As expected, last weekend's Lancaster Roots & Blues music festival was seriously fun, a great learning experience, and also a bit exhausting. After letting everything sink in, surviving the ensuing work week and power-sleeping half of my Saturday away, here is my short list of highlights from a killer weekend. It's impossible to see every band on the schedule so these picks just come from the 2 dozen or so acts I did catch over the weekend. Thanks to Rich Ruoff and his team for putting everything together and for bringing such a great event to our hometown.
Best Music- Friday Night:
Samantha Fish: The main stage at the Lancaster Convention Center was totally packed for this set and with good reason. Fish is a great guitar player, equally good singer, and she looks good too. She brought a full band including rhythm section, trumpet, sax and violin, giving her the flexibility to do anything from hard rocking blues to country. I went with the intention of leaving about half way through to catch another band, but decided to stay for the whole set- definitely worth it!
Bailey Fulginiti Trio: I'm totally biased on this one because I played the show, but it's my list. Bailey did a great job and is stretching out more and more, making it more fun for Dave Winter (keys) and I to play behind her. We were in the Chameleon's Lizard Lounge, which is a really nice little spot- much better than the Lizard Lounge I remember from years ago. As I was told by several friends, our jazz-heavy set started a bit late for some of the people that wanted to hear us, but the crowd we had was attentive and appreciative-what more can you ask?
Best Music- Saturday:
Slam Allen: This is a tough one! Saturday was full of great stuff all day and night long. Little Ed & The Imperials, Linwood Taylor, Justin Angelo Band, Tommy Conwell (a Philly area favorite I was too young to see in clubs during his biggest years), and the list goes on. But I'm glad I stumbled into Slam Allen's set. It was an accident. I was trying to see another band but got my venues mixed up. A happy mistake! Slam's funky, danceable, R&B/blues style had a little bit of everything in it, plus his band was on fire and all were entertaining to watch. The highlight for me was the sax player. I don't remember his name but they called him "Little Maceo" and it fit!
Best Music- Sunday:
Disclaimer- I didn't actually attend the festival Sunday because I was at my daughter's college dance show.....
Morgan James: Even though I wasn't there, I've seen James 2-3 times now. Her voice is so powerful and soulful that, combined with her old school original songs, I can't imagine her set not being one of the Sunday highlights.
Best Venue- Zoetropolis
This place opened its doors for the first time in its new location on Friday night. It's excellent! Just off Water Street in the midst of the other festival venues, Zoetropolis is big enough to hold a nice crowd but small enough to feel intimate. Stage views are great from everywhere and the sound & light systems are excellent. Friends told me the place was so crowded at times that they couldn't get in, so I guess I'm not the only one who liked it.
Best Food In The Festival Area- Slice of Brooklyn Pizza
I don't like to spend a lot of time sitting around in restaurants, missing the music, so Slice of Brooklyn is the perfect spot for me. It's on Queen Street about half a block up from Federal Taphouse (venue) and not far from The Elks Club (venue). It tends not to get as crowded as some of the other spots closer to the center of town, which is nice. But the main reason to go to Slice of Brooklyn is Grandma's Pizza. This stuff is it! All the food there is good, but Grandma's has basil pesto and some other stuff on it that just puts it over the top. One slice will keep you fueled up for several more hours of music and venue hopping.
Already looking forward to next year's Roots & Blues. Dates were announced this week- Feb 22-24, 2019. For updates, follow the festival on your favorite social sites.