Doheny Blues Festival Day 2 – May 22, 2011

What a difference a day makes….

Looking back, I was a bit cranky about yesterdays show and I’m still not sure why?  It had high points as I noted, it just didn’t connect as deeply as I’d hoped.  Well day 2 was a whole different story.  Something in the air?  Something in water?  I don’t know, but today was just one highlight after another, with a few surprises tossed in for good measure.

The parking situation was better (early arrival I guess).  And I was in place a few minutes early for the Back Porch kick off by Cesar Rojas and Dave Hidalgo of Los Lobos.  I’ve been loving these guys for close to 30 years and I’ve seen them tons of times.  They never disappoint.  The tool the stage with Cougar Estrada of the band on drums and fellow named Sal on bass.  They dove right into the blues with “300 pounds of joy”.  A couple songs in they pulled the first Los Lobos cut “The Neighborhood”.  They sounded great, trading licks and vocals with the ease of a couple guys who’ve been playing together for around 40 years….(wow)….

The fifth song was a smokin’ version of the Sonny Boy Williamson’s (via the Allman’s) “One Way Out” followed by what they called some latin blues the song was, “Cumbria”.  Then, a nice version of “That train don’t stop here anymore” and cover of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She about a mover” with a fun audience sing along.  The last two songs featured a special guest in the form of Terrance Siemien (who I’d missed the day previous).  His great accordion playing highlighted a couple of older Los Lobos tunes.  “I got loaded” and “Don’t worry baby”.  The set was everything I’d hoped for and more.  Seeing a chunck of a band that I’ve loved for a long time, up close, relaxed and playing a cool selection of their material and covers.  I loved it.

I walked to the second stage as Ana Popovic was just starting up.  I have to say, she was pretty good.  A confident singer and decent guitar slinger with an international band (she’s from Yugoslavia I believe.)  I stayed for about half her set and shot some nice photos.  Here’s a couple samples of my shots:

I left her set a little early and headed to the main stage to wait for Mavis Staples.

Mavis came out and boldly started with an a cappella version of “Jesus is Mine”, she was joined by a three piece band and three back up singers including her sister Yvonne for her next numbers “Wrote a Song for Everyone” and “Creep Along Moses”, both from her new album.  Then came her version of the Band’s “The Weight”…brilliant.  The sun had come from behind the clouds and I sat back on the grass feeling the ocean breeze and listening to one of the phenomenal voices of the 60’s/70’s.  Yeah, I was having a much better day to say the least.  She closed her set with “I Belong to the Band” from her new album and then jumping back to 1970 “Ill Take You There” from the Staples Singers.  It was a brilliant set of old and new material (The new stuff is really strong) and sort of what I’d hope the Funky Meters might have been like the day before.  Well, that was yesterday, and this was Sunday at the church of gospel and blues lead by a legend.  All thumbs up so far for the day.

Here’s a nice acoustic version of one of her new songs:

Walter Trout was up next, I went a checked him out, but it wasn’t really connecting in the same way as the last couple acts.  Although, his song “Working Class” stood out in my mind.  I opted to go and grab some lunch…(event that was better today).

I moved back to the main stage for the first big surprise of the day for me.  The Big Head Blues Club with Big Head Todd, Cedric Burnside and Charlie Musselwhite flat out floored me.  Opening a cappella (hummm, a theme today?) was Big Head Todd Mohr. with the Son House number “John the Revelator”….wow.

This set was everything that the Hendrix set could have been for me yesterday.  These guys just tore it up.  They didn’t stick to Robert Johnson, adding in a really great cross section of classic blues.  I can’t say why they connected when other bands didn’t, but they just clicked for me.  I can’t want to go find some of their music.  Total surprise, and totally  awesome.

Here’s an older video of one of the songs that they did that pretty much had an entire field of folks up and shimmying in the sun…John Lee Hooker”s “Boom Boom”….

Okay, one more….”Come on in my kitchen”….

I skipped the last number to go grab a good spot for the Blasters…sure glad I did.  I ended up right at the edge of the stage in front of Dave Alvin.  I may have shot some of my favorite concerts shots ever.  The light was perfect, the expressions were awesome.  And, I felt about 30 years younger bopping around in the crowd.  Here’s some shots first.

The Original Blasters

Dave Alvin - I love the reflection of his guitar in the glasses

Dave Alvin and John Bazz

Phil Alvin

Dave Alvin

Dave Alvin

Thumbs up from Phil Alvin

Here’s the setlist: “Red Rose”, “Border Radio”, “Poor Fool”, “Hollywood Bed”, “Troublebound”, “Help You Dream”,”I’m Shakin'”, “Baby Don’t You Lie to Me”, “Crazy Baby”, “Come Back Baby”, “Goodbye Baby So Long”, “Please, Please Please” (James Brown cover), “American Music”, “Dark Night”, “Blue Shadows”, “Marie Marie” and “One Bad Stud”.

Not a weak cut, not a bit of filler.  Just 100% revved up rock and roll.

Maybe there were never top of the charts, but they (along with Los Lobos and Joe Jackson in that era) totally opened me up to different styles of and types of music.  To see them all on the same stage and be standing in front of them was a huge thrill.  It was a reunion that fully lived up to my expectations and hopes.  I’ve not had that much flat out fun at a show in a while.

I went over to listen to John Fogerty headline with some trepidation.  I was buzzing from the Blasters set and I’d seen John a few times.  He’s a Hall of Famer for sure…but, I just wasn’t sure he’d bring anything new to the table.  Well, he did.  Anytime you’ve got a band powered by Kenny Aronoff and you’re playing songs that almost all are in the DNA of the crowd, it’s hard to miss.  And he didn’t.

“Green River” swirled with swampiness as did “Born on a Bayou”…”Who’ll Stop the Rain” was accompanied by a story about going to Woodstock.  “Suzie Q” and “Lodi” were tight and memorable and “Looking out My Backdoor” took me back to being 10 years old and hearing it on the AM radio in my mom’s car.  Like I said, these songs are in our DNA.

He interspersed some cuts from his recent work, and they held up better than I thought.  “Don’t you Wish it Was True” sparkled for one example.  “Have you ever seen the Rain” lead into a solid version of “Pretty Woman”.  But, even though it was sounding great…I was tired after a long day and didn’t relish standing in a huge line to get a shuttle bus.  So, I split a little early and listened to “Keep on Chooglin” and “Nighttime”b efore I was whisked onto the bus.  As I passed the park on the way to the freeway I rolled down the window and caught the last few notes of “Fortunate Son”.

A heck of a day….really no let downs or disappointments at all.  It was the complete opposite of the day before.  That’s why you go to to see the shows folks.  Some are great, some not so great.  But if you want consistency….buy a CD…otherwise, see a show and enjoy it!

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