… and, just for a change, I’m not talking about the farces of Law and Order either.
What we have here is a “suspicious package” in the middle of the festival, and everywhere is cordoned off by the police.
But what we do have is two of the Festival volunteers, pushing (and I DO mean pushing) people out of the way, yelling at everyone, and generally being on a major control freak exercise. I asked them what was going on and they told me that it’s “a police incident”. And so when I asked what kind of “incident” I was told that it was nothing to do with me.
And when I asked them how come, as festival employees, they were dealing with a “police incident”, they walked away. And so when I asked them if I could ask another question, one of them replied “yes, I DO mind. I’m not answering”, and carried on walking away.
And so I went 20 yards further on to a police officer, who made a full and complete statement without any inhibitions, even telling me that “no-one is taking it very seriously but we have to check it out just the same”.
But this kind of behaviour by festival employees, assaulting members of the public (because pushing someone is an assault of course and had it been me on the receiving end of it then the matter would not have rested there), being aggressive and abandoning their festival duties in order to go on a major power trip is something that is inevitably going to have repercussions as far as the festival is concerned.
And not only that, on the main street I counted at least two other “acts” that included backing tapes. Whatever is the festival coming to, that it is abandoning the principles under which it was founded?
If you are a solo performer and need more than just a guitar, then this is exactly how you do it.
This is a guy from Montreal called Steve Hill and he’s playing guitar and singing. And not only that, if you have a closer look at the photo you’ll see that he has a bass drum, another drum, a hi-hat, a tambourine and a set of cymbals, that he plays by hitting them with some kind of extension fastened to his guitar.
He had another guitar too, and that had a maracca attached to the end as well so he could shake his maraccas during the performance.
I was amazed to see that he didn’t have a mouth-truss and a gob-iron, which was what I would have expected to see in a solo performer, and I did have a little muse to myself that had he had a really good plate of baked beans for lunch he could have played the trumpet too.
But I’m a big fan of one-man shows and I have appeared in several, but these were usually named after the size of the audience.
But joking apart, I do have to say that I really enjoyed his performance. He was certainly a very competent performer and he had quite a good voice too.
This is what being a solo performer is all about. Using backing tapes and the like is selling the public, and the festival, short.
Talking of mouth trusses and gob-irons, this is what I mean.
This is a guy called Oland Monteith and he comes from up the road in Nackawic, and he is an excellent representation of what the festival is all about – the old man sitting on the porch with the guitar and mouth organ singing the blues – in this case the Folsom Prison Blues.
You might – or might not – have realised this, but this is the FIRST real old-man blues act that we have seen at the festival. And by the time that the festival had finished, this was the only one that I had encountered.
What a let-down from the days when I first came to the festival and we had raft after raft of old men singing the blues. Of course, I’ve not had the blues for years – ever since I started on the Prozac of course.
As for other unusual acts, how about this one?
This is the North Mississippi Allstars and if you look very carefully at the stage and the musicians, you will notice that they have one singer-guitarist and two drummers.
And that’s your lot.
You might think that the sound that they would be able to create would be rather limited, but nothing could be further from the truth.
They managed to put in a “complete” performance that certainly sounded as if there was nothing missing from the show, and it all went down rather well. Much better than I had expected.
And with all of the above, just WHY do you need backing tapes? And just WHY are you allowed to get away with it at the festival?
And so this morning I was up quite nice and early and had plenty of time to have breakfast and do the paperwork from yesterday without any interruptions.
But I did have an interruption while I was driving into town. However, this was something of a quite welcome interruption. You may remember that I’d sent a note backstage to Ross Neilsen during his performance yesterday, And this was him, ringing me back.
We had quite a lengthy chat, and the result of this is that he will indeed do something for Radio Anglais and that can only be good news. If what he sends me is as powerful as what he performed yesterday then our listeners really will enjoy themselves.
That’s not all either. At a Charity Shop, Strawberry Moose made a few new friends – a couple of girls aged about 8 or 9 were very keen to make his acquaintance while I was having a long chat with their mother.
And so to the music.
We’ve already seen a couple of acts, right out of running order. The first band that we actually encountered, in strict running order, was Greensky Bluegrass. They come from that well-known haunt of legendary bluegrass music … errr … Minnesota.
Bluegrass is a long way from being my favourite style of music as you all very well know, but good music is good music, no matter what it is and where it comes from.
But this bluegrass music was so astonishingly good that I doubt if I’ve ever in all my life had a better time at this kind of concert
We media-types are only allowed to be there for the first three numbers but I was there for probably three quarters of an hour because one of their numbers seemed to go on for ever.
