27 July 2008
I SURViVED DEEP BLUES FESTiVAL 2008 and lived to tell it all!
"Some people complain that this isn't blues."
"I think speaking for myself, and i'd think Chris might agree as well, we really aren't too interested in purity or authenticity. I'm not interested in getting all Marsalis about it and keeping what I call blues in a bell jar on a shelf and putting up a bunch of signs that say No Picture Taking and No Interpreting unless wearing white cotton gloves after being approved by the blooze authority." -Rick Saunders
I'm back from the deep blues festival and as I suspected I had more fun than I should legally be allowed. I think I met about 97% of all the band members present and had 'em all sign my old acoustic guitar. That's like 150 people or something not to mention that I met a major percentage of the crowd in attendance as well. Coolest part was meeting folks I'd been in contact with for years online but had never met in real life. That and the bands whose music i'd written about but had never had the chance to see live ('cuz none of y'all ever come down to North Florida! Like I told pert near every last one of you you can do Jacksonville, Daytona, Gainesville, the shoot over to the panhandle and on to New Orleans. That's like another 4-5 gigs thru an area you'd probably just drive above. Holler for help as to where to play!) The only bad thing, for myself, is discovering i'm not 23 let alone 27 anymore and drinking Jack at 10:30am is just something that sensible grown ups don't normally do. But fck sensible. I'm too old for sensible. The Deep Blues Festival ain't about sensible. If it was it wouldn't have survived. It would be just another hind-tit music festival that was all about money money money instead of being about what matters: The Music,dude! That's about as pure as DBF gets. Chris operated this fkr at a deficit again this year tho not near as bad as last year. Last year we we're just up against Dick Cheney's control of the weather. This year we had great weather...maybe a touch too hot (hint hint Dick!)except when Honkeyfinger did his set which seemed to set off the tornado sirens and caused it to rain for about 45 minutes. But we were indeed up against high fuel costs and a lot of good folks still suffering from the midwest floods. But none the less we had a great crowd who you could tell just really dug the music. And they damn well should have. Each day started out with a set of newer-ish bands (some of the DBF musicians were solo but i'm just gonna say bands for the sake of typing simplicity)who, like the rest of the bands were up against what I would consider a three strike scenario:
1) Playing in broad daylight.
2) Playing outside.
3) Playing a 30-45 minute set. Most bands are just getting wrmed up at 20 minutes.
So if you can deal with those three handicaps and still play a decent set then you got something happening. But every band totally over came and rose above to the point where it just seemed that as great as each band was every band that followed was even better...which I mean as no slight to anyone. The way I look at it is to just imagine the best mixtape you've ever heard. Chris Johnson and the bands finely crafted a three day long ultimate punkass blues n' new roots mixtape. And once again, just like I wrote last year about what Black Diamond Heavies drummer Van Campbell had said, it just had a family reunion vibe to the whole fest. Nick of American Relay mentioned that most of the bands had been circling around each other over the last couple years either being aware of one another or playing the occasional gig together but to get to see and hear and hang with all the bands you respect is really something special. I think that's really what makes the Deep Blues Festival special. It's basically an ego free festival. Oh sure all the bands are playing their best trying to dust all the other bands but it's done outta respect. The other sweet aspect is the availability of the bands to the fans. If you want to meet the Black Diamond Heavies chances are they are standing next to you diggin' the same band you are. Were there any real standouts for me? Well sure. I seriously dug every band but for me personally Mudlow from the UK was a huge thrill. I've championed those guys for a few years now but never thought i'd get to meet them. Let alone introduce them to the crowd. Not only were they as great live going up against the three strikes I mentioned before but they were great people as well. Honkeyfinger , too, was just a stunning performer. A lot of love goes out to Chris Johnson for working so hard to get those guys there. They were the two bands out of all that I wanted to see the most simply because the chance of me getting to the UK anytime soon is slim and Chris stuck with them thru the visa hassles and all. Salute, Chris! Black Smokers from Italy really amazed as well. It cracked me up that due to the language barrier we couldn't hold a conversation but onstage they spoke the international language of kicking some ass. Another standout was A Night In The Box. A local MSP band. They were added late in the game and i'm sure everyone will agree with me that they were a real highlite. Tight set with the aire of seasoned road pros. Of course seeing the amazing Dexter Romweber was something that i'll always treasure. His sister Sara I have to rank as the best drummer he's ever had. She really gets him and his music. To be honest I could just go ahead and list every band that played DBF as stand-outs. I was not disappointed in anyone. Scott Biram debuted a new country song that was simply gorgeous and if it's an example of what we can expect from his next album...whoa. The only negative thing I could possibly say is that I just plain did not have enough time to sit down and talk with and get to know all the people that I wanted to. Deep Blues Festival gave me the opportunity to meet some truly amazing people from the bands to many of the fans (cheers to the lads of Speaking Tongues from Toronto for driving 18hrs!) to film makers like Cuzn Wildweed and Marc Littler from Slowboat films as well as artist Christoph Mueller, Bruce Watson from Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess Records and Willem Maker, Mike Powers of Yellowdog Records, the brilliant photographers like Candise and the guy shooting portraits of all the bands that let me horn in on his shots, Bryan from Nine Bullets blog, Oyvind Pharo from Norway, DJ Hillfunk and his lovely Sue from the UK, all the local MSP/Wiscon boys... this list could go on and on and on. Bottom line this festival was a highlite of my life and to everyone I met or didn't but shoulda and to everyone who helped out with the Deep Blues Festival, Stacy, Jay aka DJ HWY 7, Tiina, Mutt (thx for the awesome hospitality!) and to the amazing Chris Johnson: Thank You. It was an exausting, invigorating and inspiring weekend thanks to a dude from Hudson Wisconsin. Thanks again Chris.
DEEP BLUES FESTiVAL 2009 is ON and advance tickets are available HERE The size and scope of DBF '09 will depend on YOU buying an advance ticket. Have you ever wanted to get in on the ground floor of something fkn HUGE? Now's yr chance.