TVD Recommends:
Hot August Blues & Roots Festival, 8/17

In 1993, someone approached event organizer Brad Selko with a simple idea: “How would you like to have a picnic in your backyard with Charlie Musselwhite?” Selko, a long-time music lover, jumped at the opportunity to host the famed bluesman. “Every year it grew and grew,” Selko says. “And I don’t know how much bigger we can make it.”

Twenty-one years later, Hot August Blues is the region’s favorite day-long blues and roots festival—now boasting three stages, thousands of attendees, and a playbill of top bands that cover every cranny of the blues and roots genre.

Past years have seen headliners like Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule, Justin Townes Earle, and Taj Mahal. The 2013 iteration takes place this Saturday, August 17, at Oregon Ridge Park (the fest outgrew Selko’s backyard a few years back) in Cockeysville, Maryland and will host 14 acts ranging from bluegrass bands to psychedelic DJs to a certain golden-haired siren who’s been known to sell out her own share of shows across the country.

On the main stage, catch Greensky Bluegrass, Galactic, JD McPherson, and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, just to name a few, plus DELTAnine, Antibalas, and Boombox on the other stages. The family-friendly fest also hosts drum circles for adults, and drum and harmonica workshops for miniature music makers. New to the festival this year, Selko has rounded up circus performers like stilt-walkers, trapeze artists, and fire-eaters—just to keep things fresh (and incendiary).

Who I’m looking forward to the most:

Grace Potter. I don’t mean to sound dramatic here, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t believe in love until I heard the song “Low Road.” Grace rose to early fame on the jam band festival circuit, but since word got out about her sheer goodness-ness, she has immediately—and rightfully—been embraced by the mainstream. (CMT! Ellen DeGeneres!) I haven’t seen her perform at a festival in more than three years, so I’m thrilled at the idea of seeing her back in her element.

JD McPherson. After catching his performance at this year’s Newport Folk Festival, NPR said, “JD McPherson provides a refreshing reminder that retro roots music isn’t timid: His debut album, Signs & Signifiers, synthesizes blues and rockabilly and old-school rock ‘n’ roll with an unmistakable punk spirit.” Enough said?

Boombox. I hadn’t heard of the DJ duo prior to last Friday, but am definitely excited to see them play. Russ Randolph and Zion Rock Godchaux (yup, as in Donna Jean Godchaux) layer instruments and psychedelic beats to create seamless hybrid dance tracks. I’m a little wary of the early set time, but the inclusion of these guys in the festival lineup really speaks to just how varied the entire bill is.

“We’re all over the place,” Selko says. “Things have really changed.”

Saturday, August 17, 11:30 am-10:00 pm, Oregon Ridge Park, Cockeysville, MD.
Tickets: $59 advanced, $65 at the door

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