Walter Trout headlines second Blues and Roots Festival

Adam Duke – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – July 19th, 2018

After a successful rebirth last year, the Pittsburgh Blues and Roots Festival will return to Harmar this weekend.

The original event, which began as the Pittsburgh Blues Festival in 1995, ended in 2015 when the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank changed its fundraiser. Last year, the producer of the festival, Ron “Moondog” Esser, brought it back, this time benefiting the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Band Together Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that uses music to assist those on the autism spectrum through participation, education and mentorship.

Mr. Esser said that the festival came back because of the people of Pittsburgh. “There’s something about them that’s really special compared to other folks,” he said. “They’re willing to buck up and stand up for things.”

He said he would have been pleased to see 800 people last year between both days — 1,200 showed up on day one. He is confident the 2018 festival will draw even more.

He believes it’s important to raise awareness about autism spectrum disorder, and he doesn’t consider it a disability, saying that many musicians and emcees at the festival, who are extremely good at what they do, are on the spectrum.

Mark Gray, the festival’s head of promotion, said that the festival is so successful because of the support from those in the autism community as well as the music community. He became involved after seeing the success of the event and the ways it aided the community. “I thought, ‘Wow, look at all the cars, look at all the people. Where do I park?’” he said. “I was knocked out.”

This year’s headliner, Walter Trout, appeared at the original Pittsburgh Blues Festival and is returning with a new album, “We’re All in This Together,” that he released at the end of last summer. It features 14 blues musicians, some of whom will also be performing this weekend.

Mr. Gray attested that Mr. Trout is big on giving back and that he is glad the festival returned because it allows him to meet so many fantastic people, who come for a variety of reasons.

“Part of it is just that it’s a festival,” he said. “You get hardcore music fans like, ‘Wow, it’s going to be a blues show,’ and then you get festival fans who come for the food and the entertainment and the people.”

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