Rainy Day Blues
Sunday saw rain off and on, with one pretty solid downpour mid-afternoon. Then the fog rolled in. Undoubtedly the weather kept the attendance down, particularly because no one wants to sit on wet, muddy grass while picnicking on the Pritzker Pavilion's oversized lawn. Despite the impediments, more than a few hardy souls showed up for a solid day of blues music. By the time Mavis Staples took the stage, the red bowl of seats were pretty much filled, with people dancing on the concrete walkways.
Over the years, I have become less enamored with the hard rock sound that groups like Led Zeppelin, Foghat, Savoy Brown injected into the blues during the early-Seventies. Consequently, I was pleased to see the festival offer stage time to the likes of Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton, a connoisseur of Southern acoustic blues, the Cash Box Kings, who plug-in, but understate the electricity, and Piedmont Bluz (the husband and wife team of Valerie and Ben Turner), who practice a highly sophisticated form of acoustic finger-picking blues.
Probably the funniest moment of the day came when Paxton took out his cellphone. He apologized for doing that, indicating that he was not bored with us or the music. He was just turning off his phone because his mother has a tendency to call whenever he is on stage performing. Ah, mothers. Somebody could write a dozen or so blues songs about mothers.
There was no shortage of performers who overpower with volume. Opening the day's festivities on the Harris Theatre rooftop stage was Melody Angel, who, like many of the performers, has family roots deep in Chicago Blues--in Angel's case, Otis Rush, who is her cousin. Angel is a guitar virtuoso who has an obvious love of Jimi Hendrix. In case you miss it in the music, that love is expressed with an image of Jimi on her guitar, as well as one of Chuck Berry. I've seen her before, and she is a powerful performer, with a deep voice.
There was also Kenny Neal, whose father was blues harpist Raful Neal. At first I was a bit bored, but by the end of the set, Kenny managed to win me over with some electric blues. Toward the end of his set, Neal brought out Lonnie Baker Brooks, another guitarist who is carrying on family tradition.
Opening the evening performances was Fantastic Negrito, a performer who combines Sgt. Pepper, Prince, and a bit of Hendrix psychedelia. He certainly was the most colorfully attired performer of the weekend. I am not sure why he was playing a blues festival, but his set was interesting, although at times a bit boring despite all the hoopla. Do we really need a seven minute chant about Sasquatch--at least that was what I thought it was about?
I particularly enjoyed Terrence Simien & the Zydeco Experience. Unfortunately, I only caught one song. Next year, I will have to pay more attention to the schedule. I love that squeezebox.
After getting my front-row seat for Mavis Staples' closing performance, I headed back to the Crossroads Stage for one last shot. This time it was Joe Louis Walker, who I last saw in Paris performing with, of all people, Archie Shepp. Walker is a solid player, and as usual, he demonstrated why he is an in-demand player.
As I have noted in a separate post, for me, the highlight of the entire festival was a "tear the roof off" performance by Mavis Staples, who I had the pleasure of seeing with the Staple Singers when Pops was still alive. She is just as great today as she was back then.
Another Sultry Blues from Diunna Greenleaf
Fantastic Negrito has a Prince/Sgt. Pepper Thing Going On
The King of Attitude: The Player for Fantastic Negrito
Kenny Neal Shredding on a Worn Fender
Lonnie Baker Brooks with Kenny Neal
Harmonica Hinds Always Smartly Dressed and Sounding Good
Blind Boy Paxton on Country Blues Guitar
Blind Boy Paxton on an Instrument that Came from Senegal
The Blues Guitar Phenom: Melody Angel
"Shine a Light on Me"
Coming Down Hard
Terrance Simien Brings the Zydeco Experience to Chicago
Adding Some Spice to the Gumbo
A Touch of Trumpet
Valerie Turner Plays Dobro with Piedmont Bluz
Dobro and Hands
Jamiah Rogers Lets It Rip
Joe Louis Walker Plays Hard
Billy Flynn Playing with the Cash Box Kings
Laying the Foundation
Photographer's Notes: Never again. I shot the festival with my cameras on mid and high-drive modes, which means press the shutter, and you get a burst of between three and eight photographs. It is great for overcoming "cow-tongue" (the singer's mouth open with his or her tongue in the up position). The problem: I ended up with close to 8,500 files over the three days--that is not an exaggeration. I spent much of the week deleting files. I am now down to 500. Half of those will get deleted in the coming weeks once I determined that I don't need any other photographs from this project. To make sure I get the shot, I am going back to chimping.