opposite stage for Buddy Guy. Robert Cray and Buddy Guy, back to back, on a Saturday afternoon. It almost made you glad to be in the path of a hurricane. Cray’s smooth, soulful blues eased the bleary-eyed revelers into the day. Cray joked a few times about the bright sunlight and time of day but there was no detrimental effect on the music.
While Robert Cray’s set was somewhat laid back, Buddy Guy came out all guns blazing. If the hair of the dog didn’t cure your ills, trouble was coming your way at maximum volume and speed. Buddy’s amps must have been bought from Spinal Tap because he was definitely one louder than everyone else. He sang “74 Years Young” from his Living Proof album but played like the owner of 34 years young fingers. His passion, humor, stage antics and propensity to say “fuck” a lot certainly woke everyone up.
About halfway into his set, Buddy brought out 12 year old Quinn Sullivan who has been appearing with the Buddy Guy Band for a few years. Quinn has enormous talent and his technique is flawless, but unfortunately he’s at a stage of his musical life marked mostly by imitation, and Buddy let him dominate the rest of the set. Sullivan sang a few songs, but his pre-pubescent voice is too high and was washed out in the mix. Still, he is only twelve and will hopefully evolve into a powerful musical force in the next ten years or so. Buddy Guy believes in him and even quipped that he would certainly come back next year, but only if Quinn gets an invitation too. I say Quinn Sullivan should be invited, but give him his own set so we can get a full ninety minutes of Buddy Guy next time.
After Buddy Guy’s set, the festival moved indoors, just moments ahead of the rain. Recent concert tragedies from stages falling at the Indiana State Fair and the Ottawa Blues Fest surely had the promoters and crew concerned and they made short work of taking down the outdoor staging. Accommodations were also made to allow the campers to stay in the lodge on Saturday night. Steve Simon and crew put safety first making sure all attendees were protected.
Meanwhile, two stages were ready to go inside. One in a large auditorium style hall and the other in place for the late night jams with Mitch Woods, dubbed Club 88. Mitch hosts Club 88 on the Blues Cruises and usually persuades lingering musicians to join in the fun. Tucked in the corner of the lodge, the stage was like an eight ounce brisket sandwich with sixteen ounces of brisket on it; messy, over flowing, and finger licking good. The sky was crying but the blues lovers were smiling as the two stages provided continual music for the next eleven hours as the rain pounded the mountain outside.
Saturday’s indoor lineup was Shemekia Copeland, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Curtis Salgado, Bruce Katz Band, Shakura S’Aida, Moreland & Arbuckle, Tommy Castro & The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue, Albert Cummings, Alexis P. Suter Band, and Port City Prophets. Every one who made it to the mountain played a set and then the music continued once more when Mitch Woods’ Club 88 re-opened for business with the Prince of Beale St. Billy Gibson at the microphone.
I must confess I’ve seen Shemekia Copeland three times this year. She played basically the same set each time and told the same stories. I suspect I’m spoiled by bands that vary their sets. Her band is tight and plays perfectly each time, which makes once a year enough for me. Ms. Copeland has a powerful voice and uses it well, but there are no surprises for repeat customers. If you haven’t heard her sing live though, I highly recommend it. No studio wizardry, and sometimes no microphone, is used but her tiny frame holds inside an immense musical force.
Ronnie Baker Brooks gave the guitar fans one long guitargasm after another and even soloed his way through the crowd to the bar for a drink and a bottle to play some slide. It’s not a new addition to the traditional trick bag, but it gets the crowds going every time. Curtis Salgado’s blue-eyed soul had the faithful swaying to the beat; Bruce Katz Band whipped up some Hammond B-3 blues with Alexis P. Suter’s guitarist Jimmy Bennett pulling double duty, playing and singing with Bruce. Shakura S’Aida’s vigorous vocalizing drew cheers and Moreland & Arbuckle literally and figuratively kicked everything up a notch with their guitar and harmonica led trio. They were asked to play a bit longer while Tommy Castro was setting up next door and the enthusiastic crowd response drove them to greater manic intensity. They even had the audacity to release their new album on vinyl, which was quite popular at the merchandise table.
