Ana Popovic will headline co-bill Saturday, November 20, 7:30 p.m., at DoubleTree Grand Ballroom. Slam Allen will open show.
All Reading Blues Fest photos provided by Joseph A. Rosen

Berks Arts is happy to announce that Reading Blues Fest is set for a three-day celebration at the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton Reading, Friday, Nov. 19 through Sunday, Nov. 21.

Fans can ignore the weather and stay inside, enjoying concerts; blues-themed brunch, after-hour parties and pre-concert dinners. The atmosphere will be convivial, in a hotel renowned for its friendly staff and beautiful, comfortable surroundings.

The dynamic Mr. Sipp kicks off the the fest on Friday, Nov. 19, heading a co-bill with opening act Clarence Spady in the Grand Ballroom at the DoubleTree.

Headliners for the festival include Mr. Sipp, the Mississippi Blues Child; Clarence Spady and the Electric City Band; Victor Wainwright and The Train; Davy Knowles; Slam Allen; Ana Popovic; King Solomon Hicks; and Mike Zito.

Fest is offering four ticket levels:
    Tickets go on sale for the three VIP Weekend Packages on Friday, July 23, at 10:00 a.m.
   Tickets for all individual fest concerts go on sale Friday, July 30, at 10:00 a.m.

Tickets go on sale for special VIP packages go on sale Friday, July 23, at 10:00 a.m.
Tickets for individual concerts go on sale Friday, July 30, at 10:00 a.m.

“Berks Arts is thrilled for the return of the Reading Blues Fest in 2021,” says Justin Heimbecker, executive director of Berks Arts. “After a year in which we all missed the opportunity to gather and enjoy live music together, this is a perfect setting to reunite with the blues community for a weekend of incredible performances.”

Craig Poole, general manager/president of the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading, says he was determined to host the Reading Blues Fest a year after it was canceled due to the pandemic.

“Our number-one priority (at the DoubleTree) is to build the community, to bring people downtown, and to create what Reading is going to look like,” Poole says. “We were determined to keep the blues fest going because people need events like the fest.

“It was (the late) Albert Boscov’s dream to have a blues fest downtown. The year before he died, we put it together and he sponsored it.”

Victor Wainwright & The Train will headline an exciting co-bill with Dawn Tyler Watson on Saturday, Nov. 20, at 1:00 p.m. in the DoubleTree Grand Ballroom.

Boscov, the owner of Boscov’s Department Stores, sponsored many events and organizations locally, including the Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest and the GoggleWorks in downtown Reading.

“The Blues Fest isn’t going to go away,” Poole continues. “It’s a great collaboration with Berks Arts. The entertainers win, Berks Arts wins, the guests win, the DoubleTree wins, and most importantly, the City of Reading wins.”

John Ernesto, general manager of the Berks Jazz Fest and the Reading Blues Fest, says: “We programmed a strong lineup that features artists who perform a variety of styles in the genre. Our blues fans made it crystal clear to us that they were anxious for the return of the fest and live music.”

Castro Coleman, known as Mr. Sipp, will open the Blues Fest Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the DoubleTree Grand Ballroom, with some authentic Mississippi blues. Born in McComb, Miss., Coleman started out playing gospel, then switched to blues; he has won awards in both genres. He played Les Buie, James Brown’s first guitar player, in the 2014 film “Get on Up.” His latest album is “Sippnotized,” released this year.

Also, on the bill for that night will be Scranton-based Clarence Spady, who recently released his new CD “Surrender” on Nola Blues Records, which is getting great reviews.

Victor Wainwright Jr. will bring his band, The Train, to the DoubleTree on Saturday at 1 p.m., after receiving a Grammy nomination for their album, “Memphis Loud,” in 2020. Wainwright is a singer/songwriter and plays blues and boogie-woogie piano. He has received six Blues Music Awards, as well as many other honors.

Mike Zito will close out the Reading Blues Fest on Sunday, Nov. 21, headlining the Sunday Blues Brunch in the DoubleTree Grand Ballroom. King Solomon Hicks will open the finale.

Canadian blues and jazz singer Dawn Tyler Watson, who received a Juno Award in 2020 for her 2019 album “Mad Love,” will open for Wainwright.Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., Ana Popovic will fill the Grand Ballroom with her blues, R&B, funk, and soul. The Serbian native has released 10 albums, most recently “Like It on Top” (2018) and now a one-and-a-half-hour CD/DVD, “Live for LIVE.”

Also performing that night will be the internationally renowned Slam Allen, who wants to be known as a “messenger of love.” Influenced by Otis Redding, James Brown and B.B. King, Allen is the former band leader and lead singer and guitarist for James Cotton.

The finale brunch, at noon on Sunday, will feature St. Louis native Mike Zito, who has become one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary blues singer/songwriters on the scene. The title song of his 2009 album “Pearl River,” a collaboration with Cyril Neville, won Song of the Year at the Blue Music Awards. He performed with Neville in the Royal Southern Brotherhood from 2010 to 2014. Since then, he has produced a string of albums, including “Quarantine Blues,” recorded during the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic, as a “healing love letter to his friends around the world.”

Opening for Zito, will be King Solomon Hicks, the New York-based guitarist/vocalist who recently was named the recipient of the Best Emerging Artists at the Blues Music Awards for his performance on the new CD “Harlem.”

Free events include “Waking Up to the Blues” Saturday morning with Bobby Kyle & The Administers; “Surviving the Pandemic: A Conversation with the Artists” hosted by Michael Cloeren Sunday morning; and 10 p.m. blues parties with the Dave Keyes Trio (Friday) and Deb Callahan Band (Saturday) in the DoubleTree’s Cheers American Bistro; plus Norman Taylor providing lunch and dinner (Saturday).