PHOTO CREDIT: OREN HELBOCK, DESTINATION BLUES
“Gabe plays the blues with strength, personality, and a depth of both feeling and musicianship.” —Nighthawks’ founder and frontman Mark Wenner
“Gabe Stillman has got the chops and the intensity the blues should have. Keep your eye on him!” —Toronzo Cannon
Gabe Stillman & the Billtown Giants are a high-voltage blues trio that electrifies audiences with performances that showcase the band’s passion, musical prowess and the joy they take in playing music together. While their sound is unmistakably rooted in the blues, the band plays both original and cover songs that draw deeply from the well of Soul, R&B, Funk, and New Orleans music.
Based in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, The Billtown Giants are led by ace guitarist and singer Gabe Stillman, who formed the band in 2015, shortly after graduating from Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Fueled by bassist Colin Beatty and drummer Joel B. Vincent, Stillman, and the Giants have been steadily climbing to the top of the regional blues circuit with standout performances at venues large and small. In addition to sharing stages with blues royalty The Nighthawks and Chicago powerhouse Toronzo Cannon, they’ve won over crowds at the Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival, the Destination Blues Festival and, to Stillman’s great satisfaction, the annual Billtown Blues Festival.
“Some people measure the passing of time by Christmas or New Year’s or birthdays,” Stillman says. “I measure it by the arrival of the Billtown Blues Festival every June. I was 12 when I started volunteering as a stagehand. I’ve seen Bob Margolin, Johnny Winter, The Nighthawks, Mark Hummel, Bernard Allison, Big Bill Morganfield, and a lot of other great acts at the Billtown festival. By now I’ve played there myself three times, most recently last year with my band. On the one hand, it’s always like a dream come true; on the other hand, it always makes me dream bigger.”
In January of 2017, the band ventured to Memphis, Tennessee, where they represented their hometown Billtown Blues Association at the International Blues Challenge. Competing against some of the world’s finest musicians only served to deepen Stillman’s commitment to the blues.
“I wasn’t raised in Chicago or Kansas City. There’s no romantic story about how I was exposed to this music. I was introduced to the blues while I was a student at the Uptown Music Collective, a school of music in Williamsport, PA. I started attending when I was 11. At first, I liked the blues because it seemed like simple music, and it was music that I could play. It was much harder for me, technically, to play heavy metal solos. With blues, I could make decent sounds almost immediately. In time, of course, I learned that blues music encompasses a tremendous amount of complexity and deep feeling. In a lot of ways, there’s nothing simple about it. There’s so much to love and learn about the blues.”