Tag Archives: Doheny Blues Festival

One last look back at 2011

Here’s my 2011 list of concerts.  A little shorter than some years, but I had a lot of work distractions in the past year, so it’s actually a pretty good tally all things considered.  There’s a lot of quality there and a few once in lifetime shows.  I’ll make a few individual notes where appropriate  (But, of course there’s a review of each if you’re so inclined to read more.

Phil Vassar – A nice little private show at the PCMA conference for people with a CMP designation.  Fun and loose show.

Robert Randolph & the Family Band

Chromeo – A bit of a letdown, but I’m still hoping to see them again and see how they evolve.

Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine

Delgado Brothers

Jeff Beck & Imelda May – Once in a lifetime and one of the best shows I saw all year.

Prince – Another show that for all the hype was a bit of letdown.

Doheny Blues Fest – Tedeschi/Trucks, John Fogerty, Experience Hendrix, Mavis Staples, The Blasters, Funky Meters, Big Head Blues Club, (Plus others) – Two great days on the beach.  A couple misses, but mostly hits. Tedeschi/Trucks being the very best of day 1 and the Blasters the best of Day 2

KSBR Birthday Bash – Brenda Russell, Kieko Matsui, Brian Bromberg, Dan Siegel, (Plus others) – A really cool gift from my friend Eliott.

Eels – Confounding and complex.  It was great in some very unexplainable ways.

U2 & Lenny Kravitz (2x) – Night 2 was the better of the two nights, both were strong but night 2 has the edge (pun intended).

Weird Al

Kansas & Blue Oyster Cult – Not very good, one of the most disappointing shows of the year for me.

Rock Candy Funk Party – Going back in January, a top five evening and surprisingly it’s not once in a lifetime, looking forward to it very much.

Barenaked Ladies – Good, but not great.  More and more I miss Stephen Page.

Return to Forever & Zappa Plays Zappa – I’d say that along with Jeff Beck this were the most amazingly talented musicians I saw all year…or in many years.

Frank Turner – My best find of 2011.  Seeing him in February once again!

Fountains Of Wayne – I wanted this to be better, bit it wasn’t up to the pervious levels I’d seen them perform at.

Airborne Toxic Event – Another cool find of 2011 and this was the Filmore show in SF that was really cool.

Big Head Todd w/Ruthie Foster and Charlie Musselwhite – Again, a sort of letdown show and slightly disappointing overall.

Airborne Toxic Event, Tokyo Police Club, Built to Spill – Good headliner, the rest of the bill was hit and miss.

Bob Segar – Just reviewed, the man still has it!  Great show.

So there you have it.  My 2011 in a nutshell.

Looking ahead to 2011 I already have four shows slated.  Joe Bonamassa, Frank Turner, Social Distortion and Roger Waters.  Plus, I know Springsteen is touring.  So, lots to be excited about in the coming year.  Thanks as always for reading!  Happy New Year!


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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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Doheny Blues Festival Day 1 – May 21, 2011

I have to wonder if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that overall the most memorable part of the day for me will be the random conversations that I had and not the music I went to hear?

First off, a close friend was graduating college today, and I decided to delay driving down to the show until after I could have lunch with him and his family.  (Congrats Elliot!)  So, that assured I’d miss the first few acts, Doug MacLeod I’d seen in the past, I wasn’t too familiar Dennis Jones or the 44’s.  I sort of wanted to see Terrance Simien….But, overall nothing was as important as time with friends and family.

So, I reached the festival overflow lot about 2pm….and it was full.  Really guys?  The overflow is full….how long have you been doing this event (14 years)….and every year the overflow lot is packed by mid-day.  Umm, can I suggest you add a second lot?  I circled for a while and finally found a spot some tennis player was vacating.  So, coupled with the parking and shuttle ride time, I finally reached the festival at 3pm.  Ugh.

BB and the Blues Shacks were tearing it up on the second stage as I entered.  They didn’t sound half bad in a traditional sense.  Nothing groundbreaking, no huge wow.  Just a tight competent band  like you can probably find in a random bar in a random city any friday night.  Not a knock on them, just not anything that made me stop and see them.  I pushed on to the main stage to try and find a spot for the Tedeschi Trucks Band.  I wedged my chair in by the trashcans on the edge of the food court and listed to the last of the Blues Shacks through the feed at the main stage PA.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band hit the stage at 3:45 with a trio of songs from their soon to be released Revalator album.  Now a lot of bands might not have the confidence to hit an audience out of the gate with material that’s it’s very likely the majority of the crowd has never heard.  But, this one tight, accomplished and confident band.  “Love has something else to say” is a funky driving piece that showcases Susan’s soulful voice with a nice solo by Derek.  They followed this up with “Bound for Glory”, a current free download on their website (go get it…I’ll wait)….

