Rock on

With the current state of the world, it can seem like there is little people can agree on.

However, music — particularly the Blues — is one of the few things where people who would otherwise find little to no common ground can bury their differences and get along.

On Saturday, The Big Gig!, Monroe County’s 31st annual Black History Month Blues Concert, showcased the unifying power of music.

Like in years past, Rev. Robert B. Jones Sr. opened the show.

“I love how this music brings us together,” he said.

Jones, a pastor, storyteller, musician and activist, has been performing at The Big Gig! since its inception.

“I’ve only missed one year,” he said. “It was about 14 years ago, I became the pastor at my church that year, and just didn’t have the time.”

This year, Jones brought his wife, Bernice.

“We’ve been married for as many years as I’ve been coming here, but she doesn’t always make an appearance,” he said with a grin. “She’s a rare treat.”

Clark Teal, a Monroe resident who was attending The Big Gig! for the fifth time, was glad Jones brought his wife.

“I bought his CD after I heard her sing,” Teal said. “I’ve been looking for good gospel music, and I think this is going to be perfect.”

Jones also brought out harmonica player Peter Madcat Ruth.

“Robert is actually who got me involved in The Big Gig,” Ruth said. “I’ve been participating off and on since the fourth year.”

After Ruth was done showing off his harmonica skills, he opened his mouth and began to sing.

Not content with merely mesmerizing the audience with his singing and harmonica playing, Ruth also picked up a guitar while simultaneously tapping a high hat with his right foot.

“I started working on being able to play all three instruments at the same time back in the 70s,” Ruth said. “It’s been decades of practice.”

After a short intermission, it was time for the heavier portion of the night.

Reiser joked Anthony Gomes was booked to shush a Big Gig! fan who used to tell him “the Big Gig! needs to rock!”

And rock Gomes did.

Loud and brash, Gomes married the blues with the intricate riffs of classic rock guitarists.

Gomes and his bandmates, bassist Sean Holland and drummer Jeremy Howard, played to raucous crowd.

“This is your party Monroe,” Gomes said. “We’re just lucky to be invited.”

Reiser was happy with the way the evening turned out.

I’m so appreciative of the support this community has for this event,” he said. “That’s what in concert means. The people on stage were feeding on their energy, and that’s why it works.”


​Editors Note: An earlier version of this story failed to mention that the Monroe Library had announced, via their website, that the headliner, Ruthie Foster, would not be appearing due to an emergency with one of her bandmates. There were also signs posted on the doors alerting concertgoers to Foster's absence. The Monroe County Library and Bill Reiser did everything within their power to alert concert goers of the cancellation as soon as they found out.