Updated Tue, Jun 26, 2012 10:12 pm
The Pomeroy Blues and Jazz Society kicks off its 13th annual Rhythm on the River concert series on Friday, June 29 with the Athens Jazztet, featuring some of Athens, Ohio's finest musicians.
As a non-profit group made up of music lovers, the Pomeroy Blues and Jazz Society (PB&JS) has been brigning blues, jazz, roots and Americana music to the little river town for 14 years.
Jackie Welker is one of the organization's directors and the owner of The Court Street Grill, a historic Pomeroy staple and headquarters of the PB&JS.
As proprietor of the popular juke joint, Welker has become an impresario of the regional music scene. Recently, he spoke with WOUB's Elliot Nicolson about the upcoming concert series.
EN: Rhythm on the River is presented by the Pomeroy Blues and Jazz Society. Could you tell me a bit about the organization?
JW: We’re a small non-profit society, a music appreciation society, and we wanted to host live music as art in our downtown. You know, living in an area where we don’t have a lot of cultural events, we thought, "Hey, this is going to be a great way to promote our community, to promote some art, and maybe have a little bit of fun at the same time," because music is a passion for us.
EN: What kind of music can we expect at this year's concert series?
JW: We primarily do blues, and maybe roots or Americana, and this year we have some great jazz from The Athens Jazztet. We are doing some reggae this year, which we did do a couple years ago. It was something I was a little hesitant to do the first time because I thought, "Man, how are people going to accept this down here?" But they absolutely loved it. And I don’t know if it was because it was so unique to them, they had never heard it, or if it's just because reggae is pretty catchy, fun music to listen to. We have a great Grammy-winning reggae band based in Chicago coming back called Gizzae, and they’ll be here on Aug. 3. Other than that, we’re doing some different types of blues, and then a really fun rhythm & blues band out of New York City. So a little bit for everybody.
EN: Could you describe a typical Rhythm on the River show?
JW: Sure, the Riverside Amphitheater is right in the heart of downtown Pomeroy. The show starts promptly at 8 p.m. and it's free for everybody. We encourage people to picnic. You’ll see a few bottles of wine corked, you’ll see boats floating in docks, you’ll see strollers. I'ts really become a community event, whether you’re a music fan or not. If it’s a nice Friday night, people will be out milling around, catching up with neighbors, and just having a great relaxing evening on the river. And each show runs roughly 90 minutes to two hours.
It’s a very small Amphitheater, very intimate, but that works to our advantage. We have a large area to work with. A lot of people think it's just a boat docking facility, but there’s a little stage that juts out from our downtown levee, right out into the river. There will be a flotilla of boats out there every Friday, and barges will be going by during the performance. For people that aren’t used to being on the river, I’ll say it’s a pretty unique little setting. We get great use out of it, and in a town like Pomeroy, I think we’re very lucky to have it, actually.
EN: How do you go about scheduling the groups that play the Rhythm on the River Series? Have they all played at the Court Street Grill?
JW: Not all of them, but that certainly helps. The Blues and Jazz Society, as a non-profit, is inherently poor, I would say [laughs]. And I should add that we’ve had tremendous help this year from a couple local businesses, Famers Bank & Holzer Health System in Pomeroy. That’s the first time in 13 years that we’ve had this kind of support. And having that relationship with some bands that I book regularly helps because they understand; they understand the logistics of where we’re coming from, what we’re doing and how much we can pay them. I’ve never had a problem finding guys that are willing to work within my budget, and it helps us provide really super national entertainment at a bit of discounted rate because we have that working relationship. But I’ve had a couple businesses donate this year which has taken a bit of the stress off, so I’m very happy.
2012 Rhythm on the River Schedule
June 29: The Athens Jazztet
July 6: Johnny Rawls
July 13: Gas House Gorillas
July 20: Clarence Spady
Aug. 3: Gizzae
Aug. 10: Grady Champion
For more information, visit www.pomeroyblues.org.