The delay from getting Tommy Castro set up caused a schedule crunch and bands had to play simultaneously, dividing the attention of the Bluestock survivors but Tommy Castro & The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue held most of the focus once under way. They played an incendiary rendition of “Gotta Serve Somebody” before being joined by Rick Estrin, Deanna Bogart and others for a recreation of the legendary blues cruise’s favorite jams.
Albert Cummings took the stage with the rhythm section from Shakura S’Aida’s band – two guys he met a mere thirty minutes before going on – and they wowed the small crowd in front of the tiny Club 88 stage. The trio played seamlessly with Cummings’ molten licks flowing freely over the bedrock of bass and drums. Alexis P. Suter’s powerful, booming voice filled the auditorium and the band’s gospel infused blues surely added weight to those prayers for shelter from the storm pounding the Catskills. Port City Prophets, an upcoming band from South Carolina, played last on the Club 88 stage, mixing amusing originals with clever covers. They played a dynamic version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Couldn’t Stand The Weather” in honor of the looming devastation that would be unleashed by morning.
And so, we had Bluestock 2011: One of the headliners cancelled, an MC was AWOL, minor acts hoping for major exposure were crammed into a ski lodge playing for hundreds instead of thousands, headliners opened the show, openers closed; all the signs of the Apocalypse were there. But the Apocalypse never came. The crowd was well behaved in the cramped space, everyone was happy to be there enjoying a seemingly endless variety of blues, and the producers, promoters, managers and musicians all pulled together to provide those who braved the weather the best possible experience. They came through with class and grace, deftly handling one dilemma after another making Bluestock 2011 an unforgettable weekend of music, friends and adventure. Although I’m already looking forward to the next Bluestock, strangely enough, the Simon brothers and the Bluestock crew will have a hard time topping it next year.
The Pocono Blues Festival had been a Pennsylvania tradition for 19 years, bringing the best of blues music to the Pocono Mountains and fans from around the globe. In November 2010, it looked like the tradition might be over. Michael Cloeren, the founder and producer of the festival was called into a meeting with the president of Peak Resorts and was told the company was going in a different direction and that the resorts were no longer going to do any summer or fall events. However, Michael did not want to see the tradition of the festival and what he calls a “family reunion” fade gently away.
By the end of 2010, Michael Cloeren met with the administrators at Blue Mountain. Fortunately, their general manager, Jim Daley, had attended Pocono Blues Festival and was familiar with the clientele, acts, vendors, and perhaps most importantly, the popularity. The name Pocono Blues Festival could no longer be used and from the ashes of the Pocono Blues Festival a new festival was born. Michael says Blue Mountain is “a wonderful facility; very user friendly, closer to more people and fully embraced by the staff.” Blue Mountain is indeed closer to the fans, seated 45 minutes south of the original site, it’s closer to Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, and Philadelphia which are the core markets for Blues in the Poconos. Plus Blue Mountain is ideal for a festival since it has all the perfect facilities like parking, real restrooms, a natural amphitheater, and camping on site, which the other facility did not. Camping has had an unexpected but very welcome effect on the musical adventures too, “Camping on site is extremely popular and is a direct positive result how the nightly Jams have taken off since year #1 (2011).” You never know who is going to take the stage and it’s easier to stay up late to take it all in if you’re not driving.
In just a few short years, Pennsylvania Blues Festival has taken the torch of nineteen years of blues history in the Poconos and run with it, regaining the status of its legendary predecessor. Much of the success is owed to Michael Cloeren and his sterling reputation and track record. According to Michael, “changing locations takes time to get on people’s radar.” He adds, “I feel this year will be very special.” Michael recently told us the transition from Pocono Blues Festival to Pennsylvania Blues Festival has been “a great experience – I feel that the event is growing in momentum and we continue to educate new customers in a positive way.” That positive way is reflected in the lineup of acts Michael brings to the festival, “I feel I program a lineup different than just about anyone in the USA. My programming work for 23 years speaks for itself.” It does indeed. You may see some familiar faces at Pennsylvania Blues Festival but you’re in for a few surprises too. Michael says he likes to schedule “1/3 blues icons, 1/3 strong festival circuit names and 1/3 acts that most people never have seen before.” Michael has a knack for getting acts out of their comfort zone too and gets some amazing performances on the smaller stages. He tells us, “I know every act that I have ever booked (since 1992 around 400 acts) and through experience I know how and where to slot them. That stuff comes easy to me.”
