ARTICLE WRITTEN BY JENNIFER SHEEHAN (The Morning Call)
PHOTO CREDIT (The Morning Call)
Think of it as a lucky 13th.
Allentown’s Blues, Brews and Barbecue Festival returns after a one-year hiatus for its 13th year with a big lineup of in-person performances, delicious food, beer and more — noon to 10 p.m. July 31 in downtown Allentown.
Like all of last summer’s large-scale festivals and events, Blues, Brews and Barbecue 2020 had to be canceled due to statewide restrictions on gatherings due to the pandemic.
And as the vaccines rolled out this year, organizers of festivals had to wait and watch to try to decide how and if to hold festivals.
Miriam Huertas, the festival’s producer and senior vice president for the Allentown Initiatives for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, said this year’s festival is a bit smaller in scope.
“We have grown this festival over the years, from one block to four city blocks,” Huertas said. “This year, in trying to be ultra-careful and making sure how we present it is really safe, we had to think, ‘How large can we make this?’ So we had to truncate it a tad.”
As usual, the festival will be held in the heart of downtown and run from 6th to 8th streets on Hamilton and on 7th street. New this year, the festival will also run on the city’s ArtsWalk.
Here’s the rundown on what we can expect from the 13th annual event:
You’ll find five stages of music this year.
The lineup includes:
Bruce Katz (new to the festival), whose distinguished career spans more than five decades. He has toured the world with a who’s who of legendary artists including, Ronnie Earl, Gregg Allman, Delbert McClinton, Butch Trucks, and Jaimoe. Katz performs non-stop with The Bruce Katz Band, as a power trio with Katz on keyboards, Aaron Lieberman on guitar, and Ray Hangen on drums.
* Also making his debut this year, Dave Keller from Montpelier, Vermont. Keller was influenced by Mighty Sam McClain, Ronnie Earl, Robert Ward, Johnny Rawls, and Otis Clay. Keller is someone to watch closely. He’s a tireless performer and prolific songwriter, and continues to advance his career with his award-nominated “Soul Drenched” work and infectious personality.
* Shemekia Copeland, multiple award-winning blues superstar and nominated in 2018 as Blues Music Awards Female Artist of the Year. Copeland, daughter of Texas blues guitarist and singer Johnny Copeland, has been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Blues Album three times: in 2000 for “Wicked,” in 2013 for “33 1/3” and in 2015 for her previous disc, “Outskirts of Love.”
* King Solomon Hicks, a 26-year-old guitar phenom from Harlem, NY. Solomon is an American guitarist, songwriter and composer who won the Blues Music Awards for Best Emerging Artist for his 2021 CD release, “Harlem” on Provogue Records.
Also, on the line-up this year …
* Lonnie Shields from West Helena, Arkansas, who’s recorded seven albums throughout his long career. His primary musical influence is B.B. King, but he has numerous Blues mentors including Big Jack Johnson, Sam Carr and Frank Frost.
* Clarence Spady from Scranton. Spady has released three albums since the late 1990s. His most recent release on Nola Records “Surrender” is currently #3 In the Living Blues Chart and #9 on the Billboard Blues Chart.
* Mikey Junior, a veteran entertainer based near Philadelphia, Junior has been performing Blues & Roots music for 25 years.
* JP Williams & Ekat Pereyra: A singer/songwriter, Williams was born in NYC and performs a variety of blues, folk and soul original compositions and covers. Peyerya is a singer with a dynamic vocal range.
Along with that lineup, the festival will also feature Lehigh Valley favorites, including the Craig Thatcher Band with Special Guest, Mike Guldin, The BC Combo, Pentley Holmes, the Mississippi Pig Farmers, Norman Taylor, and Tavern Tan.
You’ll be able to enjoy a variety of domestic and craft brews (especially from Allentown BrewWorks), mead from the Colony Meadery, and new this year, cocktails from Allentown distiller and the main sponsor, Mishka Premium Vodka.
Food vendors will include Mr. BBQ 911, Grumpy’s BBQ, the Allentown Bull & Bear restaurant, to name a few. Other vendors include Chocolate Moonshine specialty chocolates, Habby Fruit salsa and barbecue sauces, and blues fest favorite, Funtastic Faces & Body Art face painting and henna.