Festival to Pay Tribute to Houston-area Blues Scene; New BBQ Event Highlights Friday Schedule

BETHLEHEM, PA—The Fabulous Thunderbirds, 2017 GRAMMY Award winner Bobby Rush and Walter “Wolfman” Washington are among the many electrifying blues acts that will take the stage during the 7th Blast Furnace Blues Festival March 23-25 at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem. Tickets for the festival, featuring nearly 20 different national and local blues acts, go on sale Nov. 17, 10 a.m., online here and 610-332-3378.

On March 24, 8:30 p.m., Blast Furnace Blues welcomes the Fabulous Thunderbirds with Kim Wilson. For more than 35 years, The Fabulous Thunderbirds have been the quintessential American band. The group’s distinctive and powerful sound, influenced by a diversity of musical styles, manifested itself into a unique musical hybrid via hits like “Tuff Enuff,” “Wrap It Up” and “Look at That.” Formed by Wilson and Jimmie Vaughn in 1974, the group released its first self-titled album in 1979, and nearly 40 years later it continues to delight audiences at venues and festivals from coast to coast.

Headlining Blast Furnace Blues on March 25, 6 p.m., is Bobby Rush, winner of the 2017 GRAMMY award for Best Traditional Blues Album for “Porcupine Meat.” Born in Louisiana, Rush moved to Chicago in the 1950s, and started to work with artist such as Earl Hooker, Luther Allison and Freddie King, as well as perform with blue legends like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Willie Dixon. By the 1960s, he was leading his own band, embarking on a musical journey that now spans some 60 years. Among Rush’s many honors are being named a Blues Hall of Famer, B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and receiving 11 Blues Music Awards from the Blues Foundation.

Among the many other artists performing at Blast Furnace Blues 2018 are five-time Blues Music Award nominee Toronzo Cannon, singer-songwriter and Blues Music Award nominee Sugaray Rayford and Walter “Wolfman” Washington, the legendary guitarist who blends R&B, blues, New Orleans funk and modern jazz into his own unique style. This year’s festival also pays tribute to the Houston-areas blues scene, with seven out of 19 festival performers coming from Southeast Texas. Among them are Houston Music Hall of Famer and five-time Blues Music Award nominee Trudy Lynn, Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws, Steve Krase Band, The Mighty Orq, Brad Absher & Swamp Royale, boogie woogie piano player Ezra Charles and steel guitarist John Egan.
“Everyone knows how badly Houston and Southeast Texas were hit by Hurricane Harvey,” says ArtsQuest Chief Programming Officer Patrick Brogan. “This particular region has a rich tradition in the blues, and a number of artists from that area were really impacted by the hurricane.

At Blast Furnace Blues, we’re going to showcase some of the amazing acts from the Houston area in an effort to provide some much needed income and exposure to its music scene, as well as help some of the artists who are still struggling to recover from the devastation of Harvey.”

On Friday night at Blast Furnace Blues, guests are invited to enjoy a “Bourbon & Barbeque Tasting,” featuring unlimited samplings of Cherry Wood Smoked Beef Brisket with Smokehouse Mac & Cheese; Mesquite & Black Pepper Rubbed Chicken Served over Braised Greens; and Slow Roasted BBQ Pork with House Slaw & Signature BBQ Sauce, along with samplings of Social Still’s bourbon and rum. Price is $50 and includes Blast Furnace Blues admission for the evening; guests must be 21 years or older for this new culinary experience.

The lineup and ticket prices for Blast Furnace Blues 2018 are:

Three-Day Pass:
ArtsQuest Member Price $89; Regular Admission $99

Festival Admission only: Member Price $18; Regular Admission $20
“Bourbon & Barbeque Tasting” Ticket (includes admission to the festival on Friday night): $50

Member Price $44; Regular Admission $49

Member Price $39; Regular Admission $44

Ages 6 & Under:
Single day only – $8


Musikfest Cafe presented by Yuengling
7 p.m. James Supra & Sarah Ayers Quartet
8:15 p.m. Steve Krase Band
10 p.m. Craig Thatcher Band


Fowler Blast Furnace Room

12 p.m. Lesson Center
1 p.m. Ezra Charles
2:30 p.m. Sugaray Rayford
4:15 p.m. John Egan
6-7:15 p.m. Slam Allen Band
7:45 p.m. Walter Washington

Musikfest Café presented by Yuengling

12:30 p.m. John Egan
1:45 p.m. Slam Allen Band
3:15 p.m. Ezra Charles
5 p.m. Walter “Wolfman” Washington & the Roadmasters
6:45 p.m. Sugaray Rayford
8:30 p.m. The Fabulous Thunderbirds with Kim Wilson


Fowler Blast Furnace Room

12:30 p.m. The Mighty Orq
2:15 p.m. Brad Absher
3:45 p.m. Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws
5:15 p.m. Toronzo Cannon

Musikfest Cafe presented by Yuengling

Noon Brad Absher
1:15 p.m. Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws
2:30 p.m. Toronzo Cannon
4:15 p.m. Trudy Lynn
6 p.m. Bobby Rush

Plus additional acts to be announced. For more information on Blast Furnace Blues, please click here.