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Arts Focus: Shemekia Copeland headlines 25th Annual Columbia Pike Blues Festival

This column is sponsored by Arlington Arts/Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary with its first fully in-person event since the pandemic, vocalist Shemekia Copeland (2021 Blues Foundation “Entertainer of the Year”) headlines The Columbia Pike Blues Festival on Saturday (1-8:30 p.m.) June 18th. The full line up of blues, R&B, and funk performers of national and regional note, includes: Eric Scott, Robbin Kapsalis & Vintage #18, Shakin Woods, and Anthony “Swampdog” Clark. The free event covers three blocks at the intersection of So. Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike, in Arlington.

Hailed as “Arlington’s best block party” (Arlington Magazine), the Festival draws thousands of blues fans to the Pike each year. Ready to celebrate big-time for our Silver Anniversary, the event is presented by the Columbia Pike Partnership and Arlington Arts.

Part of a long-running partnership between the County and the Community, the Blues Fest survived the two-year disruption of the pandemic with a range of down-sized and virtual events in collaboration with businesses along the Pike. Incorporating some of these features, this year’s Anniversary celebration expands to an array of events and activities throughout the weekend: from pop-up music events at local eateries (June 17 and 19), and the Columbia Pike Farmers Market (June 19), to a Juneteenth History Walk (June 19), and a screening of The Blues Brothers at Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (June 19).

About Shemekia Copeland:

“Copeland is a powerhouse, a superstar…she can do no wrong.” — Rolling Stone

“Shemekia Copeland is one of the great blues voices of our time. No one comes close to the sheer firepower that Copeland conjures at will.” — Chicago Tribune

As you can see in the accompanying video, Shemekia Copeland never holds back. Her latest CD Uncivil War was named #1 Blues Album of The Year by the influential Mojo Magazine, which opined “There’s an unrelenting power to Shemekia Copeland’s performance on her tenth album; her rich, grainy vocals, sitting midpoint between Ruth Brown and Mavis Staples have never sounded so forceful…”

Her wide-open vision of contemporary Americana roots and soul music showcases the evolution of a passionate artist with an up-to-the-minute musical and lyrical approach.

When Shemekia broke on the scene at age 18 in 1998 with her groundbreaking Alligator Records debut CD Turn The Heat Up, she instantly became a blues and R&B force to be reckoned with. News outlets from The New York Times to CNN praised Copeland’s talent, larger-than-life personality, and true star power. With each subsequent release, Copeland’s music has continued to grow.

From her debut through 2005’s The Soul Truth, Shemekia earned eight Blues Music Awards, a host of Living Blues Awards (including the prestigious 2010 Blues Artist Of The Year) and more accolades from fans, critics and fellow musicians. 2000’s Wicked received a Grammy nomination. Two highly successful releases on Telarc (including 2012’s Grammy-nominated 33 1/3) cemented her reputation as a singer who, according to NPR’s All Things Considered, “embodies the blues with her powerful vocal chops and fearless look at social issues.”

Join us for the Columbia Pike Blues Festival Weekend as “Arlington’s Best Block Party” returns to The Pike at full-strength!

Here’s a quick overview of the whole weekend. For a complete schedule of activities, visit the website.

Between acts, check out the interactive Arlington Art Truck installation Interconnected Roots by Edgar Reyes (3-7 p.m.) and enjoy food, beverages, arts and family activities throughout the event.

6:30 p.m. — Shemekia Copeland (2021 Blues Foundation “Entertainer of the Year”)
4:50 p.m. Eric Scott
3:30 p.m. Robin Kapsalis &Vintage #18
2:10 p.m. Shakin Woods
1 p.m. — Anthony “Swampdog” Clark

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