We’re trying something a little new. We’ll be creating Spotify playlists and sharing them from time to time. I thought this one would be a great way to introduce you to most of the artists performing at the 2015 Pennsylvania Blues Festival now at Split Rock.
Spotify had music from all the artists except The Peterson Brothers. Otherwise, all these fine artists are in the playlist:
Happy Hump Day Biscuiteers! Valentine’s Day is coming up so I hope you have plenty of bawdy Blues ready for Hallmark’s annual Hump Day Blow Out (#thatsoundsdirty). One way to warm up for this winter holiday of love is to check out the sultry side of songstress Shemekia Copeland.
Shemekia will be appearing at F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA next Friday, February 20, 2015 and it got me thinking about her catalog of songs. She never gets raunchy, but it gets pretty steamy when this “Wild, Wild Woman” starts to “Turn Up The Heat.” Shemekia actually has a song called “Happy Valentine’s Day” but it’s a depressing tale of a cheating man making her cry on Valentine’s Day. Now, that is no way to treat a lady. Certainly not the new Queen of the Blues!
If you want to know how to treat her, go no further than “Your Mama’s Talking.” For some reason, ladies referring to themselves as Mama in bawdy songs doesn’t seem as creepy as the guys calling themselves Daddy, but it’s still disturbing. This mama will take your mind off that conundrum for sure.
We hope you have a happy Hump Day, a Happy V-day (naughty!), and if you’re in the area, please join us at Shemekia’s show at the F.M. Kirby Center next Friday.
Vocal powerhouse, Shemekia Copeland, will visit the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, February 20 at 8:00 p.m. as part of the “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” concert series. The Chandelier Lobby provides an intimate setting where the attendees can experience the passion and power of the musicians up close.
While only in her early 30’s, Shemekia Copeland is already a force to be reckoned with in the blues music industry. She has already opened for the Rolling Stones, headlined at the Chicago Blues Festival, scored critics choice awards on both sides of the Atlantic (The New York Times and The Times of London), shared the stage with such luminaries as Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Mick Jagger, and Eric Clapton, and has even performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama. Heir to the rich tradition of soul-drenched divas like Ruth Brown, Etta James and Koko Taylor, Copeland was presented with Taylor’s crown on June 12, 2011 at the Chicago Blues Festival.
Born in Harlem, New York, in 1979, Copeland is the daughter of the late Texas blues guitar legend Johnny Clyde Copeland. Ms. Copeland has recently re-signed with Alligator Records, the label she called home from 1998 through 2005. Shemekia is working on a new album with producer Oliver Wood and the new music is due in September 2015.
Her passion for singing, matched with her huge, blast-furnace voice, gives her music a timeless power and a heart-pounding urgency. Her music comes from deep within her soul and from the streets where she grew up, surrounded by the everyday sounds of the city – street performers, gospel singers, blasting radios, bands in local parks and so much more.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at the Kirby Center Box Office, by phone at (570) 826-1100 and online at www.kirbycenter.org.
Tickets Prices: $20.00 (advance), $25 (day of show), plus fees
Ho ho ho! What’d you call me? Hey! It must be Hump Day again. Christmas is coming and it occurred to me that the man with the bag sees a lot of action this time of year, if you know what I mean…
Santa Claus apparently gets a Hall Pass from Mrs. Claus every December. If the songs are to be believed, Kris Kringle is spreading more than joy at Christmas. I’m not sure if he’s a jolly old elf or a dirty old man. He certainly has an eye for the ladies and the ladies are more than willing to wait for Santa under the mistletoe to barter for bigger and better presents.
Blues men and women of all eras have fallen under Santa’s spell. Some have even gone so far as to impersonate Santa for the nefarious purposes of re-gifting beef logs, unwrapping presents, and removing stockings.
Albert King is playing Santa this year and he makes one thing clear: “Santa Claus Wants Some Loving.” He’s been working all year and needs to cut loose a little. C’mon ladies, Santa loves your cookies and he likes his milk straight from the tap!
B.B. King takes a slightly different approach. Skip the chimney, Santa’s coming in the back door. Either way, that sounds dirty. I get the feeling B.B.’s Santa is spreading love and joy the whole year. Swiss Colony was made for this Santa. They’ve got beef logs, meat sticks, and summer sausages, and Back Door Santa’s giving it to everybody he can. As B.B. King sings, old St. Nick don’t come but once a year. No wonder he makes it last all night…
Shemekia Copeland has the cure for Santa’s Christmas Blues but she can’t get him to stick around to sample her goodies. She wants to get her jollies straight from Mr. Kringle. Her tree is trimmed and she’ll deck his halls real good, wink wink nudge nudge. Christmas Eve is on Hump Day this year so maybe she’ll get her wish this time around.
The Blast Furnace Blues Festival is an up and coming annual spring festival located in Bethlehem, PA at the Steel Stacks near the old Bethlehem Steel factory that can be seen in the backdrop image of this website. It is a beautiful, easily accessible campus and a great place to see musicians on stage. The festival continues to highlight the treasure trove of talented Blues artists in the Lehigh Valley alongside tremendous national acts. I dare say you may enjoy Friday night’s lineup of local acts as much as, or more than, the national acts. I have seen all these bands live a few times and they are all worthy of your time and attention. Check them out and support local musicians as often as you can no matter where you are!
