AUTHOR”S/POSTER’S NOTE: My apologies for the delay between posting the review of the first night of the festival and this post. It had been a busy week and I wasn’t fully able to get this done until now. Also, due to the reach of this day in particular the review will be in two parts out of necessity.
After catching a brief snippet of Sam Bush’s set over at Peace Park, I realized it was time to walk over to Flat Branch Park and the Community Stage to see Cabin Sessions play a fairly rare live show. The local collective of songwriters did an acoustic set that ranged from introspective indie pop to folk and country and back, all while maintaining some kind of group identity. Fresh off their latest recording session the previous week, the band played mostly old chestnuts but did offer up a new song or two along the way. It was a fairly breezy affair that stretched some of the roots and blues definition while remaining more true to the intent of both than some acts.
Unfortunately, on the way back to the main stage, festival favorites the Music Makers Review were still setting up and not playing yet.so I wasn’t able to see thir set. However, after getting some dinner I did make it to Peace Park in time for Dale Watson to play. Backed by the Lonestars on fiddle and pedal steel as well as The Texas Two on upright bass and drums, Watson gave the crowd some pure honky tonk country in a uniquely Tejas manner. Twangy songs about drinking, women and the state of country music is Watson’s bread and butter and he delivered to a largely appreciative crowd. This was my first time seeing him and he didn’t disappoint. At a time when country music seems increasingly to be pop with a dobro or a fiddle, it’s always good to hear what real country sounds like.
And now here’s the rash decision of the night. Robert Cray Band was playing the main stage while Los Lobos was playing the stage at Peace Park. Wanting to see both but knowing there was no perfect solution, I decided to see the first five songs of RCB (mainly cause it was supposed to start about 15 minutes earlier). While I couldn’t see the whole thing, Cray and his band laid down some take no prisoners electric blues with plenty of guitar and organ interplay and songs about betrayal, loss, love, and the like. If circumstances were different I would’ve stayed but when two really good bands are at a festival like this sometimes you have to see a bit of both. Will definitely have to see a whole set from Robert Cray sometime in the future.
Made it over to Peace Park partway through Los Lobos’ set with Sam Bush was sitting in on violin for much of it. At the time I arrived, they were doing several Latin flavored numbers. However, the band’s diversity was on fire tonight as they played everything from moody ballads to uptempo rockers to even a covers of Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and were joined by a member of the Music Makers Review for “Sweet Home Chicago.” It was one of those nights with a packed crowd at Peace Park, making it hard to move even though the music almost makes you do so. While the night was somewhat strange, the fact that a festival like this meant a collaboration few would expect (I know I didn’t) made it worthwhile.
While getting a quick snack, I heard a bit of Fitz and the Tantrums playing on the main stage. While the song was catchy and fun, given a choice between that or Taj Mahal on the Peace Park stage meant the latter would be the obvious choice.
The Taj Mahal Trio kicked things into gear with a set of classic blues that wasn’t afraid to take the occasional chance. Fueled by Mahal’s great guitar and banjo work, the trio delivered a journey to blues at its most primal using both electric and acoustic guitars to deliver the vibe throughout. The crowd response was explosive as the set wore on. In some ways this was a winding down of sorts, using Mahal’s knowledge of the genre and his history to bring the day’s events to a close. Needless to say threre was something here that brought things to a close in a real sense.
Then it was all over. As we walked to either our cars or our next plans it was clear that today had been a busy, somewhat expansive day of food and music. As for me personally, spending much of the past 12 hours on my feet left me bushed but I did get to chefck out some acts I hdan’t seen before, even if only for a brief moment or two in some cases, and saw some artists I hadn’t seen live in a long time. It was a long weekend but one that was eventful.