Sounds of the south

Showstopping blues sounds of the Deep South will be heard in central Pennsylvania, as artists at the Briggs Farm Blues Festival serenade festival-goers this weekend at the Briggs’ family farm in Nescopeck.

It’s a fitting setting for the sensual, woe-inspired sounds of the South known as the “devil’s music”: hay-covered grass fields during what’s sure to be a steamy two days of tunes.

The festival, now in its 17th year, features two stages: the Main Stage and the Back Porch stage. Between the two stages, 19 national blues acts will perform for an audience that festival founder and producer Richard Briggs anticipates to be around 5,000.

“Each year we increase (attendance) by several hundred. Camping is our fastest growing attendance. People come to the festival for the first time, see how laid-back and hassle-free we are, and fall in love with the farm and location,” Briggs said.

Briggs said that because of that easy-going atmosphere, fans will return the next year and will camp instead.

To bring the blues fest together is a year-long process in which Briggs and fellow organizers attend other festivals across the nation to see performances live to decide which bands they want for the bill. They also “network with all the major national booking agents,” Briggs said.

According to Briggs, several festival-favorites are returning, including the Alexis P. Suter Band, of Brooklyn, New York; Peter Harper and Midwest Kind, of Michigan; and the Eddy Shaw and the Wolf Gang, of Chicago, Illinois.

Gracing the Main and Back Porch stages for the first time this weekend will be Mike Farris, of Nashville, Tennessee; Eric Gales, of Memphis, Tennessee; and Eddie Turner and The Trouble Twins, of Colorado.

Also performing are The Eric Gales Trio; Samantha Fish; Anthony “Big A.” Sherrod with The Corn Lickers; the Gabriel Butterfield Blues Band; Dan and Glen Hess; Norman Taylor; Clarence Spady; Christine Santelli; Beareather Reddy; Symphonic Haze; and Dustin Drevitch and James Owens Blues Revue.

Briggs Festival also will feature a part-time singer, part-time cook, Mississippi Delta-born blues guitarist Lonnie Shields, who “cut his blues teeth performing with the Jelly Roll Kings.”

To complement his Delta sounds on the stage, Shields will bring with him in his back pocket a repertoire of Southern-style recipes – a point of pride for the Briggs Festival almost as much as the music.

In addition to the catfish and sweetcorn normally featured at the fest, Shield’s menu will feature food specifically from the region known as “The Most Southern Place on Earth” – the Mississippi Delta.

Shields will cook a special menu of slow-smoked meats that, according to, Shields said you “don’t need no teeth to eat.”

Teeth or no teeth, Briggs just likes to bring people together through music, and especially “keep the blues alive in Pa.”

“It (the festival) brings people together in the community, and those people make friends at the festival that they re-connect with each year … forging lifelong relationships through deeply-rooted blues music,” he said.

To see a complete schedule of music, and artist, camping and ticket information, visit