For all of the doubters out there who have told me that blues shows can’t succeed in Richmond, let me just say that Richmond was, is, and shall always be a blues town!
When Henry Cook and I first proposed putting together a blues program for WCVE-FM, we were told (not by our boss, let me make that clear) by some musical people who were “in the loop” with what people wanted, that we were wasting our time. Richmond would not tune in, and we would last maybe six weeks.
That was almost eleven years ago, and the first several years, our time slot was 1:00 a.m.
I’m not saying all this to toot our own horns. We wouldn’t still be on the air if there weren’t a number of great people who are tuning in to hear great blues music.
Lord knows, they are not tuning in for our jokes. That’s for sure.
Take a quick look at some of the great acts that have recently come through town and played to good crowds at venues like The Tin Pan, the Capitol Ale House, The Camel, and even larger venues like The Altria, where Joe Bonamassa recently blew the roof off the joint.
Now we can add another place to that list of great places to catch the blues: Steam Bell Beer Works, located at 1717 Oak Lake Blvd East in Midlothian. The zip is 23113 and you might need it for your GPS.
See, the Steam Bell Beer Works is hosting their first annual RVA Brews & Blues Fest on Saturday, March 25. Aside from an amazing line-up, which we’ll get to in just a minute, they will be releasing a small batch beer, Old Salt Gose and have Intergalactic Tacos and Strawberry Street Café food trucks out all day.
I have not experienced Intergalactic as of yet, but since the word “tacos” is in their title, I may be first in line to sample them. Anyone who knows me well, knows that in my world, the taco is one of the basic food groups. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the Strawberry Street Café is one of the best places to eat in the city, and when I lived in the Fan, I was there at least once a week.
Now, on to the music. Headlining the show is the wonderful Albert Castiglia and his band. This is Castiglia’s first Richmond appearance since he headlined the original Parkfest in 2013. I believe, anyway. I’m sure someone will point out if I messed up my dates. His last album, Big Dog, was one of my favorite albums from last year. You can read about it, and others here. Shame on me, for not giving the album a full review, but believe me, this guy is one of the hardest working blues players around and he is going to rock the Steam Bell Beer Works for all he’s worth!
Joining him will be Anthony Rosano and The Conqueroos from the Virginia Beach area. Rosano, who originally hails from New York, leads a very tight band that has recently opened for the likes of Tab Benoit, and they are very much in demand. You’ll find their recent live album on that list of last year’s best, and they are about to drop a brand new release that was produced by Mike Zito, who coincidentally enough, produced Big Dog for Castiglia! C’mon Richmond, it’s time to get ROO’D…
Also on the show is Charlottesville based, but traveling all over the place, Eli Cook. Cook has gathered high praise from a number of major performers, including John Mayall, a guy who knows a thing or two about good guitarists. (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Peter Green are just some of the guys who have played guitar for Mayall.) This will be my first time seeing Cook perform, and I can’t wait to hear what he brings to the table.
One of my favorite local blues acts is Andrew Alli and The Mainline. Alli knows his way around a harp and every one of his shows is an experience. I really expect great things from this young cat. Be sure to catch him now before he explodes on the scene. He’s got all the tools to make that happen.
Another fun band on the show is Blues Flash. I’ve got them several times and love their high energy approach to the blues. Whether is jump swing, or hard rocking blues, they have been a favorite just about everywhere in Virginia. Trust me when I tell you, these guys take no prisoners and you will be swept up in their performance!
Another group that I’ll be seeing for the first time is Band Of Brothers RVA. I don’t know much about them, other than the fact that they are a five-piece blues, rock and funk band. With an introduction like that, I can’t wait to see what they offer.
Last, but by no means least, is the Mike Lucci Band. I have been a fan of theirs for years and can’t tell you the number of times I’ve hung out in the back of the room watching them perform. They have a great style, and one of the best vocalists in Shelly Thiss. This is one tight, hard working, dynamite group and I would come to just about any event that was smart enough to bring them in.
Oh yeah, I’ll be the emcee. I’ll keep the jokes to a minimum, because I’ll be having too much fun watching these talented performers. And as Henry Cook always says, as he quotes from That Thing You Do, “If you want a picture of me in my rally jacket, I just might make it happen.” Just be forewarned, I don’t actually have a rally jacket…
Make sure you get your tickets early. You can find them at Eventbrite or at Steam Bell Beer Works itself. The music is going to be off the charts, they are releasing a small batch beer, Old Salt Gose, and there’s going to be all sorts of food – you can’t beat. it
So get up, get out of the house, and get down to Steam Bell Beer Works for what’s going to be one of the great throw downs of the year! Then be sure to tune in to Time For The Blues and listen to some more great music…
(All photos were creatively borrowed from the web and are not copyrighted by me, this blog, or probably anyone I know. If you own the copyright and want the image removed, please contact me for compliance. But I'm not giving up any tacos, so you can just forget that...)