Delta Blues musician Johnny Azari is a featured artist at this month's Moab Grassroots Music Exchange, along with wandering West Coast singer-songwriter Rybree. [Photo by Jeff Forney]

The Moab Grassroots Music Exchange (MGME) will be hosting May’s featured artists this weekend with the help of local businesses and community members.

The volunteer-based organization looks forward to welcoming Johnny Azari – a Delta Blues musician based out of New Orleans. Azari will be making the longest journey yet to arrive in Moab and participate in the community’s 10th grassroots music exchange.

Azari will share the MGME stage on Saturday, May 21, with the West Coast wanderer and singer-songwriter known as Rybree; the gate and stage open at 5 p.m., and the lineup at the “Flower Moon” event kicks off at 6 p.m.

Rybree was invited to perform at MGME when she was picked up hitchhiking with her ukulele, and will be making her journey from Washington.

The organization’s reach has extended to the music scene of Salt Lake City, and artists are returning to Moab for the monthly musical production that falls near the full moon. This month, soulful singer-songwriter Scarecrow joins the exchange, along with a bluegrass duo representing Pixie and the Partygrass Boys, and funky one-man band and looping-sensation Simply B.

Local talent from Moab will include bluegrass band Slim Pickins, which is celebrating the release of its first album. Davin Pilling will kick off the evening with his Moab-inspired musical comedy. The new duo known as the Spliffs, with influences from Romania and Mexico, will take the stage as well.

The two featured artists have been invited to enjoy locally provided engagements, services and accommodations throughout their stay in Moab. The MGME platform is organized to draw in and support outside artists, and to reciprocate for their live musicianship.

Azari thanks “chance or God – whatever the reader (subscribes) to,” for connecting him with MGME.

He plays guitar, harmonica, bass, drums and slide guitar, and sings mostly in the realms of blues and country. Azari said his comedy stands out as a unique component of his act.

“Nobody sees it coming,” he said. “Most folks think the blues is about mourning – it’s actually about celebration and kicking the oppressors off one’s back by giving no [cares] and still laughing and feeling free.”

Azari first picked up the guitar when he was 16 as an attempt to impress his crush who was a musician.

“I thought she’d like me if I played too. I was wrong, but I fell in love with music instead,” Azari said.

The Delta Blues player now tours around cities in the United States, hitting mostly bars and restaurants. Azari intends to focus on festivals and touring abroad in the future.

“I’m done with bars,” he laughed.

Azari said he sees music as a way of life.

“When everything is fine, it’s like playing a game,” he said. “But when all hell is loose, it becomes the air to breathe.”

For the three members of Moab’s Slim Pickins, the songs on their new self-titled album tend to encompass their individual and collective feelings of wander, wonder and loss.

“Although these feelings aren’t exclusive to any one locale, Moab certainly provides a unique perspective on these underlying themes, all stemming from the experience of life and love,” mandolin player and co-vocalist Neal Clark said. “You could call it psychic osmosis.”

In addition to Clark, Slim Pickins includes co-vocalist and guitarist Jeff Brennan; and co-vocalist and bassist Jon Gottschalk.

While the band’s sound is rooted in traditional bluegrass, Clark said the new album encompasses a wide variety of musical influences and genres, from roots and Americana, to jazz, funk, indie rock, and the Grateful Dead and its progeny.

“We’re a diverse bunch when it comes to musical taste,” he said.

Clark said that MGME provides a phenomenal platform for showcasing new material, and he said the band is excited to return to its stage this weekend.

“The venue is always inspiring and the crowd tends to be ready for a curveball or two,” he said. “If you’re looking for high-energy bluegrass mixed with some fresh cuts from the new album, come on out.”

Other supporting acts over the camp-out evening of May 21 include fire performances orchestrated by Maegan Sellers, and spoken word contributions from a local collective organized by Cali Bulmash.

The Moab Grassroots Music Exchange would like to thank Milt’s Stop & Eat, Eddie McStiff’s Restaurant and Bar, Eklecticafe, Fresh Moab Coffee, the Launch Pad Bed and Breakfast, the Lazy Lizard Hostel, KZMU, and the small army of local volunteers for welcoming Azari and Rybree to Moab.

May 21 event features live music, comedy, fire performances and more

What: Moab Grassroots Music Exchange

When: Saturday, May 21; Gate and stage open at 5 p.m. Lineup kicks off at 6 p.m.

Where: “The Land” off Kane Creek Boulevard. Go to, or email, for more information

Cost: Free

For more information, or to support or help host MGME “featured artists,” go to, or send an email to