Syracuse Acoustic Blues Fest celebrates local music acts

Syracuse Acoustic Blues Fest celebrates local music acts

Despite the cold weather, Syracuse's sixth annual music event sees big turnout.
Published: March 7, 2019
Jacob Penney Trio was the youngest group to perform at the Blues Festival
Jacob Penney Trio was the youngest group to perform at the Syracuse Acoustic Blues Festival.

Under a strong yet tranquil blue light, local acts took the stage for the biggest wintertime blues festival yet in Syracuse with nearly 500 members from the community showing up last Friday.

“It’s getting bigger every year,” Syracuse Acoustic Blues Festival organizer Christien Page said. “We have Westcott people, a bunch of SU people, parish people, and a bunch of different people from all walks of life.”

For its sixth year running, the blues festival is becoming a tradition that pulls together the Syracuse University and area music communities.

Joining a lineup of eight acts that included notable local blues artists Larry Hoyt and Butternut Creek Revival was a pair of SU alums — Mike Powell who has built a career as a solo musician since his days playing SU lacrosse and Jacob Penner who leads a self-named jazz trio.

“I was here last year as a spectator, but then I thought man, they need more saxophone,” Penner said.

Page said the festival aims to give burgeoning blues artists a forum to show off their talents and for audience members to relax after a long week.

“They let us use the space and we try to make it a reasonable night for everyone to just listen to local artists,” Page said, an organizer of the event.

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SU alum Mike Powell plays at the Syracuse Acoustic Blues Festival.

Swaying along with ale in their hands, the audience was feeling the blues for Equinox in D flat minor by Jacob Penner Trio, and a bold cover of Rihanna’s Love on the Brain by Hondo Mesa & Midnight Mike with Liz Shirey.

SU professors were certainly not left out of Friday night festivities, with Claudia Strong of the Newhouse School’s visual communications department a regular at the festival. Stephen Masiclat, director of the new media management program also at Newhouse, designed the sponsor’s logo on the back of the festival’s program. This year turned out to be extra special, however, with the weather cooperating.

“It’s been stormy the past years, but this year it’s happened to be a good night and that’s why the turnout is so big,” Strong said.

Putting on such a festival during winter in Syracuse is risky, but Hondo Mesa partner and festival founder Dennis Kinsey was never hindered by that thought. After all, he introduced the festival to the community for a reason.

“The blues warms me,” Kinsey said.