It may come easy to Michael since he’s been a blues fan and champion of the art form for many years. Michael told us he first met the blues on “March 30,1975 at the age of 18. I went to the Philadelphia Spectrum to see Eric Clapton and the opening act was Muddy Waters. Muddy’s show that night changed my life and I have been a blues addict ever since.” When Michael introduces bands on stage you can hear the love and admiration in his voice. You also get the notion sometimes that he knows he’s about share a secret with you and he can’t wait. Every year you have to get there early because Michael will be sharing some of the Blues best kept secrets all day long. One of my personal favorites was Linsey Alexander’s tent stage performance a few years ago. I had never heard Linsey before and had to go back for his second set later in the day. Linsey outdid just about everyone and it was revelation. You’re going to find the heart of the blues beating under the tent and you’ll get some lasting memories of special performances like the Lonnie, Ronnie and Wayne Baker Brooks performing an acoustic set. The love between father and sons was tangible as was their respect for each other and the good time they had playing together like they would in the living room at home.
Over the years Michael had several memorable moments of his own including James Peterson starting his set in 1996 from the chairlift, Eddy Clearwater starting his set in 1998 on a white stallion horse in full headdress, Shemekia Copeland entering the stage in 2002 on a Harley Davidson Motorcycle, and booking Lowell Fulson in 1996, which was his last east coast appearance. His other personal highlights include Ruth Brown in 2005, Luther Allison in 1995, and Otis Rush in 1998. Michael says his initial vision was “a blues festival in a mountain setting” and it has blossomed into a remarkable event hosting music legends every year. Michael says attendees should expect “a weekend of World Class Music, a wonderful facility and a staff that welcomes them with open arms.” He continues “I would suggest that people should attend this and other like-minded events with an open mind and they possibly could have a life changing moment like the one that happened to me on March 30th, 1975 at The Philadelphia Spectrum.”
Michael Cloeren is directly and indirectly involved in several like-minded events including The Philadelphia Folk Festival which he says is “The longest continuous music festival in the USA and Canada at 53 years. It offers eight stages of music, fifty thousand music guests from all over the world, and 2500 volunteers.” If Michael is involved, you can be sure the music with be exceptional and the environment will be fan friendly. A few years ago, at the time of the first Pennsylvania Blues Festival, I spoke to Michael Cloeren and he shared his approach to the booking the artists and it gives great insight to his process and what you’re going to see and hear at his events. “I program differently than a lot of festivals out there. I try to get to the core of the subject matter. To me, the core is the artists that live it, breathe it, and die it. With all respect to classic rock artists who have been in it for 30 years and just discovered the blues or put out a blues record, that’s not what I’m looking for. That’s not what I do. Obviously, the headliners are important, and they’re great acts, but it’s not always about the headliners. It’s about the entire bill. After years of experience, the guests know to get there early because some of the best sets are early in the afternoon. They may not have heard the act before but they know from history that I’ll never book a bad band. And that’s what’s great about this music, as you know, you think you’ve heard or seen a lot and then there’s a band that blows you away that you’ve never seen before. What I try to do is mix them between contemporary and traditional blues, New Orleans music, Sacred Steel, gospel, acoustic, and electric; I try to give the audience the full spectrum of blues music.”
Pennsylvania Blues Festival is taking place July 25-27, 2014. There is an amazing array of talent lined up for the event so make plans to visit the Pocono Mountains for some red hot summer blues. For ticket information and festival information please visit the website. We hope to see you there.
Our thanks go to Michael Cloeren for taking the time from his hectic schedule to answer our questions.
Blues Biscuits will be live tweeting from the festival so be sure to follow us on Twitter @BluesBiscuits and look for #PABluesFest and remember, #thatsahotbiscuit !
Here’s the line-up:
Friday, July 25th 2014 – Friday Night Jam
8pm to Midnight in the Adventure Center – doors open at 7pm.
Cover charge at the door is $10 & Jam Buffet is $8 (food optional).