Joe Lule, a lifetime Bethlehem resident, spent his late teenage years playing the guitar and singing on Bethlehem’s main street, trying to make a couple bucks here and there. Now, as a graduate of Lehigh’s Master of Arts program in Environmental Policy and City Planning, he continues to perform in Bethlehem. The Southside resident has played at local venues such as Fun House, Godfrey Daniels, and Social Still. His latest performance kicked off the Out to Lunch Concert Series.
The Out to Lunch Concert Series is run by the Southside Arts District, where Lule was previously an intern. He emphasized that the Southside Arts District holds many fantastic events every year, and that they are a great way to get involved in South Bethlehem’s music and arts scene. The Series brought me to Social Still on a gorgeous Friday afternoon. You’d never guess that the quaint distillery and restaurant on East Third Street used to be a bank. The small patio to the side of the restaurant provided a nice escape from reality, giving cover from the busy street corner.
Lule played an array of alternative folk songs; some were originals and others were covers of lesser-known pieces. The performance started off hot, with Lule acting as a one-man band, creating rich sounds with his guitar, tambourine, and voice. Many songs were upbeat and energetic. Listening to Lule gleefully play the guitar and harmonica while singing, I could feel the stress of the week lifting from my shoulders. Other songs were smoother and more thought-provoking. While relaxing and enjoying the sun, my mind wandered, and I began to think of past experiences. Though Lule’s performance was slated for only one hour, he ended up performing for nearly two because of increasing attendance. He frequently talked to and bantered with the crowd, at one point joking that it felt weird to perform at a distillery without a drink. He finally helped himself to one later. Toward the end of the concert, Lule sang happy birthday to a crowd member who was celebrating with his family. The concert flew by and offered a refreshing break in the middle of the work day.
The talented Lule said the aspect of the Series he enjoys the most is that the performers are local artists performing at local venues. In this way, he feels the concerts represent actual South Bethlehem culture as opposed to an “imported” one. He praised the Series for being community-oriented, emphatically stating that he personally knows many of the restaurant owners who host the concerts. Lule wasn’t originally slated to play at Social Still, but filled in for another artist last-minute. He pointed out that his ability to step in on such short-notice illustrates the close-knit community aspect of the Concert Series. Since many of the artists know each other, it’s easy for them to cover for each other.
Despite beginning his job for Artefact, Inc., an architecture firm located on Third Street, Lule says he doesn’t think he’ll ever stop playing. Music is part of who he is, and he’s played nearly every day since he first picked up a guitar. In fact, the Southside resident said music was a factor which drove him to live in South Bethlehem. Because live music is such a big part of his life, Lule loves that the Southside has live performances every night. He enthusiastically exclaimed that local and different music is always offered, and that you never know what you’re going to get. He stressed the uniqueness of South Bethlehem, noting: “Southside in itself is a nice place where you can go to listen to music on Friday for lunch.”
Feature photo credits: Sam Layding