The Bright Lights Belhaven Nights festival, the Greater Belhaven Foundation’s annual treat for the city that catches the wistful, waning days of summer between the end of vacation and the start of school, with a chance to kick back, listen to some great music and hang out with friends. Image: GBNF

by Sherry Lucas

Summers at dusk have an easy, friendly vibe, an open invitation to gather, gab, grab a beverage and indulge in some good old-fashioned visitin’ — droppin’ that ‘g’ because, you know, we’re all pals here, all neighborly-like.

In a nutshell, that’s the charm of the Bright Lights Belhaven Nights festival, the Greater Belhaven Foundation’s annual treat for the city that catches the wistful, waning days of summer between the end of vacation and the start of school, with a chance to kick back, listen to some great music and hang out with friends.

That’s what struck me from the very start about this festival in the heart of the city’s quaintest historical neighborhood. I knew so many people there! And we could hug and look each other in the eye and compliment each other’s outfits and introduce friends to friends and make real human connections that didn’t involve emails or cellphones.

It’s a relief to catch up in real time. You should try it.

New features this year include: a private Beer Garden with a larger selection of craft beers; headliners The Weeks and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and a bunch of other cool musicians and bands; two harmonica clinics led by noted blues harp master Scott Albert Johnson (you can bring your own and the first 40 also get a BLBN commemorative harmonica); more time for kids’’ play with the children’s activities area extended to 8 p.m.

Bright Lights Belhaven Nights now attracts 5,000 to 7,000 folks. Plenty of visitin’ awaits. Plus, there’s lots more good music on the weekend landscape!

Mexican American singer/songwriter/guitarist Alejandro Escovedo, whose versatility rocks from punk and roots to alt country and Chicano, brings all that to Duling Hall, 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Ultra-talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Will Kimbrough opens. It’s $20 advance (ardenland.net), $25 at the door.

Alejandro Escovedo performs Thursday night at Duling Hall. Image: ardenland

It’s all in the neighborhood nearby, folks. The 13th annual Bright Lights Belhaven Nights 4:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday is the annual street festival with a front-porch kind of feel. Jackson’s quaint historic neighborhood comes alive with music, food, activities and more, with a stellar lineup highlighting some of our regions best, with Cary Hudson, The Weeks, Kudzu Kings, TB Ledford, Taylor Hildebrand, Kingfish and more on three stages. Come hungry, because The Manship, Hog Heaven, LurnyD’s, Fenian’s, 1908 Provisions and more will be on hand, and a selection of craft beers will be on tap. General admission tickets are $10 on eventbrite.com and at the gate. Children’s tickets (age 12 and younger) are $1.The festival site has beer options, but an extra $15 buys admission to the Beer Garden and an even wider selection of breweries and craft beers (includes two beers) — you can continue to roam the fest as you enjoy your brew. Find free parking at New Stage Theatre, along the Belhaven streets that’re open and in the parking garage adjacent to Baptist Health Systems Medical Arts East (corner of North & Carlisle streets). The festival stretches across Kenwood, Poplar and Carlisle streets, with gates on each side of Belhaven Park on Poplar, and another on Carlisle near Lou’s Full-Serv.

Bluesman Christone “Kingfish” Ingram headlines the Hogan Stage at Bright Lights Belhaven Nights. Image: christonekingfishingram.com

Stellar guitarist Barry Leach gives his skilled fingers a workout and your happy ears a tuneful time, in a 6 p.m. Friday gig at Hal & Mal’s. It’s free in the dining room.

“The Closer,” they’re calling it — BRAVO! Italian Restaurant’s wine party to toast the coming month-long renovation. The party’s at 6 p.m. Saturday-until, so go help them uncork some rare, vintage wines from the cellar and enjoy the hors d’oeuvres. It’s $60 each or $100 per couple. Following the Aug. 28-Sept. 25 closure, Jackson’s beloved Bravo will reopen with a fresh, modern updo.

Rock’n’rollers George McConnell and the Nonchalants bring their cool tunes to the stage at Martin’s, 10 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $10 for the 18-and-older show.

George McConnell rocks Martins Friday. Image: Newt Cooter Rayburn

Tuesday night, Chad Wesley Band and Stonewalls perk up Duling Hall, 7:30 p.m. with a $10 cover.

Also Tuesday, catch the final 2016-17 season performance for Music in the City at the Mississippi Museum of Art. A piano duet of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony arranged for one piano, four hands will be deftly handled (couldn’t resist!) by Rae Shannon’s and John Paul. Such piano duets were a musical hit in home living rooms back in the day before radio and TV. It’s the perfect after-work antidote on a summer’s eve. The cash bar opens at 5:15 p.m. and the free program starts at 5:45 p.m. in the museum’s Trustmark Grand Hall.

Fondrenite Sherry Lucas, a feature writer in Jackson for the last 33 years, is here on Wednesdays with “The Mix,” highlighting creativity and culture from Fondren and beyond. Reach her at sherry@finditinfondren.com.