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South Orange International Blues Festival Returns With 9 Hours of Free Music

Attending the South Orange International Blues Festival 2011 were, from left: from left: Mike Griot, founder and executive director of BOIBF; Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr.; and Joel Levin, one of the festival principals. Photo: Kendal K. Whitlock

WEST ORANGE, NJ -- The third annual South Orange International Blues Festival will be headlined by Grammy-winning guitarist Vernon Reid of the iconic rock band Living Colour, as he joins New York blues legends Michael Hill’s Blues Mob on Sunday, Sept. 9.

Reprising 2011’s successful event at the new venue, the blues celebration, which runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.,  takes over the slopes of Oakdale picnic area in South Mountain Reservation in West Orange.

The free family-friendly festival offers supervised parking and many food, merchandise, and crafts vendors. There is a free day-and- night “park and ride” shuttle service between the parking lot behind the downtown South Orange train station and the concert, courtesy of the South Orange Parking Authority.

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As in prior years, the marathon concert will feature a broad, varied palette of veteran blues performers and rising stars, including some favorites of the first two years. Adding spice to the festival as emcee with his always-humorous and knowledgeable patter will be “culinary rocker”/celebrity chef Johnny Ciao, a blues aficionado.

The lineup:

11-11:45             Dave Keyes & Bob Devos  
12 -12:45            Rosalyn McClore                    
1-1:45                 Michael Packer                       
2- 2:45                Dean Shot                              
3-3:45                 Al Gold & SRK                      
4-5:00                 Eliza Neals                              
5:20-6:30            Michael Hill’s Blues Mob & Vernon Reid (with Colin John)         
6:45-7:30            Full Circle Blues Band

In 2007, Mike Griot conceived of the idea of honoring South Orange while also popularizing the great American music genre, the blues. Three years of intensive research and conceptualizing led ultimately to the 2010 birth of the SOIBF.

Along with marketing consultant and writer Joel Levin, they formed an all-star team of volunteers in finance, digital media, traffic management, sponsor relations, music production, and photography, plus dozens of general volunteers who make festivals happen. According to Levin, “our aim in producing a free event was to bring music to the people and people to the music.” 

He continued, “Even my most critical music industry colleagues have praised the first two South Orange festivals because of their mix of talented local and national acts.”

Griot said he wants to expand the audience for the blues. “Rock and jazz festivals are ‘everywhere,’ so presenting the blues is more of a cultural imperative,” he said. “In the U.S., this music is under-presented and under-promoted. I’ve toured the world playing blues to huge audiences and wondered why it is relatively unappreciated in America where it was born.”

Gratiot continued, “The festival team wants to thank Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. and the Board of Chosen Freeholders, plus lead sponsor Mental Health Association of Essex County, and major sponsor Investors Bank for enabling us to keep the SOIBF free.”

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