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Friday’s Festival Preview: The Pennsylvania Blues Fest

It’s festival time thru much of the nation, and as always, we like to spotlight those outstanding festivals and folks who IMG_1718_1810_edited-1Awork so hard to bring you the mot outstanding Blues music events around town. 
The Pennsylvania Blues Festival is in it’s 24th year, and this year has moved to a new fan friendly location. Read more as we chat with Michael Cloeren about what’s in store for the folks this year . . .
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Blues411: Michael, it’s great to talk with you again, it’s been a while. We’re looking ahead to the Pennsylvania Blues Festival on July 24, 25 and 26th. Congratulations on celebrating 24 years of Blues in the Poconos! After 4 years at Blue Mountain, you’ve moved the festival to Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony, PA. Tell me about this new location.
Michael Cloeren: Thank You, we all keep pretty busy in the Blues.. Twenty-four consecutive years of real deal blues in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania is something that myself and our staff are very proud of!

The Location is 2 miles from the original site (Big Boulder Ski Area) at Split Rock Resort-They host The Pennsylvania Wine Festival (1991 to the present) there for 25 consecutive years, so the festival layout is ideal for outdoor events with a concert size stage facing up the ski slope (sounds familiar?) and a 9000 square foot performance tent stage positioned at another location with plenty of food and non-food vendors in a shady grove between the stages.

Blues411: Hmm, lemme think, ahh, Bluestock. Let me say, I know when we went to Blue Mountain, lodging was IMG_3571always a little bit of a challenge. What are the hotels like at Split Rock Resort and are there other hotels that are close by? Will you still have a camping area?
MC: Split Rock Resort has a few hundred units on site either at The Galleria or The Split Rock Lodge all within walking distance of the festival grounds. Plus within a five mile radius of the site there are 12 hotels-all this info is on our new website pabluesfestival.com. There is no on site camping at this venue BUT there are 5 campgrounds within a 20 minute drive also at pabluesfestival.com

Blues411: Sounds quite a bit more ‘accommodating’. I know you’re always fine-tuning things at your festival. What are you doing different this year vs last year?
MC: This year the Friday Night, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning Brunch Showcases are going to be located inside a spacious ballroom a few hundred yards from the festival grounds. This venue has major room for growth and the local businesses are ecstatic to have the event back in the area after a four year absence!

IMG_1374_4663_edited-1Blues411: That really does make it easier to deal with weather incursions, for everyone involved, cool. So, do you have any bands that are playing for the first time at your festival?
MC: Yes – we have 8 Bands performing for the first time, which means almost half of the bands have never performed in the Poconos before! The new bands are:

  1. Dwayne Dopsie
  2. Selwyn Birchwood
  3. Sugar Ray & The Bluetones
  4. The Highway QC’s
  5. Vaneese Thomas
  6. Victor Wainwright
  7. The Peterson Brothers
  8. Alvin Youngblood Hart

Blues411: Holy shake the chandeliers Batman, those bands in themselves are top of the line. I see that you still have 2 stages. On Saturday night, Shemekia Copeland is playing opposite Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers. Then on Sunday, LiL’ Ed & The Blues Imperials are playing opposite Victor Wainwright & The Wild Roots. Wow! How’s a person supposed to choose which band to go see?
MC: The goal of any good programmer is to make tough choices for the guests – with Shemekia and Lil Ed playing 90 minute sets on the main stage and the tent acts playing 60 minutes, there is time to catch all of the acts but you have to plan ahead!

IMG_8395_3883Blues411: That’s a great way to allow folks to catch some of each set, cool. Who’s going to be the surprise band this year? Do you have anybody who you think will absolutely slay everyone? Anyone you can’t wait to watch from back stage and see the audience just turn into Jell-O?
MC: There are several events that should “slay” people.

MC: There are several events that should “slay” people.

1)The Saturday Night Showcase-9:45pm to 1:30am is truly a once in a lifetime event-The last time all of Johnny Copeland’s band members were all on stage together was June of 1997(Johnny passed 7/3/97). We will have up to 12 band members on stage with Shemekia Copeland singing her dads great songs–an event not to be missed. Tickets are $10 in advance!

2) The Highway QC’s are opening the main stage Sunday at 1 PM. They’re a Traditional Gospel group at its best, and have a Blind Boys of Alabama vibe.

3) Shemekia’s set Saturday night will be very emotional. Lake Harmony is her second home and The Festival is presenting Johnny Copeland a Lifetime Achievement Award to the Copeland Family prior to Shemekia’s Set. Tears will be rolling down my face for sure!

Blues411: The Gospel opening on Sunday has always been amazing, I want to thank you allowing a self-appointed sinner like me to bring these great artists to the stage in such an awesome event. Thanks Michael! Blues411 will be at the Pennsylvania Blues Festival taking and posting pictures, so be sure to follow us on Facebook. Everyone should “Like” The PA Blues Festival on Facebook. And for up to date information, visit their web site at pabluesfestival.com.

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
©Blues411.com 2015
Where Blues Thrives
Photos: Leslie K. Joseph, Blues411

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