The Downtown Billtown Music Festival, an eclectic evening of 40-minute acts from local musicians, will be held Oct. 19 at the Community Arts Center. This is the second year for the event, which has grown out of the Billtown Blues Festival.
June 2014 will see the 25th annual Billtown Blues Festival, an event that has become as synonymous with summer in the Susquehanna Valley as Crosscutters baseball games. The Billtown Blues Association (BBA) has been responsible for the nearly-quarter century of successful festivals held at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds.
In September 2009, the BBA lost a longtime member and set out to organize an event to benefit her family. "Many solo musicians and bands stepped up and we were amazed at how many musicians expressed a desire to help out," said BBA secretary and chair of the Downtown Music Festival Bonnie Tallman.
The BBA took a few years to establish the financial backing required for a successful festival and approached the Community Arts Center's Rob Steele about hosting the event. "He embraced it immediately and offered us all the services available to any big-name act that comes to the theatre," said Tallman. In October 2012 the Community Arts Center hosted the first official Downtown Billtown Music Festival.
Tallman said that beside the luxury of not having to worry about the weather, the biggest (and most obvious) difference between the Downtown Billtown Music Festival and the Billtown Blues Festival will be the "variety of musical genres." Attendees can expect to hear everything from country to R&B, gospel, classic rock and jazz.
This year's bill is made up of eight acts: singer-songwriter JR Scott, Urban Souls (a Motown group out of the Uptown Music Collective whose members' average age is 11 years old), "Christian/inspirational" group Kim Adair and Soulful, the father-and-son-lead Dirty Mojo Blues Band, country group The Frank Wicher Band, Beatles cover band Rubber Soul (who will be reuniting on stage for the first time since their retirement in 2008), classic rock band Clyde Frog, and rock group Audiobox.
"I love the wide variety of musical styles; I love the age, gender and racial diversity," said Tallman of this year's lineup.
Tallman said that with each event, the BBA strives to "produce a high-quality event, serve the musicians in the best possible way [and] make the event enjoyable and worthwhile for [everyone in attendance]."
Kim Adair and her group will be making their second appearance at a Downtown Billtown Music Festival.
"We really enjoyed taking part in the event last year," said Adair, adding "It's always fun and enlightening to perform with other great musicians."
A highlight of the festival will undoubtedly be the reunion of Rubber Soul. The band performed locally for 12 years before retiring in 2008 because of the members' increasingly busy schedules.
"I missed playing with my friends and we enjoy the music," said guitarist and vocalist Dave Brumbaugh. With the growth and continued success of the Uptown Music Collective, Brumbaugh's schedule has certainly been full. He will be joined on stage by drummer Joel Vincent, guitarist and keyboardist Bob Yoas, and bassist Colin Beatty. The group's last performance at Williamsport's Community Theater League was filled out by Scott Francis, Gordon Taylor, Neil Whyman, Dave Soregun and Dan Boone.
Rubber Soul plans to "pick up right where [they] left off" Brumbaugh said, focusing on the Beatles' songbook from "Revolver" forward, with a few songs taken from the Beatles' individual solo careers.
"Rubber Soul is going to be a huge draw for this festival," said the Community Arts Center's Carla Fisher.
The Downtown Billtown Music Festival will be held Saturday, October 19 from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St. Advance tickets are available at the CAC box office, by calling the CAC at 570-326-2424, or online at www.caclive.com. The Billtown Blues Association can be found online at www.billtownblues.org or contacted at 570-584-4480.