Getting ready to rock the Genetti: Billtown Blues Association gears up for annual festival audition concert

It is that time of year again for local and regional blues musicians to go head-to-head, competing for a spot on the main stage and the acoustic stage of the Billtown Blues Festival.

The Billtown Blues Challenge will be held beginning at 4 p.m. April 16 at the Genetti Hotel Ballroom, 200 W. Fourth St.

Solo-duo competition will begin at 4 p.m., with band competition at 6 p.m.

Jay Short and Cheryl Miller will kick off the show with their solo-duo set, which combines elements of everything they have picked up over many years of performing, both in acoustic sets and with full bands. Following them will be Kimbo Reichley and Bryan Noaker.

The band competition will begin with the Gerald Young Jazz and Blues Band. This band has been playing shows and festivals up and down the East Coast, including Buddy Guy’s Blues Festival in Chicago, the Philadelphia Jazz and Blue Festival, Jazz in the Garden and BB Kings in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Following them will be James Day and the Fish Fry. Day is a southern boy, born and raised, with a reputation for his humorous song writing and storytelling. The band has been playing the Mid-Atlantic region of the country for the past 10 years.

Up next will be Williamsport’s own Gabe Stillman and the Billtown Giants. Blues through and through, this band plays with a power and passion not often heard in this day and age.

Closing out the show, the Jeff Fetterman Band will be returning with their hard-driving blues-rock style, well-versed in the music and quite diverse.

Their last album, “Bottle Full of Blues,” was selected by the Billtown Blues Association in 2015 to represent the organization at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, in the Best Self-Produced CD category.

Billtown Blues Association members eligible to vote for entrants in the audition contest need to pick up their ballots at the entrance to the ballroom before each competition begins. In fairness to all participating musicians, no ballots will be given out after the first act has started performing for each part of the competition.

To be eligible to vote, membership had to be current as of Jan. 1.

As the winners have the opportunity to represent the Association at the International Blues Challenge, in accordance with the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge rules, each solo-duo act will perform a 20-minute set with a 5-minute change over. Each band will perform a 25-minute set with a 10-minute change over.

Acts will be judged in the following categories: Blues Content, Talent, Vocals, Originality and Stage Presence.

Solo-duo competition

Jay Short and Cheryl Miller

Jay Short, an accomplished guitarist with roots that stretch back to Mississippi, and Cheryl Miller (aka Miz Ida), with both a love and knowledge of women’s roles in Blues history and an incredible stage presence, have reunited to form a solo-duo act. Their knowledge of the music and its history combined with their many years of working together ensure a delightful experience for all within earshot. Though they may be a duo, they bring with them all the experience of their many years working with countless blues combos. The result is sure to be enlightening and entertaining.

Kimbo Reichley and Brian Noaker

Kimbo Reichley has been entertaining audiences since the mid-1970s, playing everything from rock to blues. Reichley is well known in the area for his work with the David Rose Band throughout much of the 1980s. More recently, he performs as the bassist for the Blind Chitlin Kahunas.

Bryan Noaker has been performing in bands since the early 1980s. His early career included fronting the three-piece power trio known as Fantasy. Most recently, he can be seen with the Ann Kerstetter Band, playing the guitar and singing.

Both artists performed solo acoustic shows in addition to their work with bands. In the mid 90s, the two joined together and have been a formidable force in the local music scene ever since.

Band competition

Gerald Young Jazz and Blues Band

Gerald Young Jazz and Blues Band have been playing shows and festivals up and down the East Coast, and opened for jazz vocalist Al Jerreau at the Mann Center in Philadelphia.

Young is writer, arranger on piano and vocals and is backed by a talented group of musicians in Don Evans (guitar, vocals), Dealiss Giles (piano), Sutton Akbar (drums) and Dr. Drae (bass).

James Day and the Fish Fry

James Day is a Southern blues artist and storyteller from Biloxi, Mississippi. James Day and the Fish Fry have been playing shows and festivals in the Mid-Atlantic for the past 10 years, and at the heart of their music is Day’s fresh, humorous song writing.

Day is backed by the musical styling and performances of a talented group of musicians. Their albums are played on satellite radio, roots music stations and overseas radio. The Fish Fry includes Greg Snyder (guitar), Ron Baldwin (piano), John Merigliano (drummer) and Dave Young (bass). Their new album, “Southland,” is a tribute to the Gulf Coast and all Southern music.

Gabe Stillman and The Billtown Giants

Gabe Stillman (guitar, vocals) is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and performer focused on all elements of American roots music connected to the blues genre. Born and raised in Williamsport, Stillman enrolled in Williamsport’s Uptown Music Collective.

After graduation from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Boston, Stillman formed his band, Gabe Stillman and the Billtown Giants, focusing on electric blues and rythym and blues. The Giants play dates and festivals throughout central Pennsylvania and from southern New York to Maryland. Stillman serves on the faculty of the Uptown Music Collective and the teaching staff at K&S Music, Williamsport.

The Billtown Giants include Joel Vincent, drums, and Colin Beatty, bass. is a master of groove.

In addition to The Giants, Beatty and Stillman both appear with the blues rock group Mama Warned Ya.

Jeff Fetterman Band

Jeff Fetterman, who grew up in Bradford, is a self-taught blues-rock guitarist influenced by players such as Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Page. The band’s first album, “Ordinary Man,” earned Fetterman recognition as Best Up-and-Coming Blues-Rock Guitarist by Ohio radio station WREO. The second album, “The Long Hard Road,” landed Fetterman a three-song publishing deal with Transition Music, which placed the songs in film and television: NBC’s “The Passions,” TNT’s “The Closer” and the Spanish film “The Tough Guy.”

The band also includes John McGuire, drums, and Ralph Reitinger III, bass. Together, the band has performed with Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ana Popovic, Indigenous, Tony Coleman (the drummer for BB King, Aretha Franklin and Buddy Guy), Chris Duarte, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special and others.

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