It’s amazing what sounds can be made with a simple cigar box, a wooden neck and a few guitar strings. And few places in the country go to the lengths to highlight the craft of the homemade instrument like the Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival – now in its sixth year at the York Emporium (343 West Market Street, York) this Saturday, August 29.
Founded by York musician Shane Speal – affectionately known as “The King of the Cigar Box Guitar” (read about Speal in our August 2012 Fly feature story) – the PA Cigar Box Guitar Festival features a full day of music with 16 different bands and musicians, building workshops, vendors selling pieces to build you own instruments, food trucks and a beer garden.
To give you a little taste of what to expect at the free festival, here are three bands and musicians to pencil in and make sure to see what you can do with an old cigar box.
1) Spence’s Rye – 1:30 p.m.
Hailing from West Virginia, Spence’s Rye (aka Gary Copeland) is a one-man powerhouse on guitar, banjo and vocals. His traditional Appalachian string music feels like it’s right out of the hills of The Mountain State, featuring both traditional and original tunes, all while keeping the beat with a suitcase drum.
2) April Mae & the June Bugs – 2 p.m.
Seeing someone play a cigar box guitar is pretty impressive. Seeing a band work in a cigar box guitar into its show, all while playing elements of rockabilly, jump blues, swing jazz and bluegrass is even more impressive. Coming from Moorestown, NJ, April Mae & the June Bugs has been stunning crowds at the festival for several years, enticing people to get out their seats and dance. (They’re also filming a music video with dancers during the festival on Friday night. If you’d like to be a part of their video, go to the link.)
3) One Hand Dan – 4 p.m.
Coming all the way from Florence, AL, Texas native One Hand Dan is a blues aficionado – picking up on guitarists like Robert Johnson, Lightning Hopkins and Sam Chatman. Despite being born with only one hand, he went on into a career in professional wrestling, later picking up the guitar when he was 23 years old. He learned how to play left handed, taking to the streets of the Muscle Shoals region of Alabama and performing as a busker. His handiwork on the neck of the guitar is a sight to behold.
The sixth annual Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival officially kicks off Friday, August 28, with an open mic jam and pizza party at the York Emporium at 6:30 p.m. The jam is $10 per person. And the free festival runs all day Saturday, August 29, begging with a performance by The Alleycats on the C.B. Gitty Outdoor Stage at 10 a.m. and closes with Strange Foke on the Mr. Suit Records Indoor Stage. For more information on the festival, go to the event’s Facebook site or call 846-2866.