“That’s the stuff I like,” exclaimed an enthusiastic fan, comfortably perched about 75 yards from the Main Stage. He could have been talking about the music, the cold one he was sipping or any number of other things. Everybody’s in a good mood for Briggs Farm.
Veteran attendees have seen the Briggs Farm Blues Festival grow from a crowd of less than 2,000 in the early years to 6,000 in this, its 17th year. Overall, the crowd increased by 25% from just last year (this was my fourth consecutive year at Briggs Farm and I can certainly attest to the longest restroom lines I’ve observed yet). The word of mouth continues to spread rapidly.
While the main attraction for Briggs Farm is its loose, party-conducive atmosphere, the quality of the music is growing as well. Briggs Farm is still committed to featuring traditional blues artists like Clarksdale, MS upstart Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, Eddie Shaw and Beareather Reddy, who regaled us with tunes from iconic female blues singers from the ’20s and ’30s, such as Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Victoria Spivey.
However, the acts this year were mostly directed toward a relatively younger audience as both the Friday and Saturday night headliners, Eric Gales and Eddie Turner, are clearly Jimi Hendrix disciples.
Blues rocker Samantha Fish had many up and dancing, while the most dynamic, crowd-pleasing set came from the Alexis P. Suter Band, a longtime festival favorite. Suter had them all doing the hip shake, while self-deprecatingly exclaiming “300 pounds of heavenly joy, baby.”
The more varied programming of the Back Porch Stage featured eclectic sets from Christine Santelli’s band and Clarence Spady’s acoustic duo, both of whom were joined by violin virtuoso Heather Hardy. Solo acoustic sets from fest opener Norman Taylor and roots/gospel artist Mike Farris (Main Stage) offered a welcome contrast to the rocking vibe.
Briggs Farm audiences are respectfully enthusiastic and it’s a real joy for every performer, regardless of the stage. The weather was wonderful throughout, with a full moon both nights, beautifully capturing the joyous vibe that makes Briggs Farm so special.
– Jim Hynes