All routes lead to Lancaster for city’s inaugural Roots & Blues festival

There’s an old saying from blues great Willie Dixon that “the blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits”. Regardless of whether you happen to personally agree with that statement, you can rest assured that there’ll be plenty of roots music to take in at this new eastern Pennsylvania  festival.

LRB poster low rez (181x280)We have to admit that we were pretty disappointed when we saw the news a few weeks back that there will be no 2014 offering of the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival, always one of our favorites. But that news was tempered somewhat by our discovery of a new festival here in the northeast, which, unlike the Annapolis event and many others here in this region of the country, doesn’t even require that you wait until spring or summer for it, taking place in just a little more than a month smack dab in the middle of Amish country in Lancaster, PA.

In its initial year, the Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival features an impressive two nights of music (Friday, February 21st and Saturday, February 22nd) on nine stages across five different venues. What first caught our eye about this festival was the inclusion of Saturday night headliner Johnny Winter and James Cotton, but there’s plenty of other blues on the bill as well, including such names as Chris Thomas King, Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, the Heritage Blues OrchestraSamantha FishLonnie ShieldsBig Joe and the DynaflowsSteve Guyger and the ExcellosTom Principato, Italy’s Gennaro Porcelli, and Clarence Spady, among others. Add to that others like Edgar Winter, Loudon Wainwright III, Bill Wharton the Sauce Boss, a rare reunion of ’80s rockers Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers, and an eclectic mix of soul, zydeco, country, folk, jazz, reggae, indie, and swing acts, and you have the makings of what promises to be a pretty entertaining weekend.

If anything, this festival may actually offer a bit too much in the way of its line-up: we’re racking our brains trying to figure out how we might catch some of Johnny Winter and James Cotton on the Robert Johnson Stage, Big Joe and the Dynaflows in the Grand Salon, and Steve Guyger and the Excellos at the Federal Taphouse – all scheduled during the 10 p.m. hour on Saturday night. And that’s not even considering that Dr. Harmonica and Rockett 88 will be playing in the Lizard Lounge at 10:45 p.m. Fortunately, we’ll be able to catch Clarence Spady – also slotted for a 10 p.m. Saturday performance in Steinman Hall – when he plays the previous evening, but clearly, some tough decisions are going to need to be made by blues fans throughout the weekend, presenting a challenging situation for us but most likely a good sign for festival organizers, who – in regards to the scheduling of the event – hopefully haven’t jinxed anything by noting on their successful Kickstarter project page that no snow storms have affected the Lancaster region on this weekend for at least the past 30 years. But, if it does snow, the festival will still go on, with all of the stages located indoors and within walking distance of one another.

The drive for us to get to this one won’t be much shorter than Annapolis (where the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival is held), but something tells us that the rewards will be just as fruitful. Hope to see you there!

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