Photos & Review by: Jennifer Fry
Nescopeck is a small quaint town in northeast Pennsylvania surrounded by rolling hillsides and stunning farmland. The usual sound of birds singing is interrupted for a week every July with the sounds of a blues guitar riff traveling across the field at Briggs farm. Brigg’s farm is home to the Brigg’s Blues Festival, this year taking place July 6, 7, and 8th. What started as a small gathering at the farm in 1998 has become one of the biggest festivals on the east coast. Over 150 national and regional bands have performed for the festival since its inception. Growing from a one-day one-stage event has become a three-day two stage blues festival.
The increasing popularity of this festival has not diminished the high family values that are evident at Brigg’s Farm. They welcome everybody of all ages to come out and enjoy the day or whole weekend. Small children could be seen running and playing with bubbles. Teens were hula hooping, young adults were dancing close to the stage, while older adults were relaxing in their seats. The biggest draw is the camping, with people coming from across the country to visit and camp during this popular weekend. Easy access off interstate 80 and a few miles down the road, finding Briggs Farm couldn’t be easier. Open camping is available for tents, cars, and RVs on a first come first served basis. For those who want to prepare ahead of time, or ensure they are next to family and friends, reserved camp sites are also available.
Daily parking is free and easy to find with attendants assisting. Tickets for the festival can be purchased online or at the booth on-site. One of the nicest parts is that you can bring in your own chairs, blankets, drinks, and snacks, but they also have a nice arrangement of vendors. Everything from popcorn, ice cream, hoagies, tacos, pizza, hot dogs, donuts, coffee, and sweet corn is available. Something for everyone!
Looking to do some shopping between sets? The vendors at the festival provide a wide variety of items for purchase, ranging from tie dyed apparel, leather bracelets, gems, crystals, bags, fans, CBD products, and many other amazing things.
Also, be on the lookout for amazing face painting and henna artists. I saw some beautiful unicorns on some lovely young faces, and some stunning henna work of trees on some arms dancing in the crowd. Art is everywhere at the festival! You might even catch a girl with some silk dance fans putting on a show during one of the musical sets. Or another with her hula hoop!
Acts for the weekend include:
Thursday: Doug McMinn Blues Band, Clarence Spady Band, and Scott Pemberton O-Theory
Friday: R.L. Boyce & The Cornlickers, Super Chikan & The Fighting Cocks, Joanna Connor & The Wrecking Crew, Victor Wainwright & The Train, Uptown Music Collective, New Moon Acoustic Blues, Martin Guitar Presents: Craig Thatcher & Nyke Van Wyk, Justin Mazer Trio, and Brandon Santini.
Saturday: Jackie Venson, Eddie 9V, Bywater Call, Robert Randolph Band, Old Man Banjo, Benny Turner, R.L. Boyce, Chris LaRose & The Hex Highway Blues Band, Ghalia Volt.
R.L. Boyce & The Cornlickers: A Mississippi Hill country legend, his laid-back blues style emerges from a long tradition of picnic music played for friends and family. It often leads itself into a celebration of dancing. Those who play with Boyce know that nothing is ever written down. He plays whatever is in his ear. Boyce is insistent that those working with him pay close attention to his foot to keep the timing as he plays. It is a spiritual blues experience to catch him live!
Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks: His small combo, good-humored blues has a funky touch. He emerged as an acclaimed blues performer in the 90s. He is an instrumentalist, but the one catchy thing is his equipment. His “chicantars” are constructed with flattened gas can bodies. Super fun to listen to and dance. He plays to the audience and boy are they an entertaining, highly talented group!
Joanna Connor & The Wrecking Crew- Hailing from Worcester, Massachusetts, Joanna started with her love of music at a very young age. Her favorite record as a child was Taj Mahal’s “Take a Giant Step/The Old Folks at Home”. She began to play the saxophone and guitar during her school years and also started to sing. These things became a passion for her growing up. She moved to Chicago when she began to immerse herself in blues music. She has played with Buddy Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Sammy Lawhorn, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Magic Slim, just to name a few. Joanna formed her own band in the 80’s. She took a hiatus for a few years to raise her daughters. In 2023 she dubbed the Wrecking Crew. And released a new album “Best of Me”. She is a true Queen of the Blue’s riffs!
Craig Thatcher & Nyke Van Wyk- Craig began playing guitar in 1964 after seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. He began in his first band in 1968. Craig has become a strong solo guitarist focusing primarily on fingerstyle country blues. Craig has toured and performed all over the country. His musical spans include country, blues, folk, funk, and jazz. Nyke Van Wyk is a pioneering violinist known for his innovative style and approach. He blends his classical and Celtic training with contemporary flair. He has a wonderful stage presence that captivates the audience and brings them into the moment of music. His talent and passion for music will inspire crowds everywhere.
Justin Mazer Trio- A Philadelphian guitarist that will take you to another dimension of guitar music during his set. He has been on tours all over the country making music with many talented individuals. He has also been featured in Rolling Stone, Relix, and Guitar Player Magazine. Mazer always seems to be on the go and juggling different projects. He is definitely going more places with his amazing musical talent. Check out some of his music available on all streaming platforms.
Brandon Santini: Brandon is a roots rock and blues harmonica player, singer, and songwriter originally from North Carolina. He purchased his first harmonica at the age of 15. He founded the band Delta Highway in 2003. He then relocated to Memphis where he started to absorb and take in the sounds and culture of the Delta and North Mississippi Hill Country. He has five blues music award nominations, festival headlining slots, and stage performances with acts such as Buddy Guy, and Gary Clark Jr. He is one of the latest surges of blues players that is guaranteed to leave their footprint in blues music history.
Eddie 9V- Reigning from Georgia, this guitarist ditched school at the age of 15 to concentrate on music. He got his first guitar at the age of 6. He studied the older cats of music, “Muddy Waters, and “Howling Wolf”. He has made a name for himself in the blues scene in the south, but he is wowing all types of audiences that see him perform. With a Freddie King -style approach to guitar and original soul music. He is labeled an “old soul” in his music and brings a unique flair to any festival or show.
Bywater Call: A 7-piece southern roots rock band, straight out of Toronto, Cananda. They formed in 2017 and have made some waves in the Canadien Festival circuit. Lead singer Meghan performs with a driving force of vocals, backed by a heavy bluesy guitar riff and brass notes. She is a driving force with the audience who take it all in. Their sophomore album was released in 2022. The bands love of southern soul, blues, and root music is the driving force of their powerful sounds that are full of raw emotions.
Chris LaRose & The Hex Highway Blues Band- This powerhouse trio with their stunning outfits, distinctive sound, and lively stage presence bring flair and fun to their performances. Singing your favorite blues and rock songs, as well as some originals. Taking us back to the blues of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the trio really brings passion and talent to the stage. LaRose feels music carries culture and is a time capsule into the past.
Ghalia Volt- A Belgian blues rock singer, guitarist, drummer, and songwriter. A powerful one-woman band. She has released five albums since 2016, including “Mississippi Blend”, which peaked at number #3 on the billboard top blues album chart. She picked up her first guitar at the age of 11 and attempted to write her own melodies. Jump blues later became her favorite style. She came to the United States to learn more about the music and to share her talent with us. She eventually decided to settle in New Orleans.
Even if you are not a fan of blues music, I guarantee if you take a chance to visit this one-of-a-kind, family friendly festival weekend in northeast Pennsylvania, you will leave as a blues fan. They don’t label it “The Best Weekend of The Year” for no reason.