Cape Fear Regional Theatre welcomes the community to its 17th annual Blues-N-Brews Festival, its largest fundraiser of the year. This year’s theme is Beach Party. The event takes place in downtown Fayetteville’s Festival Park on Saturday, June 8, from 5-10 p.m.
The tropical theme was handpicked for a reason. “Because next season we are starting with ‘Mamma Mia!’ we wanted to get people in a sea frame of mind,” said Mary Kate Burke, artistic director at CFRT.
To help create the vibe, The Catalinas — America’s premier beach band — are headlining the event. Members of both the Beach Music Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, The Catalinas have been playing together for 62 years and have released classics like “Summertime’s Calling Me,” “You Haven’t the Right” and “Dancin’-Romancin’,” among many others. Nattalyee Randall, Willie Bradley, and The Guy Unger Band will also be playing at the festival.
Randall has performed as a backup vocalist with Sam Smith, with the choir in Broadway’s “Rocktopia” and on the national tour of VOCALOSITY. Besides adding a few classic country songs to the mix, Randall is most excited about showing the crowd a good time.
“I just like to get the party started, and I love to see people jamming along and feeling good with me,” she said. “I don’t perform with bands too often, so to get to perform with one is always such a special and amazing opportunity to me, especially a band like this. I’m super excited for what we’re going to bring.”
Besides playing in his own full performance, Bradley will join Randall on the stage. “I have a full rhythm section … for Nattalyee. She’s going to feature me on one song with her,” he said.
The soulful Bradley is a charts-topping jazz artist from Orangeburg, South Carolina. He graduated from South Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in music education and performance. Bradley’s first performance at Festival Park will certainly be one to remember. “I’m out in the audience with a wireless microphone,” he said. “I’m all over the place, so it’s a high-energy show.”
The artists at Blues-N-Brews aren’t just there for a performance; the goal is to make sure everyone in the audience has the time of their life. “When people drink, they like to sing songs they know,” Burke said. “Nattalyee — (who) was our Effie in ‘Dream Girls’ — she sings blues songs people know so that they can sing along, which I think has really made the event feel more participatory and engaging for the audience … and Guy did the same thing.”
As an all-American rock band, The Guy Unger Band will put a different spin on the festival. “We kind of had the idea of taking some blues tunes and playing them like a beach-type thing,” said Unger, who played in CFRT’s premiere of “Music City.” Known by their fans as “The GUB,” this band prides itself on bringing the party to any and every venue. “All of it for me is fun; I love performing,” Unger said. “All of us do. We just love to bring it — that’s what we do.”
Music is only half the fun, however. What would the beach be without an ice-cold beer? Event coordinator Derek Jordan promises just that and more. “We have asked our brewers to think of a summer beer or a light beer that they could bring to the festival,” he said. “We also are going to be having some kind of shag dancing at the event.”
There will be more than 35 brewers at the event and 100 or more beers, including those sourced from craft and local breweries. “We’ll have some out of Raleigh,” Jordan said. “Hugger Mugger (Brewing Company) will be here. Dirtbag (Ales Brewery & Taproom) and (Lake) Gaston (Brewing Company) are two that are local. Bright Light (Brewing Company) will be there.” Big names like Guinness and Smirnoff can also be expected.
“As far as food venders, we have everything from Caribbean cuisine ... to hotdogs — some from out of Raleigh, some from Fayetteville — so (we’re) really trying to just bring more of a regional flavor to it,” Jordan said. “And then we’ve got some shop venders coming in as well.” Other refreshment options include pizza cones, lime slushies, R Burger and its new “R Brat”, fried chicken, ciders and sparkling seltzers, and more.
There will even be a cigar section provided by Anstead’s Tobacco Company. There are three varieties of tickets for the festival. Nondrinking tickets are $15, general admission tickets are $40 if purchased online prior to the event and $55 if purchased at the gate, and VIP tickets are $80. There will also be a $5 activeduty discount at the gate for general admission tickets. Individual alcoholic beverages can still be purchased with the $15 ticket.
According to Ashley Owen, marketing director at CFRT, the VIP ticket is worth it. “I think the most exciting thing is you get access to the field for an hour,” she said. “The festival is from 5-10 but VIP hour is from 4-5, so you have total access to the field. There (are) only 300 (VIP) tickets that we sell; every year, since I’ve been here at least, they sell out.”
The Mash House Brewing Company and Texas Roadhouse will provide a catered VIP meal along with The Mash House’s exclusive “unicorn beer.” VIP tickets also include a souvenir pint glass with the Blues-N-Brews logo, along with the opportunity to vote in the festival’s “Best in Show” contest. This contest crowns one brewery as determined by VIP votes. Lake Gaston Brewing Company won last year.
“(The VIP tent) is the only place in Festival Park where there are seats with shade, so that is worth the $80 ticket in itself,” Owen said. The Dunn-based business Table Toppers and Debbie Bender of Debbie Bender Design will decorate the VIP tent according to the beach party theme.
“It originated as truly a tasting event, but it offers so much more now. I think it’s working its way toward being something ... that’s fun for the whole family,” said Zach Pritchett, co-chair of Blues-NBrews. “In its 17th year, it’s nice to kind of have a new spin on it and see what sort of an audience it can draw. That’s something the theater constantly works toward expanding — the community that is part of the theater family. So this is hopefully reaching out to a new demographic for the event.”
CFRT’s Blues-N-Brews festival takes place June 8 from 5-10 p.m. at Festival Park, 335 Ray Ave. For tickets and more information, visit www.cfrt.org/ bnb or call 910-323-4233.