I first started attending Musikfest in Bethlehem when I returned to the area in 1998. It is the biggest free, 10-day music festival in America, according to the Musikfest organizers.
It's a large-scale party held around the beginning of August that shuts down the major thoroughfares of the City of Bethlehem, and is something that has to be experienced to be believed!
I've seen Starship with Micky Thomas (a surprisingly good concert), The B-52s and Robert Hazard there.
As my fiancee and I were waiting to gain access to a port-a-potty (an inescapable reality of the festival), a stranger remarked how impressive it is that alcohol is served on this grand of a scale and everybody gets along. Well that's the unifying power of music for you.
An exciting development that's come along is ArtsQuest's takeover of the festival. Within the breathtaking remains of Bethlehem Steel, the platzes (stages) have been reorganized so there are now South Bethlehem venues at Steel Stax, the magnificent new ArtsQuest performing arts center. The Eric Steckel Band played an electrifying set at the Americaplatz stage, which is now at Steel Stax.
A jaw-dropping difference since the last time I attended Musikfest is the relocation of the main stage. In the old format, it was hidden away in a creekside location prone to lots of bugs. Now located on the Steel Stax campus, you can clearly hear the music and glimpse the video screens of the main stage concerts without actually having to pay for a ticket. The bit of Boston we caught as we waited for the yellow school bus to take us back to North Bethlehem was rather cool.
Perhaps the biggest Musikfest buzz was the armless guitarist (!) that opens for The Goo Goo Dolls joining the band to perform "Iris."
One suggestion for ArtsQuest that arose when I brought my fiancee there for her first Musikfest experience: Have somebody sell batteries. This Talk About the Passion post would have been so much better if she could have taken pictures. The batteries in her camera mysteriously died.
Here's what she managed to take with her phone:
Oh and the one stage on Main Street needs much more seating. An entertaining group called Gangstagrass was playing there on Aug. 12 and there was no place to sit down.