Gas House Gorillas
The Gas House Gorillas will perform during this year’s Big Bend Blues Bash in Pomeroy. (

Up Around the Bend: Pomeroy Blues Fest Returns this Weekend

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Area blues fans: If you haven’t had your fill of live music at the weekly Rhythm on the River series, there’s a second helping coming your way.

The 2013 Big Bend Blues Bash is scheduled for July 26-27 in downtown Pomeroy, Ohio, featuring a smorgasbord of acoustic blues, electric blues, psychedelic blues, rhythm and blues and…well, you get the picture.

Organized by the Pomeroy Blues & Jazz Society, the annual two-day music fest has become a regional summer favorite with its mix of national and local acts, films, kids’ activities and food, all staged on the banks of the Ohio River.

PB&J founder/director and Court Street Grill owner Jackie Welker talked with WOUB about what to expect at this weekend’s event.

WOUB: You’ve got a great lineup, including the The Gas House Gorillas, who performed last year at Rhythm on the River. Back by popular demand?

Jackie Welker: Yes indeed. And if you’ve ever seen them, you’d know why. The Gorillas are an absolute party…a mix of rhythm & blues, swing and old school rock ‘n roll. I fully expect them to have the entire crowd dancing a conga line.

WOUB: You’ve also got Bernard Ellison, son of the legendary Chicago bluesman Luther Allison, performing.

JW: We’re very excited. Luther was one of the baddest blues men who ever lived, in my opinion, and Bernard carries the torch proudly. But Bernard is his own man, mixing elements he learned from his father with other blues giants, like Albert King, Freddie King and Muddy Waters, into his own electrifying style.

I also have to mention our good friend Albert Castiglia, who’s been coming to play for us in Pomeroy for the past 15 years. Albert learned at the feet of another Chicago great, Junior Wells. Albert, or the “The Kid,” as Junior affectionately called him, has paid his dues in the blues world and is gaining quite a bit of national attention with relentless touring, rock-solid performances and well-crafted songs. Very happy for him.

WOUB: I noticed you’ve got a free Saturday morning breakfast at the Court Street Grill.

JW: The breakfast is open to anyone and it serves a couple purposes. One, a vehicle to get staff on the same page for Saturday’s show, and two, simply a great way for blues fans and friends to spend the morning. Maybe knock a few cobwebs out from the Gorillas’ performance the night before and discuss events, life and of course, the blues.

WOUB: And the breakfast is followed by a music documentary and some kids’ activities.

JW: The film screening is something we’ve only done for the past couple years, but it’s become wildly popular. We exclusively show blues documentaries with the intent of educating interested friends, fans, blues society members, etc. We have conversations before and after the screening and it’s another great way to socialize and help spread the blues word. This year’s film is Songs From the Road, a live performance from Luther Allison, recorded only two weeks before his death. It’s tremendous. Worthy of catching, especially for any who are coming to see Bernard that evening. We’ll start the film at noon and it will run all day.

We’ve been doing kids activities for about seven years now. There will be a performance by Todd Burge, and all kids in attendance will receive lunch and a kazoo, all for free.

WOUB: Other than providing a fun time for the audience, what’s your goal when organizing events such as this? To give back to the Pomeroy community? To spread the “blues gospel” to Southeast Ohio?

JW: Yes, all that, really. The Blues Bash and the Rhythm on the River series initially started as our “grass roots economic development plan.” Pomeroy has a beautiful space on the Ohio River, which, 15 years ago when we started, wasn’t being used. We organized, had a plan and have proudly been holding concerts and events there for the past 14 years. The Pomeroy Blues & Jazz Society is a not-for-profit organization, so any money we make goes right back to next year’s production or to the village.

WOUB: Finally, what would you say to an out-of-towner who’s thinking about attending for the first time?

JW: Bring a lawn chair, bring good weather and don’t be shy about exploring Pomeroy’s downtown and riverfront. We have a wonderful lineup this year: Everything from psychedelic blues-rock and acoustic blues to R&B and contemporary electric blues. And don’t forget those dancing shoes.

Visit for a complete schedule.