The Peterson Brothers | photo by Lauren Rosier for WXPN
Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival brings an eclectic assortment of sounds to Central PA
This year’s Lancaster Roots and Blues festival featured close to 70 artists from around the world on 11 different stages throughout downtown Lancaster last weekend. The city’s music and arts scene shined throughout the entire weekend as the participating venues were key to providing an atmosphere crucial for live music.
From folk and Americana to New Orleans jazz and delta blues, the Roots and Blues Festival had something for everyone. Festival founder Rich Ruoff has been serving up incredible festivals for the last three years and this wasn’t any different. There were so many talented artists at the festival, but it was impossible to see each set, so I carefully chose a few that stood out.
Award-winning blues musician and Roomful Of Blues founder, Duke Robillard, performed on the main stage on Friday evening. He took the stage around 6:00 and performed for a good hour and a half to a robust, excited crowd of fans of rousing blues music. Whether you’re a blues fan or not, you had to appreciate the Robillard’s musicianship on the guitar. He’s definitely one the best guitarists known in the blues genre and both his talent and outstanding nature as an entertainer as well engulfed the crowd. Each song was met roaring applause and whistles.
XPN favorite artist, and one of my favorites of the weekend, was indie pop singer/songwriter, Carsie Blanton, performed to a packed Steinman Hall at the Ware Center. The New Orleans-based artist writes cheeky, laugh-out-loud, guitar-based songs in the realm of indie pop, folk, and jazz. During her performance she claimed to be a big fan of “‘30s and ‘40s jazz music” and that passion shows in her music. She performed with a three-piece band featuring a keyboardist, drummer, and upright bassist. Her latest record, So Ferocious, features some truly clever songs.
You may remember Back Door Slam and the band’s frontman Davy Knowles. Well, after many failed opportunities to see him perform solo over the last two years, I finally was able to catch part of his set at Roots and Blues (a tornado warning hindered my ability to head downtown sooner), and so glad I did. Knowles performed on the main stage late Saturday afternoon soon after the storm, but the dreary, wet weather didn’t reflect the mood of the crowd. The Isle of Man native performed a good hour and a half set to a rousing crowd who didn’t let the weather influence a solid set of live music.
Knowles has the voice and the talent as a musician to really be able to perform. As a singer and outrageous guitarist, he’s the full package. Between being truly one of the most ridiculous guitarists I’ve seen, having a spectacular voice, and understanding how to effectively work a crowd, his performance was definitely a spectacle for me and anyone to witness.
Another blues great, Lucky Peterson, was spectacular. Peterson also performed on the main stage closer to 6:30 Saturday night and also performed to a roaring crowd. Despite some delays, Peterson’s blues took over the main stage that night.
He opened his set with an exciting and energetic performance to build the tone for the rest of the performance. It wasn’t too long into the performance that they mic’d him up wirelessly and he strolled into the crowd and performed nearly the rest of his set sitting on a chair next to astonished fans. It’s always special when artists aren’t hesitant to do that because it offers a more intimate performance when compared to standard stage performance. He too, was also out of this world on the guitar, and being able to have a closer look at his impeccable skills was priceless.
I ended the weekend with a Sunday morning/early afternoon set from Marietta-based Americana/folk/bluegrass band, the Vinegar Creek Constituency (featuring the father of the Stray Birds’ Maya de Vitry) at a packed Tellus 360. If you’re a fan of the Stray Birds, you’d love Vinegar Creek. Lancaster loves this spectacular local band and rightfully so. The five-piece pulls together everything that is awesome about traditional Americana/folk/bluegrass music and creates their own take that is only Vinegar Creek Constituency. The band’s musicianship and vocals from Leo DiSanto round out a band whose passion for music shows through their live stage performance.
Overall, the 2017 version of the Roots and Blues Festival was a raging success in all aspects. It’s time for people to see the passion that the community of Lancaster has for music and the Roots and Blues Festival did just that.