Lively music lineup for Whiskey Rebellion Festival 2014
For many, summer is a time to take in live music at concerts and music festivals. In Washington, Pa., live-music enthusiasts need look no further than the 2014 Whiskey Rebellion Festival.
The annual festival, held in downtown Washington, runs Thursday, July 10, through Saturday, July 12, and will feature a local symphony orchestra, six main-stage acts, and a full day of live heritage music.
The Whiskey Rebellion Festival, according to Lee Stivers, was started in 2010 under the umbrella of the David Bradford House. Stivers, a member of the festival planning committee, said, “[We] thought it would be a one-time thing for Washington’s Bicentennial,” but the festival is still going strong after a few years.
The festival kicks off on Thursday evening with a performance by the Washington Symphony Orchestra, who always play as the festival’s opening act. The WSO is a full symphony, founded in 2002.
This year, the main-stage music theme is electric blues, according to Stivers. Friday evening, the main stage will host three acts. The entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday with Billy the Kid & The Regulators, a Pittsburgh-based, guitar-driven, horn-infused rhythm and blues band. Next on the Friday night lineup at 7:45 p.m. are Ron Yarosz & The Vehicle, who perform both originals and their versions of their favorite classic blues songs. Rounding out the Friday evening entertainment at 9 p.m. is Barbara Blue, a Pittsburgh native who now lives in Memphis, Tenn., and mixes urban blues with Memphis soul. Blue has earned a permanent exhibit at Pittsburgh’s Hard Rock Café.
Stivers, who is responsible for coordinating the music entertainment has lined up three more main-stage acts for Saturday evening.
The Saturday evening main-stage acts begin at 6:30 p.m. again, this time featuring The Shelf Life String Band, who are new to the festival. The Shelf Life, an untraditional bluegrass five-piece band, comprises guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and double base. At 7:35 p.m., Appalachian power trio The Weedrags return to the Whiskey Rebellion Festival to perform songs rooted in bluegrass, country, old-time and swing. The final main-stage act, The Felice Brothers, are new to the Whiskey Rebellion Festival but have performed globally for eight years at venues like Coachella after a humble beginning performing in New York City subways. The Felice Brothers take the stage at 9 p.m. on Saturday and blend folk, country, and rock music.
The main-stage acts are sure to draw a crowd; several of them have very strong local followings, including The Weedrags and The Felice Brothers. But Stivers has also put together a day of local heritage music acts for Saturday. Each of the heritage acts on Saturday’s schedule “touches back to the celebration of historic heritage,” said Stivers.
There are seven heritage acts scheduled for Saturday, July 12 at various venues throughout the festival. Adam Sutch, a hammered dulcimer player, has been a part of the Whiskey Rebellion Festival every year.
“He plays [the hammered dulcimer] like no one else I have ever heard,” said Stivers. “Sutch is a treat and a total crowd pleaser.”
Stivers has also brought Gallowglass, from Wheeling, W. Va., back to the festival. The high-energy Celtic band appeared in the first two festivals and, according to Stivers, dress in period clothing. Frets & Feet are another heritage music act who don costumes for their performances and have been in the festival music lineup in the past.
Fiddlin’ Ray Bruckman, of Ligonier, is also on the schedule for Saturday and has played in many area bluegrass, old-time and string bands. “[Bruckman] is a pretty amazing fiddle player,” said Stivers.
Another heritage act, Up in the Batten House, features Mark Tamsula and Richard Withers. “Mark has done some real historical research,” said Stivers, “into real historical music of Southwestern PA.”
Also on the schedule of heritage acts are the Mon Valley Cloggers, who are new to the festival this year, and the Beau Street Players. The Beau Street Players’ four members all live on Beau Street in Washington and play Renaissance, Baroque, and traditional Celtic music.
Stivers admits she does not have a favorite act, but instead is excited to have each of them in the lineup this year. “I feel very, very grateful that I’m in a position to bring in local musicians to help celebrate the roots of American music,” she said.
Stivers is proud that festival entrance is totally free, as are all of the performances. The festival is possible thanks to local sponsorships, a list of which is available on the Whiskey Rebellion Festival website.
Stivers also points out that there’s more than just live music at the festival. There is also a parade, duels, reenactments, and demonstrations. “We’re the only festival in the nation, to our knowledge, where you get to see someone tarred and feathered,” said Stivers, of one of the reenactments.
The festival also includes tours of the Lemoyne House, Bradford House, and Court House and features music venues at the Farmer’s Market lot, the George Washington Hotel, the Lemoyne House, and the Washington Park. There is a children’s area with traditional heritage-style games, a petting zoo, and pony rides. There is even a wooden nickel treasure hunt open to all festival attendees – five places in the festival will give festival goers a wooden nickel and when all five are collected, attendees can present their wooden nickels in the central information tent to be entered into a prize drawing.
There will be a firework finale following The Felice Brothers’ set Saturday evening. And, of course, the Whiskey Rebellion Festival would not be complete without whiskey. For those of age, Wigle Whiskey, from the Pittsburgh Craft Whiskey Distillery, will be available at the Blue Eagle Tavern. Though it is not on the Whiskey Rebellion Festival website at the time of this writing, Stivers would also like to share that there is an antique car show on Sunday, July 13.
For more information and a complete Whiskey Rebellion Festival live music schedule, visit www.whiskeyrebellionfestival.com.
Story by Danette Marie Levers for Pennsylvania Bridges