Arts & Entertainment

South Orange International Blues Festival Draws in Listeners

Avery Thompson, a WOHS junior, keeps the crowd entertained between blues acts. Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
Robin and Dean Shot sharing their deep voices with familiar faces. SOdeanshot- Dean Shot, a young musician, who often appears with his band at the Robin's Nest. Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
SOJammin- Mental Health Association of Essex Counties Exectuvie Director Robert N. Davison (left) and Avia Johnson an intern from Rutgers Newark giving away tshirts to support their cause of 'Jammin the blues away.' Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
West Orange resident Dave Stryker, left, came on stage with his band to a round of applause.  Credits: Caitlin O'Keefe
SO- Michael Wills Blues Mob early in their set. Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ -  On Sunday, Mike Griot’s Fourth Annual South Orange International Blues Festival was held by the Paddle Pavillion on Cherry Lane in West Orange. Musicians, families and friends set up camp on the hill that used as an archery field. 

The stage was set by the road, facing up the hill. Lining the right side of the stage were various vendors for food/drink, merchandise and charities. Some notable tents included local grown corn on the cob, lobster rolls and a ‘Putting Essex County First’ double booth. This booth housed the Mental Health Association of Essex County and their efforts to "jam away the blues" (pictured).  Over 200 people in attendance were able to listen to seven different blues ensembles throughout the course of the day.  Local musician Dave Stryker, from West Orange, led his band through their instrumental set of songs including Bigfoot (alluding to the drummers foot peddle), Blue to the Bone and Workin. Several of these songs were featured on the album that was available for sale, Blue to the Bone IV.  Stryker was introduced as ‘the best in the business.’

Another performer affiliated with WOHS, comedian and impersonator Avery Thompson performed between blues sets.  Thompson did the voices of Barak Obama, Stewie and Peter Griffin.  Thompson, who is currently a junior at WOHS and battling leukemia, will be performing again at South Orange Performing Arts Center on September 19, 2013 at 7pm.

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A band showcasing sing along songs, with dancing and deep vocals, Dean Shot and his band were a crowd favorite. Shot hosted Robin onstage, the owner of the Robin’s Nest, an all-blues venue. Robin took more of a traditional Blues route when she paired up with Shot and his band.  There was a booth set up offering information on upcoming performances at the Robin’s Nest in Linden, NJ. The organizer of this festival Mike Griot, appeared on stage with his band Michael Wills Blues Mob with Griot on bass. Accompanied by harmonica, drums and guitar the Blues Mob sang both original and famous songs to the eclectic crowd.

Other acts included Bill Sims Jr., Al Gold, Billy Hector and Lil’ Bastad. Most patrons set up camp for the long haul in addition to families with children or dogs stopped by to enjoy an act or two, to enjoy the music, food and beverages. The area was secured on all fronts by Essex County Sheriffs officers on site and in the parking areas.


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