By Mike Greenblatt
In its 30-year run, Bethlehem, Pa.'s MusikFest has presented more than14,000 artists in every imaginable genre.
The festival is one of America’s most revered and anticipated, and this year's edition is no exception. Even better? You don't have to pay a dime in admission to enjoy performances offered at 13 of the venue's 14 stages.
That’s the heart and soul of MusikFest. So are all the international cuisines. And you’re allowed — for these 10 days only (Aug. 2-11 this year) — in historic Bethlehem to take your drinks with you as you traverse the prime real estate and sea of people to duck into kiosk after kiosk and sample music from genres including folk, country, blues, world beat rock and roll, bluegrass, classical, funk, salsa, samba, rockabilly, Cajun and polka; the polka tent is a real hoot every year.
This year's paid-admission acts are:
Aug. 2: Carly Rae Jepsen
Aug. 3: OneRepublic with Mayer Hawthorne and Churchill
Aug. 4: Skillet with Thousand Foot Krutch
Aug. 5: Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus with B.B. King and Sonny Landreth
Aug 6: George Thorogood & The Destroyers and Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes
Aug. 7: Styx and Foreigner
Aug. 8: KC & The Sunshine Band
Aug. 9: Darius Rucker
Aug. 10: Ke$ha
Aug. 11: Avenged Sevenfold
The beautiful, open-air venue that hosts the paid acts offers great sound and plenty of room to move. And, the last night of the festival features fireworks.
With so much to do and see and hear, your best (and budget-friendliest) bet is to map out a walking route and see the free acts. More than 500 artists will be performing, most of them outdoors. To find out who’s where, go to www.musikfest.org.
Here’s my personal route for the free performances — one that I wholeheartedly recommend. Check it out.
Aug. 2: The Wito Rodriguez Salsa Jazz Orchestra.
Aug.3: The Jimmy Sturr Polka Orchestra in the afternoon — to watch the old folks go nuts, some of whom invariably are carried out on stretchers into waiting ambulances — and Christine Ohlman at night.
Aug. 4: Southern Culture On The Skids.
Aug. 7: Holly Williams (Hank Jr.'s only daughter!) in the afternoon and Buckwheat Zydeco at night.
Aug. 8: The African Benga Stars in the afternoon, The Family Stone — yeah, that Family Stone — in the early evening, followed by a late-night performance by the bluegrass-hip hop band Gangstagrass.
Aug. 10: Beatle band Strawberry Fields and salsa master Hector Rosado are playing at the same time, so I’ll be dancing around to both before a late-night performance by Los Straitjackets.
Geographically speaking, Bethlehem is equidistant from Philadelphia and New York City (about 90 minutes) and within an hour of North Jersey. Parking’s a bitch, so I recommend one of the many city-owned lots or even an outlying suburb, where shuttle buses offer regular service to and from the site.
Food and drink can only be bought via coupons; eat and drink and be merry. See you at MusikFest!