Last Friday Nathan Zoob of Pittsburgh band, Wreck Loose led a tribute to the king of the blues, BB King. Zoob hand picked some top local talent and brought a spark to the opening night of the annual Pittsburgh Blues Festival at Hartwood Acres. Check out our interview with Nathan about the experience.
Sound Scene Express: How did the Pittsburgh Blues Revival come about?
Randy Baumann put me in touch with the great Moondog who talked to me about helming a show at the Blues Fest. The Food bank was looking to inject some fresh blood into the festival, and Randy thought I could pull some folks together.
SSE: What inspired the event?
NZ: I knew I wanted this to be a collaborative, large-scale performance where I could welcome a lot of different musicians and singers to the stage. Actually my first suggestion was a “just-the-hits” concert production of Jesus Christ Superstar, but that had a couple of things going against it. One is that it’s not a very good idea. JCSS is a tremendous show but way too much work for a one time hour long performance! Two is that it’s just not the blues. We can pretend, we can stretch definitions, but we all know whatsup.
When BB King passed I was looking for a way to honor his memory, but I didn’t immediately make the connection. The man has been such a huge influence on my playing–I felt the loss very acutely. At some point it dawned on me that of course I had been handed the perfect platform from which to exalt the man. What better than a Blues Festival to celebrate the greatest blues guitarist (and maybe singer) of all time.
SSE: How were the musicians chosen?
NZ: I have a pool that I tend to pull from–people who I’ve worked with in some capacity over the years. Dave Busch and Shawn Mcgregor (bass and drums respectively) had participated in a smaller scale BB King tribute at Thunderbird. It was a safe bet they had the material down. Ryan Booth (bari sax) played the WYEP Hootenanny with me and Skip Sanders (organ) played the Hartwood Ramble with Randy and I. Elyse Louise (tenor sax) is a killer player and has been a friend for years. Nate Insko (trumpet) and Ben Clifton (keys) actually slotted in at the last minute, and I’m so glad they did, because they’re both enormously talented and appropriate players.
I tried to pick singers that could embody some aspect of BB Kings performance and spirit. The man was in turns gregarious, soulful, playful and forceful. The songs could be cruel and the songs could be kind. I wanted singers who could express one of those facets. Many of them were already working with fiery guitar players, and I was so excited to be able to open the show up to those guitarists as well. The mans playing had just as many angles as singing.
SSE: How do you think the event went?
NZ: It was a blast! I was excited about the crowd response, and every one who shared the stage with me enjoyed them-self (or seemed to), which was the ultimate goal. You can’t really honor BB King if you aren’t having fun on stage.
SSE: What did you like most about coming to an event like this?
NZ: This particular festival is so friendly. Entrance fee on Friday was a donation to the Food Bank, so all in attendance, having already shared from their pantries, were glad to share their enthusiasm and conversation as well.
SSE: Is there any chance this happens again?
NZ: Would love to, of course. Maybe not a strict BB King tribute, but another Blues Fest performance with the same group of people? I’d be thrilled and honored. I don’t know whether it will happen or not, but I won’t say no if the offer comes in! (hint motherfucking hint yo)
SSE: Is there anything else you would like to add?
NZ: Listen to BB if you want the real. There’s no question why he gets called the greatest blues guitarist of all time. Every time I get up on my own playing he brings me right back down to earth.
Setlist and Performers
Everyday I Have The Blues: Bronwyn Higgins
Riding With The King: Guy Russo
Rock Me: Melinda Colaizzi, Brandon Lehman (guitar)
3 O’clock Blues: Jimbo Jackson, Jason Caliguri (guitar)
Don’t Answer The Door: Chet Vincent, Daniel Dickison guitar)
Ghetto Woman: Kyle Lawson
How Blue Can You Get: Clinton Clegg, Mike “Gary” Minda (guitar)
Ain’t Nobody Home: Bronwyn Higgins, Guy Russo
Let The Good Times Roll: Kiki Brown
Caldonia: Nathan Zoob
Got a Mind To Give Up Living: Billy Price, Daniel Dickison (guitar)
Paying The Cost To Be The Boss: Billy Price
Horns: Elyse Louise (tenor sax), Ryan Booth (Baritone sax), Nate Insko