Pennsylvania Blues Festival – Blue Mountain Ski Area (Palmerton, PA)

Pennsylvania Blues FestivalThe word “spirit” immediately comes to mind when describing the 2013 Pennsylvania Blues Festival experience. The festival is now in its third year after a successful reboot in 2011 from the former Pocono Blues Festival. Founder/promoter/all-around blues devotee Michael Cloeren is indeed the “spirit” of this festival, and man, did he deliver.

The “spirit” could be felt from the die-hard fans, of which there were many. Despite dodging the weekend’s seemingly endless threat of raindrops, many fans were there early for camping and tailgating during three days that featured talent like John Primer, Eddie Shaw, and Bobby Rush.

Saturday’s highlight was the incendiary set from Robert Randolph and The Slide Brothers. You haven’t’ lived until you’ve seen Randolph, leg stomping out his euphoria, laying down a squelching solo to Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxey Lady” seated at a pedal steel guitar. The frenzy of sacred steel that fed off the duel with the Slide Brothers’ Aubrey Ghent was absolutely infectious.

Alexis P. Suter’s noon “gospel” show that kicked off Sunday’s performances incredibly featured a 40-piece array of angelic serenade, courtesy of the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir and Suter’s daughter Carrie. “I don’t know if you understand what’s about to happen in here,” Suter warned those assembled in the tent stage, before commandeering the pulpit for a faith-healing rendition of “When I Rose This Morning” that left heads bowed and hands raised. 

“It’s all about the blues, baby!” the ever-hospitable Cloeren’s been known to say. You can count on Michael for an unexpected spectacle of the most dynamic figures in the blues, every summer in the gorgeous mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania.

– Mark Uricheck

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