Festival takes– Florida Blues and Music Festival, Sarasota Fairgrounds, Sarasota, FL 10/26/13
” In Sarasota as a child my grandparents lived next door.. to the surviving Wallendas and their amazing wild stories..” – Patterson Hood, DBT: ” The Flying Wallendas “
” Way, way down in Florida.. where the sun shine damn near ev’ry day ..” – Muddy Waters
John Ringling built this town on circus money, and despite its snooty side, the place still digs a good live show, with musical Wallendas walking the wire without a net. Blues fans from all over the Southeast, some of whom were freshly off the Legendary Blues Cruise just like Samantha Fish, packed the Fairgrounds for a gorgeous Gulf Coast day of sunshine, craft beers, and outstanding local and national blues acts. While most were drawn by the well-known Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, organizers and promoters were well served by showcasing local notables in the opening act, and revealing breaking stars in the run-up to KWSB’s rousing finale.
Local veterans Big T and the Tornadoes welcomed the early arrivals with an upbeat set of blues rock, with an alternating cast of local female blues singers. This produced some interesting tandems, and gave needed exposure to artists who rarely see an audience of several thousand blues fans.
The Fairgrounds were filling up when Samantha Fish began tuning and sound checking, and fans quickly hustled to their spots to catch this rising blues star from Kansas City. First noticed in the Girls With Guitars project with Cassie Taylor and Dani Wilde, Samantha has managed to grow gracefully, wisely choosing veteran blues man Mike Zito to produce her new CD, Black Wind Howlin’. Her Sarasota set included several cuts from this fine release, including ” Go To Hell “, ” Sucker Born “, ” Foolin’ Me ” , and a searing version of the title track. Perhaps playing to the crowd of aging boomers, Samantha closed with the Black Sabbath classic ” War Pigs “, released years before Ms. Fish was born. A credible version, passionately rendered, brought the Thurston Howell-ites to their feet and a huge grin from Samantha as she confidently strode offstage in triumph. Having seen Grace Potter close a show at Red Rocks this summer with the same 40-year-old cover, it begs the question? Who turned these nice girls onto Black Sabbath?
The old show biz saw speaks of the ” tough act to follow” , and after Samantha, it was tough to get worked up over Big Chubby and the later Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, and one would hopefully be forgiven for taking their sets as an opportunity to sample the local craft IPAs and great barbecue. And in fairness to those fine artists, the distractions of the local scenery may have lead even your faithful correspondent to miss their well-received sets, although there may have been some slow grinding on the dance field to Chubby’s surprisingly effective cover of ” Hallelujah “. And since we’re begging questions, what is it about Leonard Cohen that makes women melt?
When he hit the national scene years ago, at about the same time as Jonny Lang, Chris Duarte, and some other Next Big Things, Kenny Wayne Shepherd was thought to be the most talented guitarist of the bunch, but not a compelling vocalist. Problem solved! KSW hooked up with singer Noah Hunt in 1998 and the rest, as they say, is history. Kenny’s affinity and confidence in Noah is evident onstage, and with a stellar band of Chris Layton on drums, Tony Franklin on bass, and Riley Osbourn on keys, Kenny is free to simply shred, which he did, to the crowd’s delight. A thoroughly professional and tight set was capped by early favorite ” Blue On Black “, with the chorus sung by many longtime fans. Kenny then announced that this was the point where most bands would ” go offstage and act like they’re not coming back” for an encore, but decried this practice as depriving fans of time to hear the band, stating that they’d just stay onstage and play as long as time permitted. Hoorah! And tear it up they did, closing with a phenomenal version of Hendrix’s ” Voodoo Child ” from the seminal Electric Ladyland album, which is still the acid test of any electric blues guitarist’s chops. Kenny effortlessly delivered the finest version of this chestnut I’ve heard since Stevie Ray Vaughan some thirty years ago, whipping the aging crowd ( many of whom were rockin’ Hendrix t-shirts ) into last-gasp frenzy.
The seemingly ubiquitous Mr. Phledge would like to thank his Probation Officer for permitting him to attend this event.