Okay, now that you have that…the next song up was an extended version of “Midnight in Harlem”….stunning.  (Here’s a recent version off YouTube)

Hearing music like this made by the next generation of musicians give me hope that there’s a new generation that can carry on as the old one fades away.  Their set was worth the price of admission.  Yes, they are that good.

A very “Allman-esce” version of “Anyday”…a great version of “Til You Remember” and a great “Coming Home” highlighted by a trumpet solo propelled the set along.  It’s a pleasure to watch such a tight group of musicians, but Derek reminds me of why I fell in love with the sound of the slide guitar back in the 70’s.  His businesslike demeanor and lack of flashy moves do nothing to detract from some of best and most fluid slide playing you’ll hear from anyone these days.  And his wife, Susan is no slouch on the axe herself.  The last two songs were covers.  “Sing a Simple Song” and “Space Captain”, bridged by a solid drum solo by the bands dual drummers.  Here’s a version of the Sly and the Family Stone song:

And here’s one of Space Captain:

And it was every bit as good today without the guest musicians.  These guys are great and were the highlight of my day.

From there I wandered close to the second stage and listened to a bit of the Funky Meters.  I really somehow expected more.  It sounded good, but having just been floored by Tedeschi Trucks they just didn’t really connect with me as much as I had hoped they would.  World class players, solid material.  Not sure why it wasn’t working for  me.

I headed for the food court before their set ended and grabbed some dinner.  That’s where I had a couple of nice conversations, just chatting about music.  One of the great things about a festival is the ways you tend to connect and chat with random folks.  I put the Funky Meters in my rearview mirror and headed over to the main stage to grab a spot for the Experience Hendrix set.  It promised to be nearly three hours of Hendrix music by an all-star line up.  It was the centerpiece of the day for me.  I squeezed my chair in my a nice couple and we chatted about music.  His daughter sings.  We traded stories and swapped names of bands to check out.  Good fun and it made the time zip by until the Hendrix set started.

It kicked off with Chris Layton, Billy Cox and Mato doing a somewhat ragged version of “Stone Free”….but hey, it’s Billy Cox!  It’s Chris Layton….I wanted to like it more than the reality.  The PA was acting up, the vocals rough and compared to the kick from Tedeschi Trucks a few minutes before, it was weak.

Ernie Isley was up next for a couple songs including “Manic Depression”, followed by Living Color.  The audio was a bit sorted out and I’d never seen Living Color before, so I was pretty please with their two cuts “Power of Soul” and “Crosstown Traffic”:

Eric Johnson came on for “Bold as Love”…but, it started to feel like one of those old package shows from the 50’s….guys would pop on play two songs and pop back off.  In that way, there wasn’t the usual cohesion of a band building, it was more like an iPod on shuffle….Isley, Reid, Johnson are all great players, but they never really had a chance to shine.  The parade continued, Dave Hidalgo, Cesar Rojas, Susan Tedeschi back out to sing “Little Wing”, then all off in favor of Robert Randolph.  These are some of my favorite players in the world.  Folks I’ve seen multiple times….and it just was a blur…and not one where it’s a blur of goodness.  A check my watch, check the next name off the list blur.

It sounds darn fine in that video.  So, it may have been the crowd, the weather…heck, who knows.  It just wasn’t as epic as I’d hoped it would be.

Brad Whitford and Jonny Lang came out and did “The Wind Cries Mary” and a nice version of “All Along the Watchtower”

By the time Steve Vai hit the stage I’d begun to plot my early escape to grab a shuttle bus ahead of the long lines.  Listened to this on the way out:

Frankly, he may be a good player, but Steve Vai has never worked for me.  His flashy moves are the complete opposite of the cool professionalism of someone like Derek Trucks.  I know it’s style thing, but his style just doesn’t work for me…sorry Steve.

I guess 2.5 hours of Hendrix covers is pretty much the same as 3 hours….it’s all covers, some of them darn good.  But, in a way, I’d rather pull out Are you Experienced? or Electric Ladyland and just listen to the real deal.

So, that’s day one of this two day event.  Not a disaster, just not as amazing as I’d hoped.  Four bands…one hit, one semi-miss and a couple in the middle.  It’ll be interesting to see how tomorrow stacks up.

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