Monday, August 25, 2008

Blues and Brews!

Buster & I had a great time Saturday, when we suited up and drove the Bluesmobile up to the Blues'N Brews Festival in Westford, MA. I'd been in touch with one of the festival organizers and they had us drive right onto the field in the stage area to display the car and pose for photos throughout the day.

Pretty much perfect weather... sunny, high 70's... but no cloud cover so the sun was a bit brutal during the middle of the day. I've got the sunburned forearms to prove it where I had my sleeves rolled up! Buster made out better as he used the umbrella I found in the Bluesmobile's trunk, though he wilted for a while in the heat anyway. By 2pm it was already improving and all was good. It was an all-day event, 11am-7pm. Since we were parked in the stage area we had to get there before they opened, at 10:30am, to park and then couldn't move the car again until after the grounds had cleared, around 7:30pm. So a long day.

The toughest part for us was certainly getting up at 8am, as we're well-known night-owls. Buster & I made a pact to try and get to bed by midnight the night before... and we did!

....Two hours later we both got up, since we weren't sleeping, had a quick snack and got to sleep around 3. Sigh.

The first band of the day was Jason James and the Bay State Houserockers... High-energy start to the day, Jason plays like Thorogood with lots of dance music, very enjoyable and must be awesome in a bar setting! Next was Ottomatic Slim, whom I'd heard of but knew nothing about... damn good harp player, put on a great show. For his last song he asked if he could bring a friend up to join him... and up came Magic Dick! Of course, there could only be one last song for Dickie... "Whammer Jammer" live, hadn't heard it from him in many years! I should'a videoed it but was too busy drooling at our luck. Highlight of the day!

Next came the Bruce Marshall Group, whom I've seen around a few times... great player, very tight band. The highlight here was a tribute to Robert Johnson he did with some beautiful slide guitar. Wonderful.

Next came The Love Dogs, another group I'd only heard about but they were quickly added to my list of local favorites! Very funky, good horn section... much like a slightly smaller Roomful of Blues, or a bluesier Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Awesome, fun stuff, and the one CD I bought that day was from them. Not to mention the lead singer, Eddie "Duato" Scheer, had the coolest purple suit we've seen in a while! From just a little bit of distance he looked like The Joker, but in a good way!

Lastly was the headliner, Ronnie Earl. Ronnie's an awesome Chicago-style guitarist, who loves to make his guitar cry and pull the emotion out. I've seen Ronnie before, though it'd been quite a while, and he's always fantastic!

The festival was holding a couple of charity auctions, one of which was for a gold-plated Lee Oscar harmonica signed by Dan Aykroyd. I bought two $5 tickets... but of course didn't win. Fortunately it was won by someone near us, so I at least got a good look at it afterwards:

Sorry for the focus, in the bright sunlight it looked like the photo came out better than it did, should'a used a macro mode. Ah well, you get the idea....

Also plenty of good beers to try all day, from all sorts of regional microbrewers. It was like the old "Happy Days" episode, where Richie tells his dad, "All they had was beer... in teeny little glasses!" "How many tiny little glasses did you have?" "72." I stopped with 12 though, over a 6-hour period, and each only 3.5 ounces; had to get Buster home safe, after all! (Didn't stop me from having a couple more "full size" brews after I got home though, along with my weekly glass of bourbon shared with Jake over the phone.)

So all in all a fantastic if very long (and tiring) day. Buster did well with the long day, and mostly enjoyed himself, but he's not sure he'll be up for another one this season. That's pretty understandable, and not something I'd push, so we'll see if we're done for the year. There's a couple more coming up over the next few weeks all nearby, but none we're expected at, so we'll just see how we feel week to week. Either way, August has been an awesome blues month!

(As always, there's additional photos on the Flickr site.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Blues God!

Buster & I, along with my sister and her friend, went to see Buddy Guy and George Thorogood last night at the Bank of America Pavilion (formerly and forever more "HarborLights") in Boston.

It certainly was a great show! My only "complaint", is Thorogood came on after Buddy. Don't get me wrong, I love Thorogood, but Buddy is after all a god. Still, it may be that Buddy didn't want to close, he came out and did an amazing 45-minute set, Thorogood did close to 90 minutes with multiple encores. So it made for a long night. (There was also a local band before Buddy.)

The show was actually opened by Peter Gammons... ESPN baseball correspondent ("The Commissioner"), who came out with Red Sox GM Theo Epstein to welcome us to the venue and then did his own 30-minute rock set (with Theo sitting in on a couple of songs.)

Buddy hasn't lost a step, he looks unbelievable for his age and didn't slow down. Most of our photos came out horrible (they're up on my Flickr site), but a couple came out nice:

As always Buddy went for a walk around the entire venue, playing a 15-minute guitar solo the whole time, here he is as he passed by our aisle (though his attention was elsewhere... as was mine!):

He did quite a few songs from his new CD ("Skin Deep") and was plugging it heavily, the material he played was all great. He also invited up Quinn Sullivan for a couple of songs, a local, 9-year-old guitar prodigy who blew everyone away, truly phenomenal! (Quinn appears on the CD as well for one song.)

