The Pittsburgh Blues Festival has come up with a novel invention for its 12th edition: The first night is free.
OK, it will cost you a bag of groceries to get into Hartwood Acres on July 21 to see headliner Sonny Landreth, who will be joined by another superb guitarist, Tinsley Ellis, and Pittsburgh’s own Jill West & Blues Attack.
That’s a small price to pay for one of the year’s best musical events, and best causes. All proceeds from the three-day festival again will go to Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. More than $600,000 has been raised in the festival’s first 11 years, and this year’s musical acts are equal to any organizer Ron Esser has attracted in the past.
Besides Landreth, who is one of the best slide guitarists on the planet, the lineup includes a wealth of talent.
Saturday’s headliner is Leon Russell, who, in addition to penning such songs as “Delta Lady” for Joe Cocker and “Superstar” for the Carpenters, had hits of his own including “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “A Song for You.” But the must-see act that day is Pinetop Perkins’ All-Star Band, which features veteran bluesmen Hubert Sumlin and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.
Sunday’s lineup has the potential to be the one of the best in the history of the event. Jimbo Mathus, the former Squirrel Nut Zipper frontman, and Lee Rocker, ex-bassist of the Stray Cats, would be a fantastic bill on their own. But also slated to play are the Yardbirds, the seminal ’60s band that once featured Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. That trio is unlikely to show up at Hartwood Acres, but fans can still hear original members Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty.
Rounding out the evening will be British legend John Mayall, the godfather of British blues who helped launch the careers of Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor.
When: July 21-23; performance times to be announced.
Admission: Free with donation of a bag of groceries July 21; $18 July 22-23
Where: Hartwood Acres, Hampton
Details: 412-460-2583, or www.pghblues.com