Franklin Blues and BBQ (and the Merriam Webster dictionary)
idyl·lic | \ ī-ˈdi-lik , chiefly British i- \
Definition of idyllic
1: pleasing or picturesque in natural simplicity
2: of, relating to, or being an idyll
Idyllic isn’t a word that I use lightly, or typically use at all, for that matter. However, this word pretty accurately describes the Franklin Blues and BBQ Festival where I spent last weekend because it simply sounded, looked, and felt great to be there. Franklin, PA, is a cute little town with perfectly preserved historical homes and buildings along a thriving main street that includes Bandstand Park, where the Fest was held. Townspeople and out-of-towners of all ages laid out their blankets or set up their chairs on the sprawling green lawn across from the stage, surrounded by all of the vendors that were offering up their very best barbeque. On the park's stage beat the 12-bar heart of it all, though; two days of absolutely fantastic blues, in flavors ranging among traditional, contemporary and gospel, plus the talented and well-directed local high school stage band and a young vocal group.
On Saturday, under sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 60s, local youth choir Holey Jeans opened the fest, then Pierce Dipner arrived on stage. He’s 18, based in Pittsburgh, PA, and just out of high school; however, his command of guitar-driven blues rock transcends his years, his experience, and his geography for vocals, guitar work, and songwriting that channels all those who went before him, the threads of which woven into his own sound. Next came the more traditional blues of Soulful Femme, but plugged in and with some serious powerhouse vocals, then Max Schang played the perfect example of how fun and tight guitar-driven blues rock could be. Gabe Stillman was next to take the stage and in doing so took the crowd by storm with his energy and dynamic stage presence, and smokin’ set of his rockin’ blues. Toward the end of that set we all were witness to some blues rock magic being made with Pierce Dipner sitting in for the last few songs; the show went from spectacular to more spectacular as their guitars had a good long talk that we all listened in on. Bill Toms & Hard Rain then took the stage with their good-time rockin’ blues that had everyone with their hands in the air and feelin' good about it all. Lastly, headliner Albert Castiglia closed the show, playing that guitar like he was mad at it! He also spent a little time telling the stories behind a few of his songs before delivering them full-tilt to the crowd, which was getting its collective face melted off, and happily so. There were smiles, handshakes, hugs, and goodbyes as everyone packed up to the sounds of us all talking about what a day of music it had been.
On Sunday, the day began with more blue skies and sunshine; a perfect backdrop to the soulful gospel blues sounds of the one and only Miss Freddye. After that the Franklin High School Jazz Band took the stage with a couple of very special guests sitting in...Max Schang and Vanessa Collier! They accompanied the students’ as they played, then partook in a bit of a skirmish between sax and his guitar. Charlie Barath, who’s absolutely masterful and heart-felt on the blues harp, played next, and then the multi-talented, multi-faceted Vanessa Collier took the stage—and the entire lawn, as she walked around and played for and in the crowd—to close the show. It was a perfect ending to a simply pleasing weekend of sunshine, good food, good company, and fabulous blues in the air and in the skies; idyllic, as it were.