Skip to content

A town square for an unsquare town

redbankgreen

Standing for the vitality of Red Bank, its community, and the fun we have together.

EIGHT-BAR BLUES: FESTIVAL SHRINKS TO FIT

Jazzed3_ir

The Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival might be forgiven for having one monster case of the blues. In recent years, it’s been battered financially and encountered its fair share of literally stormy weather.

Yet the people who pull it together soldier on, this year presenting what corporate types might call a “rightsized” 21st annual edition of a free event that manages to draw music, food and crafts lovers by the tens of thousands, when the weather cooperates.

And almost as if reaching for a good-luck charm, the festival kicks off tonight amid forecasts of iffy weather with local favorite Billy Hector. The firey blues guitarist reprises a headlining role of a few years back that drew the biggest opening-night crowd in the event’s history.

Following weather-related setbacks last year that left the sponsor Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation with a sizable fiscal hole, organizers have taken a knife to the program.

“We looked at the whole thing and said, where can we cut back?” says event co-chairman Dennis Eschbach. Answer: stages, which eat up a tremendous cost with equipment leasing and stagehand wages. For the festival’s first 15 or so years, there was just one stage, but by last year, that number had risen to three.

That meant reducing the number of acts, which is down to about 25 this year, from about 37 last year.

The bigger shows were “great for the people, but the costs were just tremendous,” says Eschbach. “It was like, we’ve got to do this.”

The alternative was to bring in more food and crafts vendors and sponsors, but that’s a non-starter in a setting as tight as Marine Park, says Eschbach. “We’re kind of limited as to what we can fit into the park,” he says. “If it was a large open field in Colts Neck or at Brookdale, it could be a different story.”

This being an outdoor event, the festival is subject to the vagaries of weather. Back in the day when it was known as Riverfest, the event enjoyed several consecutive years of great weather. But three or four years back it rained so hard that a one full day was washed out, and last year, the event barely squeezed its entire schedule in between alternating drizzles and deluges.

Eschbach says the festival managers take what comes.

“It used to be that, 15 days out, I’d be looking at the weather forecasts,” he says. “Now it’s like, what are you gonna do? I’m not even going to worry about it. It is what it is.”

Talk about finances and Mother Nature aside, Eschbach says he remains positive about the festival’s prospects. Why? “Because the town likes it,” he says. “It’s free, there’s no liquor, and it’s a family event” complete with educational sessions and performances by students from the JSB&F Youth Project.

Moreover, the demand is clearly there, as proven when the sun shines and the crowds swarm, bringing as many as 50,000 people per day to Marine Park. Some fans come for the headliners, who this year include blues guitarist and vocalist
Big Bill Morganfield, son of the late McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, and jazz keyboardist Joey DeFrancesco.

Portrait3

Others though, a drawn by more familiar local names. Immediately preceding Hector to the stage tonight is Red Bank resident Chuck Lambert and his band, playing an hour set scheduled to start at 7:10p.

And then there are those who show up without a clue as to who the musicians are, and simply want to revel in blues, jazz and a gorgeous, pre-mosquito summer night on the banks of the Navesink River.

As of 11a today, though, the National Weather Service was offering no guarantees of clear skies. Here’s the forecast:

Today: A chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1pm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rain. Partly cloudy, with a high near 84. Southwest wind between 6 and 14 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Tonight: A chance of showers and thunderstorms before midnight, then a slight chance of showers. Some of the storms could produce heavy rain. Partly cloudy, with a low around 66. West wind between 6 and 14 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Saturday: A slight chance of showers, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Partly cloudy, with a high near 84. Southwest wind between 6 and 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Saturday Night: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 66. Southwest wind between 7 and 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Sunday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 78. South wind between 7 and 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Email this story

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
Partyline
FEELING SNAPPY
      Snapping Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs this time of year and are a common site along the Swimming River waterfr ...
TUB TIME
RED BANK: A sparrow waits for the next available dirt tub while two others take their Sunday baths. (Click for video.)
CHECK IT OUT
A bench outside the Red Bank Public Library provided a serene view of our beautiful Navesink River Monday evening.
WAYWARD SLIM JIM
Anybody lose a Slim Jim? A “Sweet Mild O’ Mine” flavor Slim Jim was seen left unattended on this mailbox on Mechanic Stree ...
YAPPY TOGETHER
RED BANK: Look for this cutie pie, named Sacramento, at Yappy Hour on Broadwalk Saturday. He's looking for a new home.
YELLOW RAINCOAT DAY
On a rainy May morning, the only golden sight on Broad Street this morning were the matching raincoats of Eileen and her dog Benny.
STOP. JUST STOP.
RED BANK: For those who don't get the meaning of a stop sign, crossing guard Diane Johnson amplifies the message with some colorful outfits. ...
RECORDS SKIP INTO TOWN
RED BANK: Devotees of vinyl records expected to drop needle at Broad and Mechanic Saturday. Here's why.
Feline fortunes on Monmouth Street
Christopher Russell and feline pal Princess take in some fresh air on a warm May night Thursday in the doorway of Gina’s Psychic Bouti ...
GOING UP?
RED BANK: Public Library will be closed Friday for the start of elevator construction. (Click for more.)
TREEBIRTH
RED BANK: Replacement of nine trees gets underway on South Street, where a wholesale removal angered residents last September. (Click for mo ...
RIVERSIDE FLOW
New Jersey Flow Arts brings together jugglers, poi spinners, hoopers and more weekly in Riverside Gardens Park.
Honeybee swarm carted away
Beekeeper Tanya Ptak of Ptak’s Apiary inspects a swarm of honeybees that chose a flower pot in the courtyard of Red Bank Primary Schoo ...
BELOVED POISONED DOG PHOTO SURFACES
   
THREE ON TOUR
RED BANK: Three borough sites will participate in a weekend of self-guided tours of 52 historic locations in Monmouth County May 4 & 5.
VOLUNTEERS GET INTO THE WEEDS
Toting plastic trash bags, 51 volunteers conducted a walking litter cleanup on Red Bank's West Side Saturday.
“IT’S A PARTY AT WAWA!”
You wish you could vibe like Brian, who lives on the other side of Hubbard’s Bridge. He caught redbankgreen’s attention in Red B ...
POPE OKS ORATORY
RED BANK: St. Anthony of Padua obtains papal approval to establish Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a community of priests and brothers devoted t ...
RED BANK: NEW MURAL BRIGHTENS CORNER
RED BANK: Lunch Break founder Norma Todd is depicted in a mural painted this week on the front of the newly renovated social service agency.
TULIPS TOGETHER
Spring tulips taking in the sunset outside the Molly Pitcher Inn in Red Bank Monday evening.