It’s an unlikely setting for Mississippi and Chicago blues: a sprawling, 350-acre farm tucked away in Nescopeck, Pa., population 1,583. But for 16 years now, Briggs Farm has indeed been a destination for blues aficionados.
The festival returns to the farm on Friday July 12 and Saturday July 13, boasting a lineup of 19 acts on two stages, Southern food – new on the menu this year: catfish — and a laid-back country atmosphere that offers overnight camping and hayrides.
“We started out trying to decide just how to do the best concerts. It sounds simple, but you want to put on an event that’s big enough that people go ‘wow,’” festival organizer Richard Briggs said Monday, taking a brief break from event preparations. “The lighting should be special, and the sound, and the best bands, and the most important thing is you want everyone that works with you and for you to be friendly. Our security guys are just smiling all the time and helpful.”
This year’s lineup includes Saturday’s headliner Lurrie Bell and Friday headliner Shakura S’Aida.
Calling her “one of the hottest blues singers out there right now,” Briggs said S’Aida “puts on a real sexy show. She’s got like a very soulful, jazzy kind of voice; it’s not like a belter blues voice. And a great band behind her.”
Cedric BurnsideBriggs also pointed out some familial connections throughout this year’s lineup. Bell is the son of the late great harmonica player Carey Bell of the Muddy Waters Band. Cedric Burnside, who will perform Friday on the main stage, is the grandson of blues pioneer R.L. Burnside, and Saturday night main-stage band The Kinsey Report features the sons of the late Big Daddy Kinsey. Kinsey report member Donald Kinsey is known outside the blues world for performing with Bob Marley as a member of The Wailers on classic albums like “Rastaman Vibration” as well as with reggae legend Peter Tosh on his landmark album “Legalize It.”
“This is something with blues bands that you see a lot, probably more than other types of music,” Briggs surmised. “There’s family history, very literally passing on a style, performance, energy, that whole thing that the music is based on.”
Friday’s main-stage performances kick off at 4:30 p.m. with Georgie Bonds followed by Burnside, Clarence Spady and S’Aida. The Back Porch Stage on Friday will feature Ed Randazzo with Bret Alexander, Rare Form, Nate Myers, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Eli Cook and Lonnie Shields. On Saturday, Bean and his band The Cornlickers will open the main stage at 4 p.m., followed by Mac Arnold, The Kinsey Report and Bell. The Back Porch Stage on Saturday will host James Owens with Dustin Drevitch, Symphonic Haze, Jesse Loewy, an acoustic Bell set, The Badlees and Shields.
While the music is the main attraction, the bucolic setting and food are also major components in the Briggs Farm experience.
“I was just talking to a guy that just stopped by the outlet here at the farm and bought tickets and, he said, ‘I come for the corn,’” Briggs said with a laugh. “It’s just picked fresh early in the morning, and it’s the first corn of the season usually. All the food we do ourselves, and we try to do stuff that’s Mississippi Delta-style food. This year we’re adding catfish with a cajun sauce. Pulled pork, which is a big favorite, 500 pounds of the pulled pork, wings and sweet corn of course, and some desserts, some really, really good heapin’ pile-high strawberry desserts. For the campers, we do a Southern-style breakfast Saturday and Sunday morning. And people can bring coolers of food or whatever they can bring, beer, we just ask that they don’t bring glass.”
“The woods that people camp in is like a park, and the fields are hay fields that we mow to look nice,” he said. “It’s a comfortable, fresh feeling. There’s a lot of happy people. You can generally feel a good vibe from everyone, and I think that’s important. I think the bands do their best shows here because the audience is really happy to see them. The bands love it, and so do the people.”
Visit http://briggsfarm.com/ for the complete schedule, ticket information and more.