Musikfest, Day 6: Big Stage Blues and a Singer-Songwriter Showcase

I was excited to go to the South Side of Musikfest on Wednesday night. Many of the performers that I’ve been looking forward to covering were making their ‘Fest debuts playing inside of the Martin Guitar Lyrikplatz. This came at a perfect time as, after five days of walking around the North Side of the festival, I was ready to give my legs a break.

Still, it’s not like me to stay in one place at the nation’s largest free outdoor music festival. So, I got down to SteelStacks shortly after 6 p.m. and decided to see what was going on at Americaplatz (normally, the Levitt Pavilion). There, I was treated to the last couple songs from Mike Mettalia and Midnight Shift, a blues band that splits its time for the Lehigh Valley and Bucks County. Patrons were still filing in for the night at that point of the evening, but the ones who were there were rocking and rolling the band’s clean, straightforward approach to blues.

Once that set wrapped up, I had some time before Neil Grover kicked his set off at 7 p.m. inside of Lyrikplatz. So, I wandered up to the ArtsQuest Center’s Musikfest Cafe (via elevator — saving my legs for the weekend!), where Friar’s Point Band was tearing things up with a dynamic performance that had a Blues Brothers-esque feel in its energy.

I then elevated myself back down to the first floor and walked into the Frank Banko Alehouse red cinema to enjoy an evening at the Martin Guitar Lyrikplatz stage. I walked in at the very conclusion of Evan Miklosey’s set (which I’m bummed about, because I heard it was really good — I’ll try to catch him soon!). Shortly, it would be time for Neil Grover‘s Musikfest debut.

When I say debut, not only had Neil never performed at Musikfest before, but the Allentown-based singer-songwriter had never even been to Musikfest prior to Thursday night. That didn’t stop him, however, from delivering a polished and passionately-delivered set — half on guitar, and half on piano — to an appreciative audience. Highlights included originals “Don’t Give a Damn Anymore” and “Politics,” and a stripped-down cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.”

Next up was Richie Ares, who goes by stage name theLionhearted. The bearded piano man showed a great and unique vocal ability, alternating between a haunting baritone and falsetto with ease, as he delivered an emotional set of ballads that included tunes from his latest release, “Absolution (& Redemption).

Closing out the night was Alex Mery & The Townsmen, bringing their full folk-punk sound to a Musikfest stage for the first time. The band’s 45-minute set included originals from its EP “Folklore,” with the pensive, plodding “Elegy” being particularly strong on this night. The band also saved some brand new material to debut at this show, and warmed themselves up to the crowd with their comical banter between selections.

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