Rock the blues away: J.J. Grey, Mofro to headline theater’s first Blues Fest

J.J. Grey and his band Mofro will headline the State Theatre’s inaugural Blue Fest.
J.J. Grey and his band Mofro will headline the State Theatre’s inaugural Blue Fest. Photo provided

Winter blues got you down? J.J. Grey and his soulful Florida music may be just what the doctor ordered.

Grey and his band Mofro will headline a one-night blues festival at the State Theatre on Feb. 16. The evening’s lineup also includes Richard Sleigh and Jerry Zolten, Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats, and Felix and the Hurricanes.

State Theatre Executive Director Greg Ray said he’d been looking to book J.J. Grey and Mofro for a while and saw the show as a good opportunity to showcase some local talent.

“What I was looking for in a blues fest is to have a variety of the blues styles represented,” Ray said.

Those styles, Ray said, include soulful blues with Miss Melanie, blues-rock with Felix and the Hurricanes, and classic blues with Zolten and Sleigh.

“Richard and Jerry have a really good sense of the history of the blues,” Ray said. “With them, you’re just as likely to get a lecture as you are to get a Lead Belly song.”

Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats most recently performed at the State Theatre in January for the “Runnin’ Down a Dream” benefit concert, and Ray said he continues to be impressed with the band’s development. Altoona-based Felix and the Hurricanes have been a staple on the local music scene for the past 20 years. They were a natural fit for this bill because they’ve opened for Grey in the past, Ray said.

Grey’s music blends southern rock with blues and soul influences. This weekend’ performance will mark the band’s first appearance in State College in almost a decade of touring.

Grey said his set will focus on songs from the band’s 2013’s release “This River” but also will include songs from the band’s six-album catalog. Though many of Grey’s lyrics are about his stomping ground in northern Florida, he said the music is relatable to anyone no matter where they call home.

“It’s less about the actual specifics and more about applying it to wherever you’re at at the time,” Grey said. “Everybody can dig on that, or at least that’s what it seems like anyway.”