Cigar Box Guitar Festival June 2 – 4
Huntsville is home to the longest-running cigar box guitar festival in the world. Held annually the first weekend after Memorial Day, this event features seven bands in varied musical genres and raises funds for music in schools via the Microwave Dave Music Education Foundation and the Arts Huntsville’s Creative Launchpad. The Festival, in its 19th year, has expanded to three days for the first time, June 2-4. Here’s the scoop:
Friday, June 2
The kick-off event is at Salty Nut Brewery with three talented blues musicians sharing the stage for the first time. All musical powerhouses, this combination of never-before-seen talent consists of 2022 Independent Blues Award & 2023 UK Blues Awards Nominee Debbie Bond on guitar and vocals, Carroline Shines, daughter of Blues legend Johnny Shines on vocals, and Huntsville’s own Microwave Dave on guitar and vocals. They will be backed by British-born “Radiator” Rick Asherson with a swampy New Orleans’ edge on keyboard and harmonica and Huntsville-based Darrell Tibbs, who has spent more than three decades as a drummer and percussionist for and eye-popping range of performers including Donna Summer, Taj Mahal, Tommy Emmanuel, and Victor Wooten.
Saturday, June 3
The main event takes place all day on Saturday, June 3 at Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment. There will be six performances on the dock adjacent to the water tower featuring all different genres of music. “Although the cigar box guitar conjures up blues or bluegrass music in many people’s minds, this unique instrument is very versatile and can be played in many different ways,” says Tara Mello, the Festival organizer. All performances are free and parking is also free.
11:30 Music & Magic with PBS Children’s Entertainer Steve Trash
12:00 Kids Activity Area Opens – Build 5 recycled instruments & perform on stage at 3:00
1:30 Soul, Gospel and a sprinkling of Country with The Breedloves
3:00 Junior Junk Jam and Raffle for Junior Guitar
3:15 Backwoods country blues with a dose of desert rock psychedelia from Hymn for Her
4:30 Groove and Soul of New Orleans The Cigar Box Serenaders
5:45 Rock, Roots and Blues with Meg Williams & Travis Bowlin
7:00 Raffle for #1 the commemorative 19th Anniversary cigar box guitar
7:00 Lukas Jam & The 106ers featuring the Studio Family
Because cigar box guitars are traditionally made out of cigar boxes and other discarded materials, the Festival will also feature children’s activities focusing on a recycled theme. PBS Television personality, magician and cigar box guitar musician, Steve Trash, will perform his music and magic with a “green” theme. For a $5 donation, families can get an activity kit to build five recycled instruments and then perform on stage with Steve Trash for the Junior Junk Jam mid-afternoon. This area will also have other family-friendly activities.
Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment
Studios and restaurants throughout Lowe Mill will participate in the event offering specials in their studios. Among the studios at Lowe Mill is The Cigar Box Guitar Store, which organizes the festival and is the only cigar box guitar store in the world. Jeff and Tara Mello are the store’s current owners, and it is their mission to build community within a diverse group through the experience of sharing music. They offer free lessons every Saturday from Noon-2:00pm with loaner cigar box guitars available to anyone who wants to participate. “There’s no obligation to buy,” explained Jeff. “We just want to share the joy of how easy it is to make music on a cigar box guitar.”
Sunday, June 4
The 19th World’s Longest-Running Cigar Box Guitar Festival will conclude on Sunday, June 4 with a Jazz Brunch at BeeZr, featuring the New Orleans-based Cigar Box Serenaders. The trio plays handmade, upcycled instruments including cigar box guitars, an upright bass made from a dresser drawer and a drum kit made from discards, including a plastic tub as a kick drum and trash can lid as a cymbal.
Know Before You Go
All events are family-friendly and leashed, well-behaved pets are welcome.
For Friday’s “Triple Threat Blues” at Salty Nut Brewery, attendees are encouraged to bring chairs. Doors open at 6:30. There is a $10 suggested donation. Overflow parking will be available in the city lot behind Butler Green at Campus 805.
Saturday’s events at Lowe Mill A&E will take place on the water tower lawn. All performances are free and parking is also free. While some seating on risers is available, attendees are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets to enjoy the water tower lawn. Picnics with outside food and beverages are welcome.
Sunday’s Jazz Brunch will be hosted at BeeZr Gastropub on the North Side Square. Reservations are recommended.
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