John Hall is a very busy man this year. The south shore music promoter and booking agent has his usual round up of music events scheduled. AquaPalooza, Soundwaves, Green Harbor Roots Festival, and North River Blues Festival are the events he books, manages, and promotes using his Rhythm Room Entertainment company as his professional office.
When asked how he feels about approaching another summer of music events after more than 20 years of doing this Hall said “I love it.” He’s looking forward to it. “I feel better about this line up this summer than,” he couldn’t finish his sentence due to excitement. “I’m very happy. I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been with the schedule that’s coming up.”
Hall’s first major event will be AquaPalooza on July 15th, a live music boat event in Boston Harbor surrounded by several boats. AquaPalooza is sponsored by boat manufacturer Sea Ray, and it takes place all over the country, including in the Great Lakes, any place where there is a marina near their boat dealerships. “It’s good all the way around,” Hall said. “It doesn’t really cost a lot. We don’t have any complaints out of those seven hundred boats in the harbor.”
“For AquaPalooza, I have Roger Ceresi’s All Stars,” Hall continued, “and a band from the south shore called Super Fly. They’re a horn band. Super Fly will open up, the The Rampage Trio, then Roger Ceresi.”
On Saturday, July 29, Hall will present his other music boat cruise event on Boston Harbor, Soundwaves. The boat leaves Rowes Wharf at noon and returns at 5:45 p.m. Traditionally a blues event, Hall has been changing up this year’s SoundWave format. Hall has booked for the cruise folk-rockers Aldous Collins Band, a reggae band called JSN lead by Jason Dick, and in the blues category is Eddie Scheer’s All Stars. The All Stars will feature Lisa Marie, Rick Russell, John Juxo, and Randy Bramwell.
“My girlfriend Ellie called Aldous Collins Band the best dance band she ever danced to,” Hall said. JSN got onto the schedule for SoundWaves because Hall was considering a reggae festival on the boat. But, one of the intended reggae bands decided they didn’t want to do it. “I asked Eddie Scheer, and he said yes, so it’s a gumbo of music, reggae, blues, and dance music,” Hall said.
Hall and Scheer have a business relationship that goes back at least 20 years. “I think Eddie is one of the most charismatic singers in Boston and I think Aldous is too,” Hall said. “The two together on the same boat that day is going to be pretty exciting.”
Coming up on Saturday, August 20 is the Green Harbor Roots Festival held at the Marshfield Fair in Marshfield, Massachusetts. The line up is Aldous Collins Band, JSN, Mighty Mystic, Milk & Bones, and Steve Tobias band. The Rampage Trio will be on the side stage. Mighty Mystic is a reggae band leader. Milk & Bones is a south shore rock band featuring Domenic Micarelli. Steve Tobias Band is lead by guitarist Steve Tobias who plays a lot of area jams.
“I always put in local bands,” Hall said. “Out of the six bands that are opening up the festivals, only one has played there before, Tim Gartland at the blues festivals. All the other bands are new. I like having local different local bands supporting local music. I always make sure I have a couple of local bands to open up.”
Side stage band The Rampage Trio, lead by guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Brian Owens, will be the glue that holds together the continuity of live music. “Brian is a task master,” Hall said. “I don’t see his guys roaming off between sets. That’s the biggest thing. They have to be there ready to go when the band stops on the first stage. I need someone that is responsible to make sure they do that. There’s a lot of band leaders that are a little bit loose. That’s the whole idea of having a side stage, instantly when one band is finished another starts up so there’s no lapse in music.”
Hall likes to have a mix of genres for the Green Harbor Roots Festival in which all of the bands tie into a roots theme. “The reason I started (the roots festival a week before the North River Blues Festival) was a non blues band asked me to put them in the lineup. They said to me ‘We can play ‘Sweet Home Chicago,’ and I was like ‘Oh my God.’ So, I started the roots festival specifically to have different kinds of music. I’ve had Cajun, reggae, Americana, country and western. “
Hall’s final, major event for the summer is the North River Blues Festival at the Marshfield Fair on Saturday August, 26 and Sunday August 27. National blues act Walter Trout will be headlining the first day of North River Blues Festival. “Walter was sick a few years ago. He’s back and playing better than ever,” Hall said. “I just love the guy. I’ve wanted to have him back after the four or five years since I’ve had him.”
Hall will also feature Davy Knowles as the other national act scheduled for Sat, August 26. “I went to see him at The Bull Run in Shirley and I enjoyed his show very much and I thought he’d match up nicely with Walter Trout,” he said.
Mission Of Blues will be the side stage band at the first day of the North River Blues Festival. Hall used to book Tim Gartland Band for the side stage, but after Gartland moved to Nashville, Hall decided to keep a local band on the side stage.
“Side stage has also been good for bands getting gigs. Club owners will go up to them and talk to them,” Hall said. “It doesn’t really do any good if Tim is there and he can’t do any gigs. It really helps to benefit for a local band to be there. I’m doing it for the band more than I’m doing it for myself.”
Ricky King Russell And The Cadillac Horns will be back at the first day of North River Blues Festival for the first time in years. Russell was chosen for his showmanship skills and his set list. “I don’t know anyone who had a bigger repertoire than he has. He can pull stuff out of his hat like wow.”
Bees Deluxe, greater-Boston’s acid blues band, is another “local band that I’d like to give a shot to.” Gretchen Bostrom Band opens the day one North River festival. “She’s never played there before so I wanted to have her have the opportunity,” Hall said. “I’ve met her once. She played the Ming when I was booking there. She played there twice and both nights I couldn’t be there.”
Bostrom, too, is looking forward to participating in this year’s North River Blues Festival. “The lineup for this festival is a good one,” Bostrom said, many great acts with varying styles of rhythm & blues. There’s something for everyone. I’m excited to see all of the wonderful folks who support our blues scene and hope to put on a set they will enjoy and remember as a positive experience.”
Local blues bands have been greatly appreciative of Hall’s efforts to rely on a variety of bands each year, giving a chance for some to be heard and seen by a large number of people who may not have heard them before. Bees Deluxe’s leader Conrad Warre expressed the sentiment of the local talent: “We get to play to a large audience that loves the kind of music we do, and we get to hang out with, and listen to Walter Trout, Davey Knowles and our friends in Mission of Blues play live. I cannot think of a better way to spend a day in the sun.”
The headliner for the second day of North River Blues Festival is John Nemeth & The Rhythm Room Horns. “I like John. I had him at the Blues Summit last year, and I talked to John when he was at the summit about doing a show with horns.” The Rhythm Room horns will be made of the current Roomful Of Blues horn section with two former Roomful horn players. Hall has scheduled Laith Al-Saadi who had made a name for him self on NBC’s The Voice reality TV show for the second national act for day two of North River Blues Festival as well as local stalwart Chris Fitz Band as one of the area bands.
Sam Gentile And Basic Black will also be in the line up. “Everybody loves him,” Hall said. Tim Gartland will make a special one shot appearance that day. “I told him that I’d put him in the line up but not on the side stage. He was very gracious about it,” Hall said.
Bag Full Of Blues opens on that second day of North River Blues Festival. “There a local blues that I want to give an opportunity to,” Hall said. “They’ve played for me at the Ming a couple of times.”
Hall has his work cut out for him this summer.