Craig Thatcher Band to present free concert at Musikfest's Main Stage

Craig Thatcher Band performing at a past Musikfest. Craig is on the right. Photo by Bob Yurko
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BETHLEHEM ­— Just when it seemed dark — as in the first dark night ever at Musikfest’s main stage — local blues icons The Craig Thatcher Band and Musikfest partner Coordinated Health have come together to shine the spotlight on the elements that make Musikfest one of the most unique music events in the nation.

For more than 30 years, Musikfest has been providing hundreds of free concerts for the region each August, with more than 10,000 free performances presented since 1984 thanks to support from more than 125 sponsors, the local music community and thousands of volunteers and supporting members.

On Aug. 1, 7 p.m., the community is invited to enjoy the first-ever free concert at the festival’s Sands Steel Stage on PNC Plaza when Craig Thatcher Band, along with guitarist Mike Dugan, serves up its popular “An Evening with the Allman Brothers” show. The performance, which also includes local rock band the joEs, was made possible after specialized hospital network Coordinated Health heard that the ZZ Top show originally scheduled for the night had been cancelled after one of the band’s members needed surgery to have kidney stones removed. A longtime supporter of Musikfest, Coordinated Health contacted the festival to see how it might be able to assist. The community also made its voice heard, noting extensively via social media that it would love to see some sort of free concert on Musikfest’s main stage.

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“As a longtime supporter of Musikfest, the Coordinated Health family wanted the entire opening-night experience to be free and accessible to all,” says Coordinated Health President Jim Tsokanos. “We’re happy to partner with The Craig Thatcher Band as a small way to say thanks to all the communities, patients and employers we serve in eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey.”

Craig Thatcher was on the road in Nashville doing events for CF Martin when he received the call from ArtsQuest Senior Vice President of Programming Patrick Brogan on Monday. Some members of his band were committed to other performance engagements Aug. 1, but they were able to alter their schedules to make a special appearance at Musikfest, the festival the band has been performing at for more than 20 years.

“We already had two bookings at Musikfest 2014, so initially I was concerned about overexposure and also didn’t want to appear greedy,” Thatcher says. “However, when I realized - with the help of our drummer, Don Plowman - that we could get everyone together and present our Allman Brothers Band tribute, I felt it was different enough from our other shows that it would work well. We’re very grateful to have been asked and are excited to be on the main stage. Perhaps we’ll even throw in a few ZZ Top numbers too!”

According to Brogan, when people in the Lehigh Valley think of the local music scene, one of the first acts that comes to mind is the Craig Thatcher Band.

“When Musikfest suddenly had an opening at our main stage with the festival only days away, we realized we had a huge hole to fill – and we immediately reached out to Craig,” Brogan says. “We thank Craig Thatcher and Coordinated Health, as well as the joEs and concert media partner 99.9 The Hawk, which is helping to promote this show on very short notice, for all coming together to make this concert possible. Without all of their support, things would have been very different on opening night of Musikfest this year. We’re thrilled audiences will get to enjoy this phenomenal show at no cost, and we’re really hoping the community will come out to support these great artists and the festival on this very special evening.”

The gates to the Sands Steel Stage will open at 6 p.m., with the show kicking off at 7 p.m. with the joEs, which have been performing for more than two decades and shared the stage with America, Three Dog Night, Eddie Money, Little River Band and more. The group has performed at numerous benefit shows including events for MDA, Cystic Fibrosis, Camelot for Children and The Fisher House, to name a few.

Patrons at the Craig Thatcher concert Aug. 1 will be able to purchase a variety of beverages at one of the MINI of Allentown Terraces and the Coordinated Health Oasis at the Sands Steel Stage, both of which will be accessible without a ticket on this night only. The Sands Steel Stage food vendors, which include Heaven on a Bun, Island Expressions, Pretzel Revolution and Shookies, will also be open. All proceeds from food and beverage sales will go to help support the 500-plus free concerts at Musikfest this year.

For more information on Musikfest 2014, set for Aug. 1-10, please visit www.musikfest.org.