Thorogood was also great as always, and had everyone on their feet (including Buster, who's a big Thorogood fan and knows most all his songs) dancing through his whole show.

A lot of folks were yelling for Buddy to come back out with George at the end, but no luck. I suspect that Buddy wanted to pour everything into his set and then be done.

We were exhausted by the time we left but yeah, a great great night.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Been To The Mountain!

Saturday night, I finally saw The Blues Brothers perform live. After almost 30 years! Buster and I went to the Foxwoods resort in Connecticut for the show, to see Elwood and Zee Blues (Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi) performing in front of the Sacred Hearts Band.

The show was electric. The moment the curtains went up the band blasted into a "Soul Finger" instrumental, the band members all lined up side by side at the front of the stage forming a wall of power pushing out into the audience, horns blaring. Wow! Elwood and Zee came out afterwards to a boogying John Lee Hooker-like riff, and broke into "Sweet Home Chicago". The show was powerful and relentless, it kept coming at you song after song, all great fun and fantastic music.

The Brothers did what they're known for... provided a fun-spirited, high energy package showcasing great music performed by an incredibly strong band. They covered the Blues Brothers "era" front to back, from the first "Briefcase Full of Blues" album ("Messin' With the Kid", "Almost", "Rubber Biscuit" and of course "Soul Man") through Dan and Jim's own "Have Love Will Travel" album from a few years back ("Have Love Will Travel", "300 Pounds of Joy", "Swinging Party" and "Driving Wheel", amongst others), and much from in between. Judy Salgado did a great rendition of "Natural Woman", that woman's got a voice on her! They closed by dedicating to "She Caught the Katy" to "Joliet" Jake (John Belushi), and finishing with "Soul Man". They encored with "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love/Love Light".

Though Elwood doesn't move quite as well as he used to (much like myself!), the choreography, while less manic than Back In The Day, was fun and well-suited to their abilities. Zee also spent quite a bit of time during numerous songs roaming the audience, and inviting others to dance... mostly the hot ladies, of course! (Excepting on "300 Pounds", where he was belly-wumping with a few other larger gentlemen from the crowd.)

Another special treat for me was the inclusion of James Montgomery playing harp with the band (instead of Jimmie Wood). James is a very dynamic harp player and a New England blues institution, I've seen him play many times over the past 20+ years and on several occasions have shared beers with him. (He actually used one of my harps in a show he did in Cambridge once... I swear I didn't think it could do the things he was doing with it!)

Buster loved the whole show and was dancing to many of the songs... dancing is his thing. He was the hit of the resort, too... though we'd hemmed and hawed about it we did end up going to the show in full Blues regalia, Elwood and Buster side-by-side, with the Bluesmobile in the garage.

We got so many compliments and were so comfortable in the suits (which I haven't often worn in public since Jake joined the Marines way back then) we were wondering, Why did we hesitate? It may be time to let Buster and Elwood Blues become more commonly known around New England. Let's see, we're going to a Buddy Guy/George Thorogood show in two weeks... and rumors persist about a possible return to the area by my own Joliet Jake within a couple of years....

After the show Jim Belushi, still in uniform, signed autographs in the lobby. I got a new copy of "Have Love Will Travel" autographed for Jake, and for myself asked him to autograph a clear peel-off mailing label that I then put on the Bluesmobile's dashboard. It'll do until I get a chance to get the car itself autographed one of these years... Buster also got an autograph and he's quite proud of that. Here's Zee autographing Jake's CD:

All in all a fantastic night. The concert itself, so long looked forward to, was so emotionally powerful to me that it was hard to recall specific sights and sounds even an hour afterwards... just the emotional high.

We also hooked up with a couple of friends we've met through the online Blues Brothers forums, and that was great... Marc "Stein529" from New Hampshire, and Adam "ElwoodJones" from Connecticut. Below Buster and I are pictured with EJ in front of the Bluesmobile after the show:

It was great seeing them (I'd met Marc once before, and regret I didn't catch up with him again after the show) and it's fun having a circle of Brothers in the area.

Now the next goal: to get to see a Blues Brothers show together with Jake! We had an extra ticket for him but he wasn't able to make the trip up from Missouri this time. But with the new House of Blues being built in Boston, we're hoping the Brothers will perform there when it opens and we'll be trying hard to score seats to that one. Keep the Faith.....

(Below, I couldn't bring myself to put "ELWOOD" on the knuckles for this show; there was only one Elwood in the house that night in my mind! So I tried something different:)

(There's also a few additional photos on my Flickr page, links at right.)