Irish District Music & Arts Festival                          

Article by Ric Holmquest

Eastern Iowans can savor the musical flavor of New Orleans when the Honey Island Swamp Band performs at the eighth annual Irish District Music & Arts Festival Saturday, June 17 from 4-10pm on the grounds of the historic Shores Central Park building 700 16th St NE in Cedar Rapids. The Honey Island Swamp Band is big fun on stage, while crossing many musical genres. Their performance at the Irish District Fest is hot on the heels of their April release of Demolition Day on Ruf Records, which also marks the band’s ten year anniversary.

Demolition Day was recorded at the Parlor Studio in New Orleans, teaming up with producer and musician Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars. The album features a host of New Orleans finest musicians, including appearances by keyboardist Ivan Neville and blues great Tab Benoit on pedal steel guitar. Their sound has been compared to the Allman Brothers, Little Feat and the Band. Chris Mule provides a great slide guitar, on top of Sam Price’s deep bass, highlighted by some fine keyboards by Trevor Brooks. Aaron Wilkinson adds mandolin, guitar and harmonica, with Garland Paul setting the pace behind the drum kit.

The Honey Island Swamp Band has a reputation for having a great time on stage, while blurring the lines between music genres. Bob DeForest, KCCK 88.3 host of da’ Blues, Crawfish Circuit and the Melting Pot programs shares “They are one of my favorites. I made a point to see them this year at Jazz Fest. They bring a party with them and their fans are fun. They have the New Orleans backbeat, combining blues with country, rock and soul, resulting in their own New Orleans gumbo. Bobby surely knows from years of attending the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

“Concert Joe” Kennedy is another Cedar Rapids music enthusiast that makes the Jazz Fest pilgrimage yearly. You may have seen the “I went to a show with Concert Joe” t-shirts. Joe informs “I saw them in 2010 doing a live record store promo for their “Good to You” release and again at the fest later that weekend. The band is so diverse, country, Allman Brothers, the Dead and blues, with a touch of zydeco” adding “get ready for a good time. They are a fun party band; one of the New Orleans local’s favorites, performing edgy tunes with some great hooks.”

Irish District Music & Arts Festival founder and committee chairman Tom Erger affirms “We are excited about this year’s Fest and bringing one of New Orleans top tier and most loved bands. My wife Karen and I first saw them in New Orleans a few years back and have made a point to catch them every trip since. They play all the major Fest’s in New Orleans and are one of the local favorites down there. They remind me a lot of Little Feat and their iconic slide player Lowell George.”

Melbourne Florida resident and Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Perry Welch returns to Cedar Rapids to front the Fest’s opener, Perry and the Pumpers. Welch is a Linn County Band alumnus, who played with Stephen Miller and Elvin Bishop when he lived in San Francisco. The Pumpers include Tom “T-Bone” Giblin on the Hammond B3, Bryce Janey on his Fender Stratocaster, with Dave Bader on bass and Troy Harper on the drums.

The event showcases great music, while empowering musicians through their Emerging Artist Program. Erger explains “This is our first year of rolling out the program and we had several applicants. Our panel of celebrity judges is in the process of choosing two winners that will receive a $500 grant each, with the winners announced the day of the Fest from the main stage.”

Admission is only $10 online, $15 the day of the show, with kids 12 and under free when accompanied by an adult. Enjoy Kid Zone games and crafts. Food and drink will be available for purchase and coolers are welcome. The event is rain or shine. City Revealed is a Platinum Sponsor of the official Freedom Festival event.

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