Gary Clark Jr. Is All Rhythm and Blues At MusikFest
MusikFest 2018 Featuring Gary Clark Jr.
If you don’t know what MusikFest is, my friends, you are missing out. The week and a half long music, arts, and food festival was founded in 1984 thanks to the folks at ArtsQuest. MusikFest takes over the town of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. In its first year the festival featured 295 performances on six stages and attracted 180,000 people to the city. Fast forward 35 years later and the city’s annual festival has grown exponentially. The fest holds its ground now as one of the largest and most diverse music festivals in the nation. This year the event has 500+ shows on 16 stages over the course of ten days! Each year more than 900,000 people make their way to the Lehigh Valley extravaganza.
ArtsQuest is a community based non-profit focused on bringing the arts to the community. Thanks to almost 2,000 volunteers, 150 or so corporate partners, the city of Bethlehem, and of course the performers, MusikFest remains the largest free music festival in the country.
The ten days are filled with music of virtually every genre imaginable; food and drinks are available pretty much everywhere you go throughout the city wide event. Everything from funnel cake and waffles with ice cream to pulled pork tacos and burgers are for the taking.
This year’s festival began on August 3rd and will run until August 12th. Performers include Brantley Gilbert, Daughtry, Dierks Bentley, Gary Clark Jr, Kesha, GROUPLOVE, Jason Mraz, Jim Gaffigan, Styx, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, All Time Low with Dashboard Confessional and so many more!
I made my way to day six of the festival, for myself day two; my first Musikfest experience was courtesy of Kesha. I’ve looked forward to this this particular show for quite some time, so I found myself making the well worth it trek back to Bethlehem on yet another humid Summer day – this time to see the one and only Gary Clark Jr. On top of this killer show I also wanted another helping of beef brisket, because the food at MusikFest is to die for!
As I arrived into Bethlehem on the fine swelter Wednesday afternoon, the strip of food trucks and vendors were beginning to gear up for another day of music. Everywhere I looked, I was once again taunted by the smell of BBQ, Gyro, and a giant Yuengling sign calling my name. I walked around since I was early, and for the most part it looked like we were dodging more storms for the moment. I couldn’t get over the friendly, charming, and positive vibes all around the city. There was something awesome happening, something special and people were grateful for it.
The gates for the Musikfest Sands Steel Stage opened up once again at 6pm and an excited crowd of all ages poured their way in to find their seats for evening’s show. The openers for the night were Bucks County Pennsylvania’s own Jeremiah Tall and New York City’s Fiona Silver.
Tall, who is inspired by an his love for summertimes spent in the mountains, along with the stories from his youth, is a one-man show with his no holds barred blend of Folk and Rock. Tall’s stories tell a range of tales from the struggles of finding your feet on an ever-changing landscape to fictional stories of cowboys and the common man’s battle with the devil. A hand painted suitcase converted into a kick drum provides a backbone to his own throwback spin on folk rock.
Jeremiah’s latest album Where The Lore Began is available to preview and support on Bandcamp.
Fiona Silver brings all the grit & glory of any East Village Rocker, from the passion in her voice to the way she carries herself. She is a bright star on the rise with dominant presence in the world of rock & roll. Having had the pleasure of seeing Fiona perform on several occasions, being that I spend most of my time in the New York streets, I can tell you she is highly adored and well respected in the NYC music scene. That all with good reason; she has a no bulls*** approach to her music that makes for an honest relationship with her fans, and people just discovering her for the first time will learn very quickly she’s the real deal. Fiona’s voice carries an indescribably sultry tone that makes her recognizable; she’s gritty, vulnerable, and delivers her own blend of guitar pop.
Get Fiona’s latest single “Thunder and Lightning”.
Gary Clark Jr. is as technical as his guitar playing; he’s a musical all on his own and arguably one of the best musicians of our time.
Expanding not only his career but his style of playing at an immeasurable rate. Clark Jr is a mind-blowing guitarist, incredible songwriter and a magically soulful singer.
His debut album Blak And Blu led him to become the first artist ever recognized by the Recording Academy with Grammy Award nominations in both the Rock and R&B categories for the same album in the same year, winning the “Best Traditional R&B Performance” for the track “Please Come Home” from the Blak And Blu album. The following day after claiming those honors he provided one of the most memorable highlights during “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles”, performing with Joe Walsh on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, with Foo Fighters singer Dave Grohl pounding the drums.
