Festival takes- Blues Under the Bridge 2014, Colorado Springs, CO 7/19/14
We return to the coolest spot on a hot summer day in Colorado Springs– the flatbed stage under the Colorado Avenue bridge next to the railroad tracks….
The first time I ever saw Neil Young, he was dressed in buckskin head to toe fronting Buffalo Springfield on American Bandstand, lip-synching ” Mr. Soul ” to a bewildered Dick Clark and at least one transfixed kid in South Jersey. So it didn’t take any of the Colorado brownies that drummer Rick Shelton was calling for to have me flashing back to Shakey on AB as Memphis blues/rock stalwart Alvin Youngblood Hart cranked out ” Mr. Soul ” on the heels of Neil’s (as Alvin said, ” our favorite Canadian…Gordon Lightfoot!”) ” White Line “, near the end of a hard rocking set in America’s Most Evangelical City. Reaching back to R.L. Burnside and Fred McDowell with his own, ” Big Mama’s Door “, over to Doug Sahm with ” I’m Just A Country Boy “, back to his zany ” I’m Watching Brian Jones ” ( ” I was at my house watching this documentary called ” Stoned ” about Brian Jones, and I wrote this..” ), and even to ” the King…Otis Redding “, Alvin and his Muscle Theory Band covered broad blues/rock territory to blistering effect. Slowing down only for ” our death song “, the swirling slide blues of ” In My Time of Dyin’ “, one of several festival tributes to the recently passed Johnny Winter, Hart played and sang with conviction, displaying strong voice and surprising rockstar guitar chops for a guy known as a blues artist.
Hart’s set was masterful, but he had a tough act to follow. The wildest crowd response of the day was for Aussie singer/guitarist Kara Grainger, whose powerful vocals, tasty guitar licks, and well-crafted original tunes had the crowd on its feet, insisting that the band keep playing despite the repeated announcements of the tight fest schedule. The affable Kara seemed stunned by the overwhelming response, and gladly obliged with an encore.
After a rousing version of Mose Allison’s ” Your Mind Is On Vacation ” , Kara noted, ” that oughta be my theme song! ” She even tackled Etta James’ torchy slow burner, ” I Would Rather Go Blind “, a challenge for any singer. As John Mayall said, ” the slow blues are the hardest; you can hear every mistake “.
It ain’t easy being the only girl in the lineup, and like Samantha Fish and Ana Popovic, surely Kara has to overcome the ” yeah, she’s hot, but can she play? ” stigma in a genre whose fan demographic is increasingly aging and male. Her songwriting may set her apart should her singing and playing be taken for granted. You go, Kara!
The Wichita, Kansas-based Moreland and Arbuckle play what Moreland once described as ” electrified Mississippi blues with a sludgy, jam-oriented rock thing “. The highlight of their set was Arbuckle’s virtuoso wailing on Little Walter Jacobs’ signature tune ” Juke “. The guys laughed off several trains passing close behind the stage, and consistently had the crowd up dancing to their rolling roots sound.
The self-taught teen prodigy Austin Young has been onstage since age 12, and the Colorado native is well known to Pikes Peak Region blues fans and Under the Bridge attendees. Heavily influenced by traditional bluesmen like Robert Johnson and inspired by Henrix, Clapton, and Stevie Ray, the young Austin is technically proficient and a polished performer. His own Johnny Winter tribute, Clapton’s Cream classic ” Outside Woman Blues ” , showcased his substantial chops and enthusiastic stage presence. Catch this guy while he’s still playing small venues!
Many thanks to the Pikes Peak blues community for another outstanding lineup and smoothly run festival; our apologies for skipping headliner Sugaray Rayford’s set:
” Well, you know that you’re over the hill, when your mind makes a promise that your body can’t fill..” – Paul and G. P. Barrere; Little Feat- ” Old Folks Boogie ”
— your faithful mountain correspondent, Nanker Phledge