Lancaster Roots and Blues
A Festival of Music and Art
February 22 – 24 2019
Lancaster is thriving and the Roots and Blues Festival brings out the best in the city. A city bustling with nightclubs and fine dining, convention halls and street vendors, farmers markets and clever fashionable mom and pop stores. There’s even the occasional horse and buggy. The Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival doesn’t blow into town and set up a festival, they are part of the town. Once a year the festival brings world-class music and tucks them into some of the greatest funky little venues. People who know great music flock to the city to meet up with friends, enjoy a few nights on the town, get out and about when most people are still in hibernation. The glue that holds this all together is the love of a well crafted song. This is a music lovers festival, and it’s a feast for the ears.
Chameleon Club founder and former owner Rich Ruoffs’ vision marks its sixth successful Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival. Working with Discover Lancaster, the festival contributes and economic bump to the community. People travel into the city, check into hotels, visit the restaurants and businesses, and fall in love with what Lancaster has to offer. Ruoff has a clear vision for Lancaster Roots and Blues three-day festival. Every year he listens to the feedback and makes changes where appropriate. That’s the business side of the festival, and it’s a balancing act. The music side is always top quality, it’s a vision Ruoff plans to continue for years to come.
Approximately 10,000 people were in attendance for the sixth annual Roots and Blues Festival last weekend. Some improvements were the movement of the main stage to the convention center’s third-floor Heritage Ballroom. This room has changed over the years and Rouff strives to get the sound dialed in for a large space. I believe there may be a change back to Freedom Hall for the main stage. Personally, I felt the sound was louder than it needed to be which distorted the artists vocals.
Driving from out-of-town, I began my Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival on Friday evening. I met friends at the VIP Party at The Imperial restaurant at the Hotel Lancaster. The city’s newest restaurant was a great way to catch up with friends from past festivals, enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres from several of the areas restaurants, and get into the groove of the festival.
First show of the festival was Oliver Bates Craven at The Elks Lodge. The band played new original material. Keep an ear out for a new album from Oliver Bates Craven, a local artist who now makes his home in Nashville. These songs are the first he’s presented since his successful Stray Birds disbanded last year. These were well crafted songs that rocked in true roots fashion. Both this and his other show at Tellus 360 were enthusiastically attended. I was able to catch a few songs by former Carolina Chocolate Drop Hubby Jenkins, (so much great music to choose from), before making a quick retreat back to the convention center to catch a bit of the sublime roots soul music of War and Treaty, As a powerhouse duo, War and Treaty’s Michael and Tanya Trotter were one of the anticipated shows of the night. This band is fantastic. The duo ended their set by shaking hands and gathering the audience in a love fueled embrace. Jon Cleary and the Absolute Gentlemen brought their New Orleans flavored funk, and Gabe Stillman, the 2019 IBC Gibson Guitar award winner, rounded out the night.
Saturday began with award-winning Native American fingerstyle guitarist Cary Morin. This was Morin’s festival debut, I doubt it will be his last. Cary mesmerized the packed Zoetropolis with his brilliant guitar and heartfelt songwriting from his newest album, When I Rise. Cary Morin plans to return to Zoetropolis in the spring. Next was a brisk walk to catch David Olney’s debut at the overflowing and very loud Tellus360. I’m not sure what they were thinking booking Olney in this venue. This is an artist who’s songwriting goes toe to toe with the likes of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. Tellus360 is a rambunctious taproom. David Olney is a pro, his setlist was ready and the audience appreciated every note and every word. Nobody should have to work that hard, I hope he comes back. Albert Cummings, Benyaro, and Sweet Leda (featuring Ron Holloway) rounded out the evening.
Seth Walker started things off Sunday morning for a packed Elks Lodge. The dance floor was jumping for this debut performance. His critically acclaimed Are You Open? album was just released and Seth Walker played mostly from this album with a few fan favorites added to the set. It was a well received show. Gangstagrass was a fan favorite as well. The New York City band combined bluegrass and rap into a new genre. It was quite good. Brandon “Taz” Neiderauer and Ron Holloway Band completed my festival experience. There are so many artists to choose from and I’m happy with my choices. Did I miss some outstanding acts? Absolutely! There’s always next year. Lancaster Roots and Blues is a festival of music and art that convenes near the end of February.
Like all festivals, this one has a following. We come back to Lancaster Roots and Blues every year for the friendships we make, the restaurants we discover, and because the festival brings world-class music to intimate venues. We come here to listen, and we like what we hear. Save the date! Next year’s Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival is February 28th, 29th, and March 1st 2020. Early bird ticket pricing is in effect now. Get a leap on the fun and gather up your friends. This festival gets better each year, I’ll see you there.
Lancaster Roots and Blues A Festival of Music & Art February 22, 23 and 24, 2019 Visit our Website at LancasterRootsAndBlues.com | Follow Us on Facebook | Follow Us on Twitter | Follow Us on Instagram
– Viola Krouse
Seth Walker “Call My Name”
Oliver Bates Craven “Long Table”
War and Treaty “Let Me Love You”