Monday, August 27, 2012

Roots and Blues

This year marked my third Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival.

I am getting into the routine: buy the early bird festival pass in February; purchase a low festival chair that can be carried as a back-pack; study; pre-study the festival schedule so that I don’t miss any of the good bands; take cash or a credit card in case the vendors have interesting merchandize or I want to get a signed CD from one of the performers; arm myself with a blanket, a large hat to ward off the 30 degree Celsius heat; and  take a warm coat for when the sun sinks behind Mount Ida.

Mount Ida is peak in background
rounded hills in front are lava spill
Glen sat beside me for a few minutes and gave me a forestry talk.

The view looking toward the Main Stage and then behind it, is of the pointed volcanic structure of Mount Ida itself “Look at Mount Ida.

How could a festival have a more beautiful setting? . The hills in front of the peak are the lava that was spewed out during one of its eruptions. Dig down about eight feet through the valley and you will find the layer of ash that was spread during the eruption.”

“Is that layer even out at our house?”, I asked.

“Yes,” said Glen, looking back again toward Mount Ida, now changing the subject admiring the wisps of clouds in the blue, blue sky.

... evening begins to fall ...
While Glen and I were in silent thought looking toward the south, the performers look toward the north and say nothing of the view we are seeing. Instead they are rapturous about the view in the other diretion, toward the mountains that surround the lake. Cold Specks, a gutsy Ontario singer, with a rough-edged dark, velvety gospel voice, said it best. “I have been on the road for three weeks across Canada and there is no view like the one I am seeing tonight.”

Amongst a plethora of blues and jazz styles and combos, she is the one who stepped up to the mike with no instruments – not behind her or in her arms. She took the boldest of performance chances, introducing us to her voice a capella, letting the rhythms and style speak for themselves. I hung on the sound of her notes and the perfect articulation of every word.

The competition for “wasn’t that the best band ever” award was stiff. Five Alarm Funk are full of delirious dance moves and head banging action. A crazy group that give new meaning to post-modernism in music. I take my chair to the CBC Blues Stage and only move change positions when I need to walk or find some food. Each year I decide that next year, I am going to get up and dance in the pit with all of the other flower-power children of my generation. But this was not that year. There is just an edge to propriety for those over 70 that I can’t let go of yet.

I am going to list my personal favorites of the festival: Coco Montoya (USA), the Boogie Patrol (AB) – jamming with 2 other bands, Hazmat Modine (NY), Bettye LaVette (USA) and Kirby Sewell Band (AB). Hard to believe I live in Calgary and haven’t heard Sewell’s interpretive blues voice before. Well, hard to realize until I remember I may live in Calgary, but I don’t come home much anymore. If I change that pattern this winter, I hope to hear the Sewell group at the High Performance Rodeo in January, or wherever they make their local appearances.

I missed one of the bands that Bonnie Wyora loved the most.
me ... trying to figure out which bands I missed while alseep

In a 12 hour day at the festival, there comes a point where I can lay on the grass and be sound asleep, or as Bonnie Wyora wondered, “Has she had a stroke, and if so, I will tend to her after the current band stops – they are just too good to be interrupted.” Ah yes, Blues Festivals – while the sound may be perfect from the disk in the comfort of your own home, the immediacy of the live performances is also paralyzing to the listener, both those asleep and those awake.


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