The crowd at Hartwood Acres erupted into cheers as an energetic "How you feelin', Pittsburgh?!" emanated from Los Lonely Boys' stage.
By 9 p.m., the setting sun bathed the sky in a royal purple-gold light. Off in the distance, a hot air balloon rose up and down. It was an atmospheric ending to a full day of blues, food and festivities, graced by mostly blue skies and sun.
The second day of the 19th annual Pittsburgh Blues Festival was rich and varied, reflecting the diversity of the genre itself. Hometown group The Olga Watkins Band kicked it off on Stage Two with its jazzy sound. The audience set up camp in foldout chairs or mulled around, checking out the assortment of raffles, crafts, eateries and other activities.
All of the proceeds from the festival benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
The Pittsburgh band gave way to the killer, deep and slightly rough, but buoyant, voice of Philadelphia native Gina Sicilia. Appearing on stage in a hot pink dress and sunglasses, she played tunes spanning her career, including "Before the Night is Through" and the sassy and confident "Addicted," which boasts a music video directed by "Saturday Night Live's" Tanya Ryno.
The Pittsburgh Blues All-Stars crowded the smaller stage with their numbers, and livened up the atmosphere with light-hearted jokes like, "This is for all the poor people. But don't raise your hand -- we can pick you out!"
Back on the main stage was Joe Louis Walker, recently inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, whose mature and sophisticated guitar sang out deep, soulful, melancholic notes.
Walker's sound was complemented by the upbeat sounds of the Eric Lindell Band. Eric Lindell rocked his cowboy hat as the smiling crowd was on its feet dancing.
The excitement peaked with the so-called "Texicans," who played as night fell. So much of the power of Los Lonely Boys is the fun-loving but passionate energy they display as they strum and drum. It's deep and great, even when the hard-hitting English and Spanish vocals are absent.
Aside from the music, barefoot beer-drinkers had plenty to enjoy. Food ranged from Louisiana/Cajun and kettle corn to gyros and fudge -- the latter especially hard to miss because of the giant sign posted above its tent.
Free food, from roasted corn on the cob to hot dogs and hamburgers and fruit options, also was available, made possible by the festival's numerous sponsors. For $10, Peoples Natural Gas also let people in the hot air balloon for a short ride up and down. Don't worry, the balloon is tethered to the ground.
Day 3 includes another full lineup, featuring Shot O' Soul, J.D. McPherson, theCause, The Nighthawks with Billy Price and Tab Benoit. Tickets are $35 for adults. Gates close at 10 p.m.
Maggie Neil: email@example.com.