Evening celebrates genre of music

ANNE REINER/Sun-Gazette Above, Gabe Stillman and the Billtown Giants play during the Fall Into the Blues fundraiser at the Genetti Hotel Saturday evening.

The blues tunes are alive and well in the Susquehanna Valley as a smattering of local talent raised their voices to jam out soulful melodies Saturday evening.

“We are doing our best to keep the blues alive here in the Susquehanna Valley,” said Charlie Lockard, a well-known blues DJ in the valley, and master of ceremonies for the Billtown Blues Association’s annual fundraiser at the Genetti Hotel.

The fundraiser was held to raise money to send two bands to the International Blues Challenge held in Memphis, Tennessee from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4. The two bands are Kimbo Reichley and Bryan Noaker, an acoustic set; and Gabe Stillman and The Billtown Giants, a band filled with powerful blues soul.

Reichley and Noaker have been playing together for 15 years, but not often in the same band. As a professional bass player Reichley has never gone to Memphis as an acoustic ticket, but he and Noaker often come together to play the acoustic set.

“We’re real comfortable playing together,” Reichley said.

In contrast to Reichley’s decades of musical experience, Stillman will be going to the international festival for the first time. However, it is his second time in Memphis. As a prior member of the Uptown Music Collective Stillman was sent to the Youth Showcase in Memphis.

Stillman said he is excited and thrilled to attend the challenge with his own band and make valuable connections for the future.

“We’re going in with the intent to do our best,” Stillman said.

Roughly 200 people showed up to the fundraiser, which in addition to the two featured bands, showcased over 20 local musicians from the Williamsport and Lewisburg area.

The bands included The 3rd St. Blues Band from the Uptown Music Collective, Dave Pulizzi, Doug McMinn and the Billtown All-Stars Blues Revue featuring Sean Faley, Cheryl Miller, Charlie Moore, Gary and Shawn Strickland, Mike Mummey, Kim Adair, Dave Krempasky, Levi Stover, Rich Cummings and Adam Tarin.

According to Bonnie Tallman, secretary for the association, this is the events 18th year and often features bands from across Pennsylvania.

“It’s just amazing the talent that we have and the interest that we have for blues music in this area,” Tallman said.

Tallman said the format this year is different than years past. Instead of bringing in full bands to play their own sets, the association brought in a variety of local talent to play “mini jams” with each other, some taking the stage with people they had never played with before.

“It’s a unifying music,” Stallman said.

She added that the association is also working to bring in younger talent from Uptown and the local colleges in an effort to keep blues music alive for future generations.