Berks Arts announced the lineup for the fourth Reading Blues Fest, which will be held November 19-21 at DoubleTree by Hilton, Reading.
The festival, which returns after a year-long hiatus caused by a pandemic, will feature performances by Mr. Sipp, the Mississippi Blues Child; Clarence Spady and the Electric City Band; Victor Wainwright and The Train; Dawn Tyler Watson; Slam Allen; Ana Popovic; King Solomon Hicks; and Mike Zito.
âBerks Arts is delighted that Reading Blues Fest is back in 2021,â said Justin Heimbecker, executive director of Berks Arts. “After a year in which we all missed the opportunity to come together and enjoy live music together, this is the perfect setting to reunite with the blues community for a weekend of incredible performances.”
Craig Poole, general manager / president of DoubleTree by Hilton, said he was determined to host Reading Blues Fest a year after it was canceled due to the pandemic.
âOur # 1 priority (at DoubleTree) is to build community, bring people downtown and create what Reading will be like,â said Poole. âWe were determined to keep the blues festival going because people need events like the festival.
âIt was (the late) Albert Boscov’s dream to have a downtown blues festival. The year before he died, we rode him and he sponsored him.
Boscov, the owner of Boscov Department Stores, has sponsored many events and organizations locally, including Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest and GoggleWorks in downtown Reading.
âThe Blues Fest is not going to go away,â said Poole. âIt’s a great collaboration with Berks Arts. Artists win, Berks Arts win, Guests win, DoubleTree wins, and most importantly, the city of Reading wins.
John Ernesto, Managing Director of Berks Jazz Fest and Reading Blues Fest, said: âWe have a solid lineup that includes artists who perform a variety of styles in the genre. Our blues fans made it clear to us that they are looking forward to the return of the festival and the live music.
Castro Coleman, known as Mr. Sipp, will open the festival Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the DoubleTree Grand Ballroom with authentic Mississippi blues. Born in McComb, Mississippi, Coleman began playing gospel, then moved on to blues; he won awards in both genres. He played Les Buie, James Brown’s lead guitarist, in the movie “Get on Up”. His latest album is “Sippnotized”, released this year.
Additionally, tonight’s lineup is Clarence Spady of Scranton, who recently released his new CD, “Surrender”, on Nola Blues Records. It receives excellent reviews.
Victor Wainwright Jr. will bring his band, The Train, to DoubleTree on Saturday at 1 p.m., after receiving a Grammy nomination for their 2020 album, “Memphis Loud.” Wainwright is a singer-songwriter and plays blues and boogie-woogie piano. He has received six Blues Music Awards, as well as numerous other honors.
Canadian blues and jazz singer Dawn Tyler Watson, who received a Juno Award in 2020 for her 2019 album, “Mad Love,” will open for Wainwright.
Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m., Ana Popovic will fill the Grand Ballroom with her blues, R&B, funk and soul. The Serbian native has released 10 albums, most recently “Like It on Top” (2018) and a 90-minute CD / DVD, “Live for LIVE” (2020).
Internationally renowned Slam Allen will also perform that night, who wants to be known as a “messenger of love”. Influenced by Otis Redding, James Brown and BB King, Allen is the former frontman, singer and guitarist of James Cotton.
The final Sunday brunch at noon will feature Mike Zito, a native of St. Louis, who has gone on to become one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary blues singers / songwriters. The title song from his 2009 album, “Pearl River,” a collaboration with Cyril Neville, won the song of the year award at the Blue Music Awards. He performed with Neville in the Royal Southern Brotherhood from 2010 to 2014. Since then he has produced a series of albums, including “Quarantine Blues”, recorded in the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic, as a “letter of healing love to her friends all over the world.
Zito’s opening will be King Solomon Hicks, the New York-based guitarist / singer who was recently named Best Emerging Artist at the Blues Music Awards for his 2020 CD “Harlem”.
Free events include âWaking Up to the Bluesâ Saturday morning with Bobby Kyle & The Administers; âSurviving the Pandemic: A Conversation with the Artistsâ, moderated by Michael Cloeren Sunday morning; and blues nights at 10 p.m. with the Dave Keyes Trio (Friday) and the Deb Callahan Band (Saturday) at DoubleTree’s Cheers American Bistro.
Ticket levels for Reading Blues Fest range from an all-inclusive VIP package that includes a two-night stay at the DoubleTree, to an all-event VIP package, and tickets to individual concerts.
Tickets for the VIP packages go on sale Wednesday at 10 a.m. Tickets for the individual concerts go on sale July 28 at 10 a.m. For more information, visit www.readingbluesfest.com.