Day Two of the festival didn’t disappoint. I was able to hear several new-to-me bands and hear three favorites, one for the first time.
Among the highlights was an introduction to Deke Dickerson. Originally from Columbia, MO, Deke is a well-respected guitarist and frontman in a variety of styles including rockabilly, surf rock, Western swing, and country. His guitar playing was impeccable and easily moved from style to style. His set was highlighted by a reunion with members of his high school band, Untamed Youth. All good stuff and an artist I will be following now.
As the afternoon progressed, I bounced back and forth between stages. I was able to hear parts of the sets from the Oh Hellos and the Jackie Greene Band. The Oh Hellos seemed to be heavily driven by literate lyrics that unfortunately were somewhat lost in the sound mix (vocals weren’t crisp for much of the weekend). Their set was punctuated by a large instrumental ensemble that added drama and tension to many of their songs ala Mumford and Sons. I enjoyed their set and expect to seek out more from them. I heard less of Jackie Greene but was impressed by solid songs and a captivating voice. In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d reversed my priorities for these two, but that is part of the festival experience.
By far the highlight of the day, the Mavericks were amazing. Originally out of Miami, FL, the Mavericks fuse country, rock, and Latin influences into a danceable, driving blend that had the entire crowd moving. Their stage presence is huge with soaring, Roy Orbison influenced vocals and showmanship from each member of the band. The keyboard player, Jerry Dale McFadden, was so into his exuberant dancing that he lost his balance and pulled the keyboard down on him as he fell. Amazingly, he didn’t miss a note as the stage crew came out to help him recover from the fall. Lead guitarist Eddie Perez’s swagger during his solos played the perfect foil to Raul Malo’s romantic leading man/vocalist. This set was about as close to pure fun and joy as the day could deliver. I highly recommend seeing the Mavericks live if you can.
In another compromise to the stage schedule, I was able to catch only the end of Sam Bush’s set. As always though, Sam delivered the goods. By the time I arrived though, he had entered the extended jam portion of his set, so I don’t know how much of his new album was performed. It would have been nice to see/hear the crowd reaction to what would have been a bit mellower Sam. He ended the set with a rousing 10-minute long version of Old Joe Clark which strayed into a wholly electric finish with Steve Mougin moving to electric guitar and Scott Vestal switching to an electric banjo processed through a synthesizer to make it sound like a keyboard. Along the way, they touched on at least four classic rock songs all before winding up back with Old Joe Clark. Vintage Sam.
On a side note, it was fun to see the mostly stunned expression of the folks sitting next to us after Sam’s set. They’d never seen him before and had no idea what to expect. After I answered a few of their questions about Sam’s background and accomplishments, Sam won two new fans yesterday.
The last of the new-to-me bands was The Devil Makes Three. A trio out of Santa Cruz, CA, they blend bluegrass, old time, country, folk, and blues into to their music. For this show, the they supplemented their sound with a drummer and occasional fiddle player. I enjoyed much of what they did, but in many ways their songs and stage presence didn’t seem to fit the size of the venue. Again, due to the mix their lyrics were often not able to be understood. I expect I would have enjoyed their set in a smaller, more intimate gathering. That being said, they seem to have a strong college following and enchanted the throng in front of the stage.
Ending the evening for me was one of the more highly anticipated sets of the weekend, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. This time without wife, Amanda Shires who is on tour to support her own acclaimed album, many of her fiddle parts were supplemented by the second lead guitar/slide guitar player (sorry, didn’t hear the introduction; maybe Browan Lollar?). Jason can certainly rock and keep the party going as he did with Super 8, but so much of his recent work is introspective and, quite frankly, sad. Nonetheless, the crowd was into it and sang along to songs like Alabama Pines, 24 Frames, If It Takes a Lifetime, How to Forget, Traveling Alone (dedicated to Amanda), and Cover Me Up. I’ve seen Jason twice now, each time at this festival, and I’ve loved what I’ve heard. I think it’s time now to hear him in a different venue to see how his show is different. Still, this set was an awesome end to a long day of music.
Life happens and unfortunately I will not be able to attend day 3 of the festival, so my chronicle will end with this blog. As always though, I’ll leave you with a few tunes. Thanks for reading.
Here’s Deke Dickerson doing what he does best:
One of the crowd favorites from the Mavericks, Back in Your Arms Again:
Lastly, here’s the opening track from Jason Isbell’s Americana Album of the Year, Something More Than Free, If It Takes a Lifetime: