“It’s all good” is a pretty popular phrase these days. It can be said as a closing or as closure and also as reassurance, among other sentiments. It’s the exception, rather than the rule, to say that something is all good and literal sense but the Pittsburgh Blues & Roots Festival is one of those exceptions because the music, the people, the cause, and the venue are truly all good...ALL good.
Ron Esser, aka Moondog, and John Vento—both top-notch people, along with all the volunteers behind them—head up the Pittsburgh Blues & Roots Fest and also the organization for which it’s a fundraiser: Band Together of Pittsburgh, a non-profit that exists to enrich the lives of those who are on the autism spectrum and does so very effectively, as you can see and hear each year during their set at the blues fest, which is held each year at the end of July at the Shriner’s Club indoor/outdoor venue (rain be damned!).
I (sadly) missed the first day this year but I (happily) enjoyed the entire second day. It opened with some heartfelt solo Band Together performances, then the band Spectrum, featuring the little lady with a big voice, Angelina, backed by a band that included Norman Nardini, the uncrowned King of Pittsville, Pennsyltucky, as he describes himself. He didn’t remain uncrowned for long, though, as shown in the pics…
We then headed to the inside stage to have a Blues Attack by Pittsburgh’s own, well, Blues Attack, who played a smokin’ set; we all miss the late and unforgettably great Jill West, who was their frontwoman, but hen back to the outdoor stage in time for Joslyn & the Sweet Compression to get everyone moving to her powerful vocals and up-tempo rhythm, including a horn section. The next band, The Shiners, was on the inside stage with their brand of southern rock and blues; if you like the Marshall Tucker Band, you’ll love them. Next up for the outside stage was to be King Solomon Hicks, who is an absolute delight to see live! A rainstorm decided to make itself part of the lineup so after a short delay to move everything and everyone to the inside, he began his set with smiles all around; on stage and in the audience. Smiles became laughter, as Norm Nardini shared the stage and performed (guitar and otherwise), and word on the street is that he'll be out on the road for a few dates with KSH, too. In short order, Tommy Castro and the Painkillers took the stage, his performance a reminder (that no one in the audience actually needed) as to why he has stacked up multiple Blues Music Awards and other accolades, from fans to the blues music business to his contemporaries and his idols. To make matters even better, he invited King Solomon Hicks back up to sit in, along with Pittsburgh locals Billy the Kid (Evanochko), Jimmy Adler, and Norm Nardini for some true guitar-driven blues rock magic.
Too soon, the set ended and the 2023 Pittsburgh Blues & Roots Fest was over, to be remembered as yet another one that was that was all good; good music at a good venue for a good cause by good people. Ok, so maybe it far surpassed good into the neighborhood of spectacular. I don’t think that phrase will catch on, though, accurate or not, so we’ll have to stick with it's all good, which this year’s fest truly was.