Shemekia Copeland, Tommy Castro, Heritage Blues Orchestra & More Headline 2015 Blast Furnace Blues Festival Presented by Highmark Blue Shield Event, set for March 27-29 in Bethlehem, Pa., will feature 20 national and local blues acts
BETHLEHEM, PA–Two-time GRAMMY nominee Shemekia Copeland, multiple Blues Music Award and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year winner Tommy Castro, the Heritage Blues Orchestra and John Németh & the Bo-Keys headline the 2015 Blast Furnace Blues Festival presented by Highmark Blue Shield March 27-29, 2015 at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. Three-day festival passes and single-day tickets for the event, which features 20-plus national and local blues artists, go on sale today, noon, at www.artsquest.org and 610-332-3378.
On March 28, Blast Furnace Blues welcomes the one and only Tommy Castro. A two-time winner of the coveted B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award, Castro has captured numerous honors for his music and songwriting including first place in the blues category of the 2012 International Songwriting Competition for “Hard Believer.” He has been touring nationally since the 1980s, first with the Dynatones, and then with The Tommy Castro Band. During his career, Castro has shared the stage with some of the greats in the blues, including legends Albert King and B.B. King.
Following a set by Castro, the Blast Furnace Blues audience will enjoy a scorchin’ set by John Németh & The Bo-Keys. Since 2002, harmonicist and singer-songwriter John Németh has recorded seven albums, earning seven Blues Music Award nominations in 2012 and 2013 alone. At Blast Furnace Blues, he will be joined by Blues Music Award nominees The Bo-Keys, whose music has been featured in multiple films including the Academy Award winner “Hustle & Flow.” The two artists recently joined forces to record “Memphis Grease,” and Blast Furnace Blues offers the unique opportunity to see them perform together on the same stage.
Headlining the festival on March 29 is vocal powerhouse Shemekia Copeland. Since beginning her career at the age of 16, Copeland has released seven albums, which have been nominated for several blues awards. She has shared the stage with artists such as Mick Jagger, B.B. King and Eric Clapton, while also performing at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama.
Also taking the stage March 29 is the GRAMMY-nominated Heritage Blues Orchestra. Based in New York, this group seamlessly blends together blues, gospel, country and jazz to create fierce and inspiring music that’s internationally cherished. Its 2013 album “And Still I Rise” made it onto the Top Blues Albums chart, and individual members have enjoyed their own astonishing successes. At Blast Furnace Blues, the audience will have the opportunity to experience this incredible nine-piece orchestra, which comes complete with a rippin’ horn section.
Other performers taking the stage during Blast Furnace Blues presented by Highmark Blue Shield include Texas-based blues guitarist Carolyn Wonderland, Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble, Eric Noden and Joe Filisko, Freddie King Reunion Band, and Shawn Holt & the Teardrops, led by the son of blues legend Magic Slim. The festival will kick off March 27 with a night of the blues by local favorites such as the Sarah Ayers Band, James Supra Blues Band, Friar’s Point and Dugan Thomas. On March 29, Blast Furnace Blues attendees can also enjoy a special Blues Brunch featuring music by local blues favorites The BC Combo. Tickets for the brunch, which are $35, are on sale now at www.artsquest.org and 610-332-3378.
”Highmark Blue Shield is proud to once again sponsor the Blast Furnace Blues Festival, a wonderful musical event that draws blues-lovers far beyond the Lehigh Valley,” says Susan Hubley, director of community affairs at Highmark. “This year’s lineup of musicians looks as incredible as the setting at SteelStacks. We’re grateful for the opportunity to show our support for this showcase of blues talent.”
Looking for the ultimate experience at Blast Furnace Blues? The festival is offering three-day VIP Packages, which include admission to the entire festival, as well as a Sunday Blues Brunch ticket, meet & greets with select headliners, commemorative poster, valet parking and more. VIP Packages, which are available in limited quantities, are only $199.
BLAST FURNACE BLUES PRESENTED BY HIGHMARK BLUE SHIELD 2015 LINEUP
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
6:15 p.m.: Friar’s Point
6:45 p.m.: Dugan Thomas
8:30 p.m.: James Supra Blues Band
10:30 p.m.: Sarah Ayers Band
Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling
1:30 p.m.: Ed Anderson
3 p.m.: Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble
4:30 p.m.: Gaye Adegbalola
6 p.m.: Shawn Holt & the Teardrops
7:45 p.m.: Tommy Castro
9:30 p.m.: John Németh & the Bo-Keys
Fowler Blast Furnace Room Stage
2:15 p.m.: Shawn Holt & the Teardrops
3:45 p.m.: Eric Noden & Joe Filisko
5:30 p.m.: Ed Anderson
7 p.m.: Carolyn Wonderland
8:45 p.m.: Curley Taylor
Musikfest Cafe presented by Yuengling
11 a.m.: Blues Brunch with BC Combo (separate ticket required)
1:30 p.m.: Carolyn Wonderland
2:45 p.m.: Freddie King Reunion Band
4:15 p.m.: Chris O’Leary Band
6 p.m.: Shemekia Copeland
7:45 p.m.: Heritage Blues Orchestra
Fowler Blast Furnace Room Stage
1:15 p.m.: Mike Mettalia & Midnight Shift
3:15 p.m.: Maria Woodford Band
5 p.m.: Roddy Barnes
7 p.m.: Freddie King Reunion Band
For complete information, tickets and festival passes for Blast Furnace Blues presented by Highmark Blue Shield, please visit www.artsquest.org
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.