Cigar box guitar festivals are as DIY as the homemade instruments themselves.
Builders and performers, eager to gather, jam and share secrets are creating mini “Bonaroos for Boxes” all over the world.
They’re a great way to spend an afternoon and are guaranteed to inspire you to create your own gear in the process. If you've never been to one, you're missing out!
I’ve compiled a list of every cigar box guitar festival known for the "May to August 2015" season. Many are free and family friendly. Grab the kids and grab a few lawn chairs.
Expect a wide range of styles, with a heavy focus on stomp blues, gritty folk and even a touch of punk and psychedelic rock.
These descriptions feature only a fraction of the talent and activities for each fest. Make sure to click the links for each and get the whole skinny on each.
A special thanks to the guys at C.B. Gitty cigar box guitar parts and kits for helping with this list.
HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA, May 29–30
The 11th Annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival; $2 suggested donation
The largest and longest-running cigar box guitar festival also features some of the best talent in the DIY movement. Headliners include Philadelphia backwoods blues duo Hymn for Her along with Microwave Dave, April Mae & The June Bugs, One Hand Dan and many more. This family-friendly event includes demonstrations and hands-on workshops, folk art, vendors, food trucks and more. Location: Lowe Mill Arts Center, 2211 Seminole Drive, Huntsville, Alabama. More info: 11th Annual Cigar Box Guitar Fest website.
QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA, May 31
Get Rooted! Festival: A Celebration of Playable Art. $10 cover; additional $5 for optional cigar box guitar workshop
Australia has become a hotbed for cigar box guitars and raging blues. This fest features five acts plus a 90-minute workshop. Featured bands include Nigel McTrustry & the Cigar Box Explosion and Miss Gertrude. Location: Globe Theatre, 220 Brunswick St., Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. More info: Get Rooted! Facebook event page.
EUGENE, OREGON, June 6
The Cigar Box Guitar Fest Northwest; free
This family-friendly, daytime event takes place inside the Saturday Market, a handcrafted marketplace in Eugene, Oregon. Headliners include California stomp-blues trio the Budrows and International Blues Challenge winner Ben Rice. It also features Sean Hawk, Jerry Zybach, CBG Joe and Downtown Vinnie. Cigar box guitars for sale along with great food and art. Location: Eugene Saturday Market, 8th and Oak, Eugene, Oregon. More info: Northwest Fest Facebook event page.
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, June 6
3rd Annual St. Louis Cigar Box Guitar Festival; free
The St. Louis Cigar Box Guitar Fest is a great place to learn about making and playing your own cigar box guitars, all in the atmosphere of a great BBQ roadhouse bar on Highway 61! The fest kicks off the night before with guitar looping artist Justin Johnson delivering a clinic-style concert showcasing different styles of music. The Saturday event features how-to-build seminars, vendors, clinics and a show headlining concert by New Jersey’s powerhouse swing-blues band, April Mae & the June Bugs. Location: Highway 61 Roadhouse & Kitchen, 34 S. Old Orchard Ave., Webster Groves, Missouri 63119. More info: St. Louis CBG Fest website.
BORDENTOWN, NEW JERSEY, June 12
Cigar Box Guitar Homecoming Show w/Hymn For Her + April Mae & The Junebugs; $15 in advance, $18 at the door
The cigar box guitar gets pushed to its primal limits in this double-billing show at the Record Collector listening room. Swamp psychedelia duo Hymn For Her returns to their home turf after touring the world in a 1950s Airstream trailer. They’re joined by the amazing April Mae & the June Bugs. If you’re anywhere on the East Coast on this weekend, don’t miss this show. Location: The Record Collector, 358 Farnsworth Ave., Bordentown, New Jersey. More info and ticket link at the Record Collector website.
TORONTO, OHIO, June 13
The 4th Annual Handmade Music Extravaganza; $5 cover
This wild Midwest festival returns with a killer lineup of swamp blues, garage rock and roots music. The Budrows will be there! Also on the bill are the Lo-Fi Project, Secret Devil Tuning and the Pussyfooters. The concert also serves as a fundraiser for Team Mojo Foundation, providing free music lessons to local underprivileged children. Location: Driftwood Smokehouse and Marina, Toronto, Ohio. More info: Handmade Music Extravaganza website.
BIRMINGHAM, U.K., July 3 and 4
Boxstock: The U.K. Cigar Box Guitar Festival!; free
Taking place during the Birmingham International Jazz and Blues Festival, this annual fest is a great representation of the U.K. cigar box guitar scene. Performing in a Dr. Ross-style one-man band featuring cigar box guitar/harmonica/bass drum, Hollowbelly is a sonic blitzkrieg of a headliner. Also featuring the Godfather of the Cigar Box Guitar, Chickenbone John. Details are still being worked out, but there is talk of a cigar box guitar open mic on Friday and cigar box guitar building seminars on Saturday. Location: The Green Room Café Bar, 70 Hurst St., Birmingham, U.K. More info: The Boxstock page on Cigar Box Nation.
TUSCANY, ITALY, July 18
The Pistoia Blues Festival presents: The 1st Italian Cigar Box Guitar Meeting
Italy will have its first cigar box guitar festival as part of the Pistoria Blues Festival’s side stage events! Details are still forthcoming, but interested parties can contact the Cigar Box Guitar Italia Facebook page for more information.
ALBERT, TEXAS, August 22
The Republic of Texas Cigar Box Guitar Fest; free
Justin Johnson headlines this brand-new festival at the Albert Dance Hall. He will be joined by deep blues master Rev. KM Williams along with Convict Hill, My Buddy Todd and Lousy Lou. Location: The Albert Dance Hall, Albert, Texas. More info at the Texas Cigar Box Guitar Fest Facebook page.
YORK, PENNSYLVANIA, August 29
The Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival; free
The PA festival is a great event for the family and features 14 acts on two stages, vendors, food and a city-wide arts fest happening on the same day. This year’s headliners include Shane Speal and April Mae & the Junebugs. Also featuring pre-teen virtuosos, the Pennsylvania Alley Kats. There will be huge vendors market with instruments, parts and more, along with foot trucks. Location: The York Emporium, 343 W. Market St., York, Pennsylvania. More info at the PA Cigar Box Guitar Fest Facebook page.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, August 30
The 5th Annual Kansas City Cigar Box Guitar Festival; free
This jam-packed festival features a wide variety of solo performers including Tim Covey, Jason Fox, Jason Vivone, Michael Vande, Jeff McFadden, Linda Morrison, Blind Dawg Willie and many more! The event is free. An optional guitar clinic by Justin Johnson is offered for $15. Location: Johnny’s Back Yard Bar, 1825 Buchanan St., North Kansas City, Missouri. More info at the Kansas City Cigar Box Guitar Fest website.
Stay tuned for the fall/winter Cigar Box Guitar Fest Guide, which will be published in August 2015. There are fests coming to Chicago, Mississippi, France, Holland, the U.K. and more!
Top photo by Kevin Stiffler
Shane Speal is the "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" and the creator of the modern cigar box guitar movement. Hear the music, see the instruments and read about his Cigar Box Guitar Museum at ShaneSpeal.com. Speal's latest album, Holler! is on C.B. Gitty Records.