Blues Crawl: Fundraiser Hopes to Expand in Future
For eight years, the streets of Southern Pines have filled up once a year as concert-goers bar hop during the Sunrise Theater’s annual Blues Crawl.
The annual event brings blues musicians to local bars and pubs for an evening of music that organizers say lasts until 2 a.m. This year’s July 17 event will start with one main act at the Sunrise followed by six other acts at different venues around Southern Pines.
In a move to expand the event, moving toward what organizers hope will eventually become a three-day festival, the Blues Crawl will include a luncheon with headliner Seth Wallace. The lunch will essentially be a private show for those who pay for it — tickets for that part of the event are $40.
The lunch, which will be at Rhett’s in Southern Pines at noon, has a pre-determined menu of soup and salad.
“All these bands are going to start up within 30 minutes of each other, and when one of them takes a break you just kind of spill out and go to another venue,” says volunteer organizer Justin Bradford.
The event raises money for the theater, a nonprofit organization that aims to keep up the historical aspects of the building.
Seth Walker will headline the event this year, playing the opening show at the Sunrise before the other sets begin. He played at the Sunrise in February 2009, which led members of the committee organizing the Blues Crawl to want him to come back.
“He was well-received, so we considered him this year,” says volunteer Grace Cloud, who contacted all the musicians. “I think I barely had his name out of my mouth before everybody was saying ‘yes.’”
The festival has something for everyone, according to Swank owner Petra Keith, who will host a show for the first time this year. At her venue, the feel will be quieter than at others — Joe Frye will be playing an acoustic set.
“You kind of get a taste of everything at the Blues Crawl,” Keith says. “You never know where the best bands are going to pop up.”
The Blues Crawl is telling of the large arts community in the Sandhills for Keith, a Southern Pines native who spent a number of years in Chapel Hill.
“There’s a lot of cultural events going on in Southern Pines and that’s what makes it a cool town to live in,” she says.
This year the Southern Pines Business Association is getting involved by putting together a sidewalk sale earlier in the day before the shows begin. If patrons buy a certain amount at the sale, they’ll get $5 off the Blues Crawl tickets.
Tickets for the Seth Walker concert only are $25 each. For $40, patrons can attend the Walker concert as well as visit all of the music venues. For information, visit www.sunrisetheater.org or call (910) 692-8501.
For those who are interested in doing only the Crawl, wristbands will be $20 and will be available at the intersection of Broad Street and New Hampshire Avenue. The bands will begin playing at 9 p.m.
Between 700 and 900 people came out for last year’s Blues Crawl, according to Pat Wallace, business manager at the Sunrise.
Within the next few years, though, organizers hope that number will increase, bringing in more people from outside Moore County.
Ken Howell, chairman of the committee organizing the Blues Crawl, says the hope for having a festival would mean people would come from farther away, staying overnight in Southern Pines.
“It’s gotten bigger each year,” says Rhett Morris, owner of Rhett’s, who will host a band for the first time this year. “And they’ve gotten bigger musicians, and that’s how people find out about it.”
Morris says the timing is perfect for the event — with nothing big usually happening in the middle of July, the festival would be a draw to people in and around Moore County. He says the bigger musicians help, too.
“When you have people like that coming to town,” he says, “people are going to come listen.”
Jack Dodson is a summer intern at The Pilot. He attends Elon University.
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