RRFB, PBS headline free Jersey fest

The Camden County Board of Freeholders, whose longstanding reputation for presenting a bounty of great music throughout the county year-round is unmatched in the tri-state-area, is building a new concert tradition on Labor Day Weekend by presenting the CAMDEN BACKYARD BBQ, a FREE daylong festival on the Riverstage at Wiggins Waterfront Park in Camden that’s also designed to promote Health & Wellness. The event is Sunday, Sept. 6 from 2-10 p.m., and stars ROBERT RANDOLPH & THE FAMILY BAND, New Orleans trio PORTER BATISTE STOLTZ and their Crescent City neighbors, BIG SAM’S FUNKY NATION, combining with local acts North 61 (South Jersey) and D-For (Philly) to cook up an eight-hour groove of funk, soul and spiritual jams with a BBQ family flavor.

Randolph, the young “Sacred Steel” master from New Jersey named one of Rolling Stone’s “Top 100 Guitarists of All Time,” is excited to be working with Freeholder Ian Leonard and Washington based promoters Cater America LLC to give music lovers right in his own “backyard” a memorable holiday weekend while helping them take away some positive information on Health & Wellness at the same time.

“Freeholder Leonard is a fan of mine and my music,” says Randolph. “So when he started talking to me about doing a free show for the people of Camden County, I just loved the idea. We had meetings with County officials, and they were real excited to make this a County project. For me, as a New Jersey resident, born and raised and with so much family and friends in South Jersey and Philly, this is a great opportunity for me to give something back to the state, and have a great show on a holiday weekend.”

Leonard fell in love with the New Orleans music scene nine years ago, when he attended his first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. He continues to return each year, and has since become “ a huge fan” of Porter, Batiste & Stoltz, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Robert Randolph. Leonard is convinced that being able to combine that feel-good music and feel-good health and wellness aspect– all for free to close out the summer season on a holiday weekend – is an irresistable service to everyone who takes part.

“With the economy the way it is,” he says, “I think this show is a great opportunity for families to have a fun time for free that includes amazing music and most importantly, to access some great health and wellness resources.”

Adds Robert Jennings of Cater America: “The Freeholders gave us their full support, so when I spoke to Robert Randolph and he agreed immediately, Verizon soon followed.  With the Philadelphia skyline as the backdrop, we’re hoping to create a fun and friendly day of community, music, wellness and health. And of course it’s free to everyone, thanks to all of our generous sponsors.”

Randolph has played and collaborated with some of music’s top artists from Eric Clapton to Carlos Santana to Ringo Starr, and has an already legendary career. The wayward teen was successfully encouraged by his parents to take up his church’s steel guitar tradition as a way of keeping him off the rough streets of Irvington, NJ. Realizing his natural and unmatched musical gift, only a few years later he was receiving accolades as an emerging star: Two Grammy nominations, major tours, and a Gospel Music Association Dove Award, to name a few. While the guitar has always been the instrument of choice for rock and roll heroes, Randolph’s unique pedal steel guitar sound started with the 100 year old black gospel music tradition of Sacred Steel – the same driving sound, but different points of reference. He underscores this critical distinction in an unprecedented manner like no other, creating one of the most coherent and satisfying intersections of urban grooves and rock music since the heyday of Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder.

After spending years, even decades, providing some of the greatest backline support New Orleans music has heard, everyone agrees the brilliant sidemen (PORTER BATISTE STOLTZ) George Porter, Jr., David Russell Batiste, Jr., & Brian Stoltz, are ready for their close-up. There’s no denying the trio’s pedigree, and their chops are miles wide and oceans deep. Porter is the original bass player for the Meters, a group that virtually defined New Orleans rockin’ funk, while Batiste and Stoltz joined Porter in the latter day incarnation of that band, the Funky Meters. A few years ago, when Funky Meter Art Neville opted to go back to the band bearing his family’s name, Porter Batiste Stoltz saw opportunity, not disappointment. Rather than continue on with the measured but explosive Meter-like grooves, Porter Batiste Stoltz decided to explore a little, to tinker with the foundation of their funky sound. The three funky kings have worked up musical resumes that make even those in the Crescent City envious.

Recently awarded the Big Easy Music Award for “Best Funk Group of 2008,” BIG SAM’S FUNKY NATION, with Special Guest Tasha Taylor (daughter of the late soul great Johnny Taylor), is a driving force of urban funk. The band is led by trombone powerhouse, Big Sam Williams, formerly the trombonist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, who the San Francisco Chronicle calls “the top man on the slide trombone in the birthplace of jazz.” Combining his distinctive trombone riffs with a call-and-response MC style, Big Sam refuses to let the audience sit still. Between the band’s solos and his trombone riffs, Big Sam second-lines (a uniquely New Orleans style of street-dance) and gets the crowd going.

A number of booths from regional Health & Wellness Organizations will be lining the walkways around the festival with an abundance of information. Make sure you visit them, too! For complete information, call the Camden County Special Events Hotline at (856) 216-2170.

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