That’s simply not it, however. Gary’s blend of Rock and R&B along with his masterful ability to fuse blues, soul, pop, psychedelia, punk and hip-hop are also in Clark’s musical abilities and his inspiration, which he’s internalized into music all his own. Rolling Stone dubbed Clark “The King of the Summer Festivals” as he captivated audiences during festivals like Coachella to Glastonbury, Lollapalooza to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, from Metallica’s Orion Festival to Jay-Z’s Made in America, and of course his hometown Austin City Limits Festival.
Everything Gary Clark Jr touches turns to gold; to watch the man play his guitar is a spiritual experience. His grasp on all styles of music and his respect and effortless humility to pay homage to those that inspired him is what puts him above the rest. Guitar Player magazine made him the first emerging artist to grace its cover in more than 15 years and Rolling Stone proclaimed him to be “The Chosen One”. Clark is known for being a quiet man who lets his music do the talking and allows the notes to connect with his fans with his stamp on it.
Jeremiah Tall opened up the evening’s festivities with a simple set; just Tall, his guitar, a microphone, and a hi-hat. All on his own he entertained the MusikFest crowd and got them all warmed up for Gary Clark Jr. His blend of folk is different from all the rest, there’s a pain that can be heard in his voice, raw, unfiltered and unapologetic. Yet with that something very welcoming about his personality, he feels as if he can be one of your buddies singing songs at a bonfire party who just uses his instrument to reflect on the thing’s he’s seen and the places he’s been. His performance was not only unique but also comforting,. Keep an eye on this guy… there is some serious potential not only in his talents but his personality.
Next up was the beautiful and insanely talented Fiona Silver. Back in the press area, Fiona was the talk of the town, in the best way. We all eagerly awaited her performance, and as her and the band made their way on stage we got what we came for. Songs like “I’ll Follow You” and “Keep it Fresh” instantly had the crowd hooked. Silver’s voice is just as sultry and alluring live as it is on her album Little Thunder. She’s charismatic and her smile breathes life into her performance; the girl is not afraid to show how much she loves performing and it’s reciprocated by the audience. Looking back into the seats all eyes were on her and I believe the set earned her quite a few new fans. The 30 minute set was filled with catchy hooks, a band that presented her voice perfectly, and the showmanship of a seasoned performer. If you have an opportunity to catch Fiona Silver live, don’t think twice just do it! This girl is a star.
MusikFest night six was about to come to a close, but not without some rhythm and blues courtesy of Mr. Gary Clark Jr. Live music when done correctly is magical even outer worldly at times, this was one of those times. Moments when a guitar player or a vocalist are channeling some kind of raw inspiration, and simply relaying the message of what they feel to all that see it. Clark has perfected this ability. When the Austin, Texas native hit the stage as humbly as you would imagine, the evening was transformed.
There are a handful of musicians you can see live that give an out of body experience to the viewer. Artists like Bowie, Lennon, Mccartney, and Freddie Mercury come to mind, even fewer guitarist are recognized for this talent. Gary Clark is on this list in my opinion. His ability to entrance with a solo that is tastefully distorted, starting with long, swelling notes, before ripping into a succession of notes at a staggering rate of precision and speed is downright impressive and beautiful to witness. Clark’s guitar playing is a religious experience to witness in the flesh; song’s like “Cold Blooded” and “When I’m Gone” pull effortlessly at one’s heartstrings whether with his Gibson or with his array of vocal styles from high singing R&B to smoother and more bluesy rooted vocals. During his 90 minute long set, Clark showed he is an electric guitar virtuoso and blues songwriter by displaying his ability to fly over the frets with ease, while also showcasing his unparalleled musicianship and using unnerving suspense to his advantage, allowing the moments he wasn’t playing anything to strike just as hard as the times he was.
Songs like “When My Train Pulls In” sparked a trend of movement throughout the Pennsylvania crowd. If it wasn’t hot enough, Clark rolled into a smoldering solo. His fingers burning up the fretboard of his red Gibson with confidence. Ending the night with the same excitement as when he began Clark busted out his popular and heart pounding rendition of The Beatles “Come Together”, which had the MusikFest crowd go completely nuts, singing along to every word of the classic record.
Clark most definitely put on a showstopper level performance, but who would ever doubt he would. Bethlehem was the perfect place to bring this show and MusikFest made for a spectacular environment. Truly honored to be able to watch such an underrated, master of his craft perform live. Whether you see it now or not Gary Clark Jr is a legend in the making.
This performance marks one of many upcoming dates in the U.S both headlining and supporting Eric Clapton on tour this fall. For the full list of Tour Dates and everything Gary Clark Jr visit http://www.garyclarkjr.com
MusikFest rolls on with a ton more artist hitting the stage, for the full schedule and ticket information visit the official website at http://www.musikfest.org