Toni Sicola & The Black Hats playing at The Blu Pig. [Alison Harford/Moab Sun News]

When Jake Tanner opened The Blu Pig restaurant and bar, he knew he wanted the spot to have two things guaranteed every night: barbecue and the blues. When the bar obtained its club license in 2013, live music was off to the races. 

“Our first continuing show, that’s been running since 2013, is our Wednesday night Community Music Night,” Tanner said. There’s not a lot to do in Moab at night, he said, and so he built out the live music scene from that Wednesday pillar. 

“Ever since then, we try to stick to a Monday through Wednesday lineup of rotating local bands, and on the weekends, we do bigger bands, touring acts, stuff like that,” Tanner said. “In doing this for so long, we’ve created a lot of relationships with people outside the area, as well as local artists—that’s really opened up a lot of opportunity, and made it possible to have music seven nights a week.”

During the busy season—March to October—The Blu Pig hosts live music every night of the week, and during the off-season, music is on from Wednesday to Saturday, always with the community music night. Performances typically run from 7 to 10 p.m.

Tanner said bands mostly find him. The Blu Pig is often contacted by bands on tour: sometimes, Moab happens to be on the way, especially being in the same region as Salt Lake City, Denver, and Flagstaff. Two of the most famous performers he’s hosted were Johnny Rawls, whose album “I’m Still Around” won Soul Blues Album of the Year in 2019, and Guitar Shorty, a legendary blues guitarist. 

There are a number of regular local bands, Tanner said—Alan and Valerie Brown have been performing the New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s shows for eight years. But the stage draws a wide variety of performers too, especially during community music nights, when visitors and locals alike flock to the bar to perform. 

In November, The Blu Pig is hosting four community music nights and eleven different bands. A few bands are performing multiple times: The Teccas, a duo from Montana; Bob Greenspan & Mama T, a local blues duo with a long performance history; and Lost Buffalo, who has been playing at The Blu Pig for years. The lineup also includes Jon Budd, Julia Rose Studios, Broken Arrow, Dustin Burley, Toni Sicola & the Black Hats, the Nanites, and Tony Holiday, a blues artist who lives in Memphis, TN. 

Toni Sicola, a singer/songwriter and guitarist who makes up one-third of Toni Sicola & the Black Hats, moved to Moab in 2020. She’s been playing music her whole life—her first album came out when she was 19—but never with a band, until she met Don Cassier, a drummer, guitarist, and singer in Moab. She and Cassier started going to Community Music Nights at The Blu Pig together, where they met Brian Vazquez, a bass player. The three enjoyed playing together so much that they formed their band. 

“It’s definitely different to play with a band,” Sicola said. “It’s a way bigger sound, and it’s more fun for the audience … And for me, it’s been fun because it’s educational. Playing by yourself, you can do whatever you want—if you mess up, you can just cover it up. But playing with a band, and playing with people who are better musicians than me, has made me a better musician.” 

After releasing that first album when she was 19, Sicola gave up performing music for a while. But now, she’s found her way back: she released a new song on Spotify, “I Do,” and is thinking about making another album. And the band has surpassed Community Music Nights—they book regular gigs at The Blu Pig, and will perform on Friday, Nov. 25. 

“The Blu Pig is great because it always feels crowded,” Sicola said. “It’s always a different crowd, and it’s fun to rally a group of friends to come see us play. Even when there are times when there isn’t a huge crowd, there’s always at least one table of visitors who are totally digging it. It’s always really, really fun.”