When Beth Iovinelli belted out a song at last year’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, she basked in thunderous applause.
Then — referring to the Levitt Pavilion stage, site of the sold-out 2-day event — she asked her friend Suzy Bessett, “Notice anything missing?”
She meant: Any other woman.
Iovinelli was the only female singer the entire weekend.
The blues boasts plenty of legendary ladies — think Etta James, Big Mama Thornton and Janis Joplin. But over the years, bands have become male-dominated.
This year, Bessett and Iovinelli take one small step for (wo)mankind.
The 10th annual event (September 2-3) will include a rock-the-house show by the Sisterhood Blues Project. They’re set for Sunday (September 3, 12:30 p.m.).
On a weekend filled with powerhouse performers — Galactic, Deep Banana Blackout, Bonerama, Paul Barrere & Fred Tackett, and the return of Anders Osborne — this is one you don’t want to miss.
The 3 “soul sistahs” grew up in Norwalk. Bessett — who organized the group — began singing as soon as she could talk. But she stopped when real life — an investment banking career, marriage, kids, a move to Westport — intervened.
Eventually, the lure of karaoke proved powerful. Then in 2009, she joined Ms. Suzy’s Opus. For years, they — with Bessett fronting — were a popular fixture on the local scene.
Bobby Q’s rooftop was a favorite venue. That Main Street restaurant/bar has moved to Norwalk, but the blues festival it spawned is still here.
Ever since the new Levitt opened 3 years ago, Bessett dreamed of singing on its stage. When Iovinelli noted last year that she was the only female singer at the festival, Bessett asked Blues, Views & BBQ founder Bobby LeRose about a celebration of women musicians. He instantly agreed.
Bessett recruited Iovinelli and Fruda. Both spent over a decade with the Third Sister Band, opening for GE Smith, Rick Derringer and Murali Coryell. They currently front the B Side Band.
The new group weaves together powerful vocals, harmony, soulful blues — and of course, sisterhood.
They’ll be backed by some strong brothers. Westporter Crispin Cioe played sax with the Rolling Stones. Westport native Tim DeHuff is a renowned guitarist. Drummer Vito Liuzzi played with the Johnny Winter Band. John Mulkerin is on horns; Mike Ventimiglia (Pimpinella) plays keyboard, while bassist Scott Spray has performed with Johnny and Edgar Winter, Eric Clapton and Joe Walsh.
They’re still working on a set list. But, Bessett says, they will probably perform at least one song from one of the great female blues singers.
The sisterhood lives.
(For more information on the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival — including musical lineup, food, activities for kids, tickets and more — click here.)