In its first post-pandemic return to Station Avenue, the annual music festival features a dozen acts from throughout South Jersey, headlined by bassist Bakithi Kamulo and the Graceland Experience.
By Matt Skoufalos | May 12, 2022
On Saturday, Haddon Heights will shut down the 500 and 600 blocks of Station Avenue for one of its most popular annual events: the Rhythm and Brews festival.
Organized by the nonprofit HIP local business group, the festival features 16 breweries, a dozen food trucks, and live acts on three stages.
The event is free, and food and drink are available for purchase, with $1 from every beverage cup sold donated to the pediatric cancer foundation, Infinite Love for Kids Fighting Cancer.
But for HIP cofounder Joe Gentile, the best part of the festival is seeing neighbors from several area towns carousing in the street, enjoying one another’s company, and taking in the scene.
“The rhythm’s back,” Gentile said.
“We’re just really glad that we’re able to do it again,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a lot of good music and getting people out to come and play and hang out.”
For Gentile, Rhythm and Brews marks the unofficial start of the summer festival season; as the show was sidelined for the past two years during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, its return is even more significant to him now.
“Bringing this one back is great,” Gentile said. “This is an opportunity to bring these festivals back and get everybody onboard with outdoor events. This is a sign of good things to come.”
Community programming can be a heavy lift, but Gentile said HIP enjoys support from the Haddon Heights government as much as from its member participants. He credited borough workers and officials with helping the event be the best it can be.
“Haddon Heights has been very supportive of our efforts,” Gentile said. “Mayor and council comes to meetings, they’re involved, and they want to make our town better.”
Dog-friendly, kid-friendly, and rain-or-shine, Rhythm and Brews welcomes visitors from throughout Haddon Heights and beyond, serving as a de facto showcase for all that the town has to offer, from public art to small businesses, Gentile said.
“Check out the fountain, check out the mural; see what our town’s all about,” he said.
“Enjoy the day, enjoy yourself, enjoy our town.”
HIP co-founder Fabian Brown, who curated the festival lineup, said performers span genres from jazz to reggae, selections from covers to originals, and players from teens to seniors.
“I have some amazing friends in the community,” Brown said; “guys like Matt Cappy, a hometown hero, who’s played with everybody from Jay-Z to Jill Scott.
“Wayside Shakeup, they’ve been doing my little local farmers market for four years,” he said. “The Unstoppable Hack Beats, I have the most fun with this band, no matter who’s in the lineup. Lounge Act features Charlie Koory from Charlie’s Crepes, and it’s his debut on the main stage.
“We’ve got John Callahan from What the Folk curating the music in front of borough hall,” Brown said. “There’s so much music that people are not going to be disappointed.”
Perhaps the most anticipated act on the bill is Bakithi Kamulo and the Graceland Experience. Kamulo, a South African bassist, played on Paul Simon’s Graceland album, for which he famously penned the bass solo on the hit single “Call Me Al.”
As the headliner for the festival, Kamulo promises to deliver a performance influenced by his travels around the world.
“His story, how he met Paul, and that connection, is beautiful in and of itself,” Brown said. “Who he’s become based on that, and what he’s done in his career is phenomenal.
“Aside from playing all these major arenas and festivals all around the globe, with some of the top touring artists that ever existed, Bakithi is the nicest human you’ve ever met,” he said.
“He’s all about the community, and that’s what helps him drive and influence his music. I’m really excited to bring that to Haddon Heights.”
Kumalo will be joined by Haddon Heights native Jeremy Greenheart, who plays keyboards with the band, and who helped facilitate the Grammy Award-winner’s appearance at Rhythm and Brews. Connections like those helped Brown build a bill that connects the global and the local, setting the stage for performances that offer something for everyone.
“For one day you have a town flooded with like-minded people,” Brown said. “The community’s behind it; you’ve got the support, and it feels really good to be back.”
Borough Hall Variety Stage
3 p.m. – drum circle
3:45 – Barry Hollander Band
5 p.m. – Jolly Jane
6:30 p.m. – George Callahan and Company
7:30 p.m. – What the Folk
Camden County Stage
3 p.m. – Matt Cappy
4 p.m. – The Wayside Shakeup
5 p.m. – The Unstoppable Hack Beats
6 p.m. – Lounge Act
7 p.m. – Bakithi Kumalo and the Graceland Experience
Gradwell House variety stage – TBD
- Bake’n Bacon
- Crepe Truck Philly
- Fat Belly Barbeque
- Garner’s Craft Barbecue
- Hot Dog Man
- Il Fuoco Dentro Brick Oven Pizza
- Latin Bites
- Molto Bene Pasta
- Mr. Softee
- Nick’s Roast Beef
- Not Your Mama’s Tacos
- Pirate Pete’s Soda Pop
- Axe and Arrow
- Bold Rock Cider
- Cape May
- Cross Keys
- Double Nickel
- Hoop Tea
- Ship Bottom
- Southern Tier
- Willie’s Super Brew
Wine provided by Green Street Group Imports and Super Buy Rite Fine Wine and Spirits.
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