Sunday, September 16, 2007

Soggy finish doesn't dampen great Telluride weekend

By Dan Ruby

Not even a steady rainfall could dampen fans' enthusiasm during The Black Crowe's closing set Sunday night at the Telluride Blues & Brews festival. Some dramatic flashes of thunder and lightning accompanied the band's flashy performance.

Maybe it's that the Colorado locals are used to it, but most in the audience pulled on their rain shells and panchos and continued to boogie. After a near-perfect festival weekend, fans wanted to savor the closing act. Very few of them headed for the exits.

On stage, Crowes lead singer Chris Robinson commended the audience, remarking that "you mountain people can show flatlanders how to play in the rain."

It was a satisfying close to a weekend full of highlights. Some of the top musical stories for me were:

• The incendiary playing of a host of New Orleans musicians, capped off with a great penultimate Sunday set by The Radiators with Bonerama. The spirit of New Orleans was captured in a mini Mardi Gras celebration while Chubby Carrier played a medley of "Hey Pocky Way" and "Iko Iko."

• The hardest working person at the festival had to be Henry Butler, the great New Orleans piano player, who played main stage and late night sets with both Rhythm Council and John Mooney's Bluesiana. During the outstanding set by steel guitarist Robert Randolph, I watched Butler as he grooved along to the music.

• Each of the headliners--The Black Crowes, Keb' Mo' and Los Lonely Boys--lived up to expectations, but the true revelation was the number of lesser known artists who impressed. I'll acknowledge there are plenty of gaps in my knowledge of contemporary blues players. This weekend, I was introduced to musicians like Joe Bonamassa, John Mooney, Eric Lindell, Marc Ford and more that blew me away with their playing chops and musical taste.

• The women's division of hot young players was well represented by Grace Potter in a well received return engagement from last year and Ana Popovic in a eye-popping review. Both performers trade on their sex appeal but in both cases the easy-on-the-eyes performance poses did not substitute for real talent and ability to entertain. The blues ain't just for men anymore.

• David 'Honeyboy' Edwards was a revelation. You probably thought that the early blues pioneers were all history, but Edwards has been picking acoustic blues guitar since the 1930s, when he is said to have known the legendary Robert Johnson. In a festival dominated by the sounds of New Orleans, Edwards' performance was a nod to other centers of blues history, Chicago and the Mississippi Delta

The festival introduced several innovations in its 14th year. Getting on board the green festival movement, Telluride Blues & Brews was announced to be 100 percent carbon neutral, accomplished through a partnership with Green Mountain Energy and Sustainable Waves. Attendees had an opportunity to offset their own energy impacts by purchasing a green ticket upgrade.

Also new was a Thursday night opening party, the Bal de Maison, at the Sheridan Opera House, featuring The Rhythm Council. This joins two nights of multiple juke joint options and a celebratory closing event, the Fais Do Do, also at the Sheridan, in the festival's extensive late-night program.

According to festival director Steve Gumbel, the event was a near sellout, with a capacity crowd on Saturday and strong numbers on Friday and Sunday. Sales of the late night events was also strong, with several of the juke joint concerts turning away ticket holders, who spilled over into the other late-night venues.

Overall it was an exceptionally well run and artistically satisfying festivals. The program pulled in a great many eclectic musical styles, all held together by a love and respect for the 12-bar blues.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well thank the lord you finally found a near perfect festival!!!!!!!!!