Not that I minded, of course. I could have stayed there all night and listened to them, if I hadn’t had so many other things to be dealing with.
There were five musicians on stage – and no drummer, which they didn’t need anyway because the guy on the upright bass was a stunning performer who kept perfect time.
They aren’t really suitable for a performance on Radio Anglais unfortunately, but I’ll be checking them out when I return home to see what else they can come up with.
On my way to my next venue I passed by the Barracks Tent. There was no performance scheduled for there, but there was certainly something going on.
One of the benefits of my media pass is to be able to enter venues when they are officially closed, and so I went in to investigate, and found myself face-to-face with Yukon Blonde doing a sound check.
Yukon blonde’s bassist, as well as being a left-hooker, comes from the UK, which was evident when he shouted across the stage “there’s something the ma”er with your speaker” – not a trace of a ‘t’ between two vowels. I hope that he doesn’t sing like this.
But that apart, they were quite a good group too.
I doubted very much that I would be around for their act, seeing as it was timed for 23:00, long after my bed-time, and so I stayed around for the entire sound check.
And it wasn’t a wasted experience either because, as I said, they put out quite a good performance even if it was only a simple sound-check. A shame that their set wasn’t timed for earlier.
Down at the Mojo Tent, Raoul and the Big Time were due to come on stage and so I needed to get a move on if I wanted to catch the act.
This looked like something out of the 1950s, what with the shiny grey suit and pork-pie hat, and this was indeed what we got. Appearances were certainly not deceptive in this case.
Despite the presence of the mouth organ, this was another very good, competent performance.
It seems that Raoul, whoever he is, is something of a well-known performer on the music stage although I have to admit to never having heard him before. And to be honest, it wasn’t my cup of tea and so I wandered off elsewhere.
“Elsewhere” turned out to be tea. There was quite a big gap between the next performances and so I went off to find some food.
We’re overwhelmed by food stalls this year and vegan food is quite popular. Tonight I had 6 hot-vegetable samosas, for $7:00 – and they were totally delicious – and very filling too. I’m doing well for food at the festival and, to my surprise, it’s not as expensive as it might have been.
My wanderings took me back at the Mojo Tent (we’ve seen the photos of Steve Hill in the Blues Tent earlier) where Amy Helm and the Handsome Strangers was the next act.
Now let’s forget the music for a moment – let’s talk about Amy Helm, because she was well-worth talking about. She’s someone else of whom I hadn’t heard before, and so I went off to make enquiries.
It turns out that she’s the daughter of Levon Helm who for many years was a member of the band “The Hawks”, which later became “The Band” and backed Bob Dylan during his “rock” phases and went on to have successes of their own.
This was another act that wasn’t really up my street as far as the music went, but there was no doubting the quality of the music, and no doubting the quality of the performance either, because Amy Helm really knew how to put on a show.
She was an entertainer from start to finish and not only that, she clearly had the air of thoroughly enjoying herself on stage.
At the Barracks Tent, I went to see a band called Rah Rah, who come from Saskatchewan apparently.
They were a five-piece band featuring a guitarist-vocalist, a bassist, a violinist, a drummer and a keyboard player who doubled on guitar too, and they produced quite a powerful act that I enjoyed very much.
The sound mix was all wrong however and I couldn’t hear half of the instruments, although that’s not surprising for us in the media pit at the front of the stage.
I was disappointed not to be able to hear the violin though, and I shall have to go around for a fiddle with the violinist later.
Final act that I caught was back at the Mojo Tent where Waylon Thibodeaux took to the stage.
He’s a ‘cajun from down Louisiana way, and he and his back-up band played just like it too. It didn’t bother me too much because this kind of music is the kind that you can listen to anywhere on any occasion
And if it’s played in the right kind of spirit with performers who enjoy what they are doing and are able to communicate with the audience, it’s usually a rip-roaring night.
And so this was what we got – a thoroughly enjoyable evening with a good bunch of performers and a lively crowd.
But I didn’t hang around too long. It’s my last night and I want to have an early night as I’m back on the road tomorrow. But today, I had a pile of interesting chats, including one with a cameraman from CBC and another with a young guy at the Rah Rah concert, to name but two.
It makes the time pass so much quicker and make things so much more interesting.
But I’m disappointed to see that the traditional “old-man blues” is no longer popular at the festival. For me, that’s what blues is all about and to legislate it out of the festival is a very sad thing as far as I am concerned.
And by the way …
… the photos that I’ve posted for tonight’s acts at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival are only a small sample of the hundreds that I took during the evening. If you want to see any more of those that I took, you’ll need to contact me. Leave a comment and I’ll be in touch.