The 50 year old national and international touring band Roomful Of Blues will be making their first appearance at the Barnful Of Blues Festival in New Boston, New Hampshire on Saturday, August 5th. Taking place at the 4H Youth Center in New Boston, New Hampshire, The Barnful Of Blues Festival is hosted by Granite State Blues Society. The event will run from noon until 8:00 p.m.
Roomful got the nod to headline this year’s Barnful of Blues Festival after one of the New Hampshire blues society’s board members reached out to the Rhode Island based swing-jump blues band. Board member Diana Shonk owns Blues Audience Newsletter, a hugely popular blues oriented publication in New England, which Roomful has been advertising in for years.
“We’ve wanted to get them here, but we never thought we’d be able to,” Shonk said. “But, we called Chris, and he was generous enough to say yes. It’s very nice of them to do this. It’s not free, but they’re not charging us full price. We could never pay full price for any of these headliners.” Shonk has known the various Roomful members going all the way back to the early 1970s.
“I think they’re the best little big blues band in the world,” Shonk said. “They’re like a full orchestra because they have the horns. It worked out this year, and we are very thrilled to have them here. I think they’re playing from six ‘o clock to 7:30.”
Roomful’s guitarist and band leader Chris Vachon took time to discuss the band’s slot at the New Boston, New Hampshire gig. Vachon likes the festivals because of the younger people who show up with their families and get to hear the kind of jump, swing blues that was popular in certain circles when their grandparents were young adults
. “It’s all ages,” Vachon said. “So, it’s good for us because we get in front of people, younger people that probably wouldn’t normally have seen us. With this kind of music, they can get exposed to this kind of stuff.”
Vachon said he has not yet received any feedback from any of his fan base yet about Roomful‘s upcoming first time appearance on the first Saturday of this August.
“I’ve never been there,” Vachon said. “I know it’s been going on for while and we’ve never done it. I haven’t really heard anything from anybody.”
Roomful has been playing in New Hampshire for several years, and the band members have many ties to the Granite State. At one point Roomful had a keyboard player and a drummer who were originally from the Keene area. Roomful will be at the Rock N Rib Fest in Merrimack this weekend, and Tupelo Music Hall, now located in Derry, has been a regular stop on Roomful tours, recently playing the new location. The band has also done a special gig at Windham High School on three separate occasions.
“We do a clinic for the younger kids, and we do a show after that,” Vachon said. “We have a friend named Mark Samsel who’s involved with the school. That’s how we got hooked up the first time, and he’s had us again.”
Vachon said some new Roomful material is coming up in the not too distant future. “We’re probably going to do a record pretty soon,” he said. “I’m not sure when. We’re kind of gearing up for that. The last one was at least four years old. We’re due to do one.”
Roomful has to work harder now to get gigs than ever before. Venues don’t have the same active weekly schedule as they once did. “It’s a little more difficult than it used to be,” he said. “A lot of the venues don’t do anything on the weekdays. It’s a little harder for us to stretch out a tour. We used to be able to just do cross country and play four or five times a week.”
Vachon became the leader of the band shortly after he joined Roomful Of Blues in the early 1990s. He took the reigns after five key people left all at once. “Carl Querforth was the band leader for several years. When he left, it just sort of fell on my lap, and I guess nobody else wanted to do it.” Vachon chuckled at that memory.
Roomful has been touring for 50 years and they’ve got their scheduling, planning, and logistics down to an exact science. Flight delays, flat tires on the tour bus, and other nuisances are kept to a minimum.
“Rich (Lataille) and I have done it a bunch of times, so we book the flights and we take care of everything and if something goes wrong, we’re kind of shit out of luck. If we’re flying into somewhere we try to do it a day before just in case something happens,” Vachon said.
Tenor saxophone player Rich Lataille is notable for being with the band since 1970, three years after the band had formed in 1967. Yet, the current lineup is likely the longest Roomful Of Blues has ever seen. “It probably is,” Vachon said. “We just got a new drummer a little while ago, Chris Anzalone,” but other than that, everything has been pretty stable for at least six or seven years.”
Vachon believes the band has lasted 50 years because of the band members’ passion. “The fact that we like this kind of music and that we’ve had opportunities to keep doing it, and I guess we won’t go away.”
Also performing at Barnful Of Blues this August 5th will be Chris Fitz Band, Delta Generators featuring Brian Templeton (of Londonderry, New Hampshire), Michael Vincent Band, Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers as well as solo acts between bands, Veronica Lewis, Skip Philbrick, and four time Granite State Blues Challenge winner and International Blues Competition finalist Arthur James. James is particularly excited to share the stage with Roomful Of Blues.
“It will be a true honor to share a stage with one of the legendary blues acts still left out there,” Arthur James said.