There’s no better cure for November profanity than the blues, and Berks Arts’ fifth Reading Blues Fest is the perfect prescription.
Opening Thursday with a community kick-off concert at the Reading Liederkranz, and continuing Friday through Sunday in the warm and friendly atmosphere of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, Reading, the festival will feature top-notch performances by some of the most exciting and accomplished blues. country artists.
The Thursday night concert will kick off with the Busker Incognito Trio hosting the Crossroads Blues Jam, opening a performance by Scranton-based blues guitarist Clarence Spady & The Electric City Band, featuring The Berks Horns.
Friday will be the official start of the festival, with a kick-off lunch at the Peanut Bar featuring The Bluesmasters – bassist Bennie Sims, keyboardist Cliff Starkey and saxophonist/vocalist Erich Cawalla.
The opening concert at the DoubleTree Grand Ballroom on Friday at 8 p.m. will feature the sounds of “Rock, Stomp & Swamp” with vocalist/guitarist Tab Benoit, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who has been compared to Albert King, Albert Collins and Jimi. Hendrix. New Orleans’ Dirty Dozen Brass Band and avant-garde bluesman from Mississippi Lightnin Malcolm will join him.
Fans can wake up to the blues Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in the DoubleTree Amphitheater with veteran blues guitarist Benny Turner (younger brother of Freddie King) and “Piano Prince of New Orleans” pianist/vocalist Davell Crawford in a concert free sponsored by Lancaster’s Nola Blue Records.
At 1 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom, Texas-born singer-songwriter Sugaray Rayford — the Blues Music Awards’ Soul Blues Artist of the Year in 2019 and 2020 — will perform with his band. Also on the bill is saxophonist and singer-songwriter Vanessa Collier, who recently won a BMA for Female Contemporary Blues Artist of the Year.
That evening, at 8 o’clock, left-handed guitarist and singer-songwriter Eric Gales, winner of two BMAs for blues rock artist of the year in 2019 and 2020, will bring his Memphis style to Reading , alongside Montreal singer-songwriter Dawn Tyler Watson, who recently won Canada’s Maple Blues awards for Songwriter of the Year and Best Album/Producer. She also won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2017.
On Sundays at 10:30 a.m., guests can enjoy a blues brunch, followed by a noon concert by Gulf Coast Records artists, The Blood Brothers: Mike Zito and Albert Castiglia.
Five-time BMA winner Zito is a contemporary blues guitarist/singer; he teams up with guitarist/singer Castiglia, who won the 2020 BMA for Album of the Year for his “masterpiece”. This grand finale of the festival will feature each band performing separately, then joining forces to raise the rafters.
“We are fortunate to have a star-studded lineup for the festival,” said John Ernesto, the festival’s general manager. “The artists represent 24 BMA awards, including three BB King Entertainer of the Year honors – Benoit in 2007 and 2012, and Rayford in 2020.”
Other events at DoubleTree and Peanut Bar will include performances by BC (vocalist Bev Conklin) and guitarist Joe Mac, both members of BC Blue, a four-piece band who will also perform; blue-eyed soul phenom Dave Keller and his trio; Dave Keyes; and the Dave Mell Blues Band.
“We look forward to welcoming thousands of visitors to downtown Reading for the benefit and enjoyment of the entire community,” said Justin Heimbecker, Executive Director of Berks Arts.
Tickets are still available – single concert and weekend packages – for the Reading Blues Fest. For more information, including artist biographies, visit www.readingbluesfest.com.