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Groovemaster, Uptown Band Teaming Up Again for Alisa B. Memorial Funk Fest

By Erich Cawalla

Sep 30, 2020
Alisa B. Anderson

On Friday October 9, 2020, The Groovemasters ft. Bennie Sims and Cliff Starkey and Erich Cawalla’s Uptown Band will again team up for an event that is near and dear to their hearts – “The Alisa B. Memorial Funk Fest” to benefit The Alisa B. Anderson Memorial Scholarship Fund with the Reading Musical Foundation. This annual event began in 2013 and has been held at various venues including First Energy Stadium, The Crowne Plaza Hotel, and the Goodwill Beneficial Association. This year, the rain or shine event will be held in the large tent at Willow Glen Park, 94 Park Avenue, Sinking Spring, as part of its “Truck N Brew Open Air Concert Series”. It was originally the idea of The Reading Fightin’ Phils’ and Reading Musical Foundation as a means of bringing the community together to support “all things Berks music”. Established in 1926 by a team of local music enthusiasts who recognized the importance of ensuring our community’s cultural health, RMF has been supporting music education, preservation, and local music presenters for nearly 90 years. Their dedication, passion for music and our community, and willingness to “play” by working hard set the standard for RMF and is a foundation that both The Groovemasters and Erich Cawalla’s Uptown Band strongly believe in and support. 

Alisa B. Anderson was one of the most-talented vocalists and musicians to ever come out of Berks County PA, performing throughout the country with many groups, most notably the legendary Berks County-based Groovemasters. Alisa B. was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer late 2014, but strongly fought the disease to the very end, performing her shows with grace and dignity until she ultimately lost her battle shortly before the 2015 Funk Fest. Since 2015, the event has served as a tribute to Alisa B.’s immensely talented and energetic soul, with each band performing a tribute to her and teaming up at the end of the night together on stage.

In many ways, The Uptown Band and The Groovemasters are tightly knit at the seams. Besides being the leader and visionary of The Groovemasters, Bennie Sims serves as both The Uptown Band and its leader, Erich Cawalla’s original music producer. Along with Cliff Starkey, they have performed for or with numerous celebrities including President Bill Clinton, Dizzy Gillespie, The Temptations, Al Jarreau, Tower of Power, and Tavares to name a few. Their talents have been showcased nationally on “Good Morning America’, “The Emeril Live Show” (where Cliff served as the house piano player for 9 years and appeared on the Rachael Ray Show in 2016), and on a 2002 PBS Special called “Love, Rhythm, & Soul” featuring Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, and The Spinners. Sims was the musical director for the legendary Three Degrees for over 25 years. Both continue to perform nationally and internationally with these and many other artists. Sims has also written and performed with Smooth Jazz legends Pieces of a Dream.  

Since the band’s inception during the Berks Jazz Fest 2006, Erich Cawalla’s Uptown Band has become one of the busiest bands in the Northeast. With the release of their debut original CD “Waiting for Her” and sophomore release “Heart, Soul, Body, & Mind”, they have grown beyond their regional roots and have become known nationally and internationally. Their original songs have been played on a wide variety of radio stations throughout the world and have charted as high as #9 on the Groove Jazz Chart and #27 on USA Today’s Contemporary Jazz Chart. TV-wise, they have performed twice on NBC New York’s former Late-Night talk show “All Night with Joey Reynolds” and just recently, made cameos on national TV on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” and the former talk-show “The Chew”. They continue to be a featured act a countless shows throughout the United States.  

Tickets for the event are $20.00 in advance and $25.00 at the door (if available) with food and drink available for purchase from Konopelski Katering and various food trucks located throughout the grounds. Doors open at 5:00 PM with bands performing 6:30 PM – 10:00 PM. A maximum of 250 tickets will be sold for this event due to PA Covid-19 regulations on large gatherings. All CDC Guidelines will be in place. For more information on purchasing advanced ticketing, guests can visit, call (610) 781-8312, or email [email protected]

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