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I've Got A Mind To Ramble
Garvin Gate Wrap Up
By Susan O'Neil
I spend all year long looking forward to the month of October, solely because of the Garvin Gate Blues festival, this year being the nineteenth edition. The Garvin Gate Blue Festival is the largest free neighborhood street music festival in our fine city.
It is not only the largest it is the finest Blues festival in this region: where else can you take in the historic Old Louisville neighborhood's ambiance and celebrate the Blues with a complete cross section of humanity? Where else can you eat soul food, purchase fine art and dance in the middle of the street to the live sounds of your favorite Blues band?
It all happens on the second weekend in October. This year's festival did not disappoint, as it was filled with the familiar sounds of some of my beloved friends and colleagues as well as many exciting Blues surprises.
It is no small undertaking to pull together such an extravaganza of entertainment in the heart of an historic neighborhood but Howard Rosenberg, Mike Suttles, John Paul and all of the wonderful volunteers and sponsors for the festival rose to the occasion like they do every year. In fact, they upped the game, which was executed with finesse in sometimes less than favorable conditions considering the weather this year.
Weather aside, this year's Garvin Gate Blues festival was a roaring success, beginning Friday night on the Four Roses Stage with Big Poppa Stampley turning in a rousing set of his authentic Bluesy sounds to a few unshakable music festival lovers. Immediately following his set, Mark "Big Poppa" Stampley was honored with the Kentuckiana Blues Society's Sylvester Weaver Award for his dedication to the Blues. Congratulations Mark, well deserved!
The Zakk Knight & Powerhouse band took the stage next as a fine rain fell on the crowd, which was, surprisingly, building as the evening progressed. With ponchos, umbrellas and various assorted rain gear, the audience's enthusiasm for this young power trio was not dampened. Zakk Knight, lead guitar player and band namesake, pulled off an electrifying set of rocking Blues with great maturity. I believe the average age for each member of this trio is 20, which speaks volumes to me, renewing my hope that the Blues is being perpetrated by our youth and will live on. Zakk and the guys were headed to Helena, Arkansas to play the King Biscuit Blues Festival on Saturday. This young man and his band is worth watching; I would bet he is going to do big things for the Blues.
Next on the lineup was DaMudcats featuring Susan O'Neil and Doug Lamb. What can I say other than we had an absolute blast playing our passion and soaking in the love and energy from the enthusiastic and dedicated friends, family and fans. I am so grateful for the opportunity to play the Blues with some of the best in the business. Gene Wickliffe, Rob Pickett, Mike Lynch and Doug Lamb make wonderful musical magic when they get together and I am the lucky lady that gets to sing the Blues with them. The 45 to 50 minute set went by like a blink of the eye and felt like pure Blues heaven. Thank you so much to all of the wonderful people who braved the elements to celebrate the Blues with us.
The Homemade Jamz Blues Band was the headliner on Friday evening. This young power trio from Tupelo, Mississippi consists of siblings Taya Perry, 16, Kyle Perry, 20 and Ryan Perry, 22. So young yet but very musically accomplished and steeped in the Blues. Yes, the rain came down and The Homemade Jamz Blues Band enchanted the enduring crowd with their raw talent and authentic Blues sounds. Young Ryan, lead singer and guitar player reminded my friend Pam Sasse and me of a young Robert Cray. Yep, I would say that the future of the Blues is in good hands with this kind of youthful talent traveling the world, playing what comes so naturally to them.
On Saturday, Mother Nature was in a little better mood than Friday, so on this cool overcast Saturday afternoon with a significant crowd of Blues enthusiasts, the Mississippi Adam Riggle Band kicked off the second day of the Garvin Gate Blues festival on the Four Roses Stage. This young man began his Blues odyssey at evleven years old in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he visited as a boy with his father. He would later return to Clarksdale and jam with real Bluesmen in the area, where he honed his skills learning how to play the Blues. You can feel and hear his passion for the music in his performances and the Garvin Gate performance was no exception.
Next up on the Four Roses Stage were Laurie Jane and the 45's. These youthful purveyors of the Blues hit the stage and delivered a hot set of covers and well-crafted originals. The growing crowd grooved to the exciting and dynamic blues rock sounds that emanated from this band. Laurie Jane Jessup has a wonderfully sweet delivery and is a gifted Blues vocalist. I love to listen to her and watch her as I can tell that she loves what she is doing. Guitar player Cort Duggins certainly knows his way around a blue note and does the Blues great justice. Rounding out the quartet is Jason Embry expertly spanking the upright bass and Jason Burden on drums. Knowing that Laurie Jane and the 45's are out there keeping the Blues tradition alive gives me great hope for the future of the Blues.
Songstress Tanita Gaines and her band were next up on the main stage bringing the crowd to their feet. Tanita is a Louisville treasure who has delighted audiences and schooled vocalists, myself included, many times over. She is the standard by which many of us vocalists aspire and she can sing anything. The Blues is no exception as Tanita, Mike Alger, Mike Lynch, & John Burgard played a delightful solid set of Blues and R&B to the Garvin Gate crowd.
While the Stella Vees prepared for their turn on the main stage, Pen Bogert and Billy Bird were turning up the heat on the Better Days Records stage on Garvin Place. That was my signal to head down the street and take in the Old Louisville ambiance and visit the various arts and crafts booths.
Another sign that the organizers of the festival upped their game this year was that there were many more vendors selling their merchandise than in years past. These artists and crafters offered a wide range of high quality and affordable products from fine art and concrete statues to hand made jewelry.
What a pleasure it was to meander down Garvin Place, checking out the vendors and listening to the traditional Blues sounds of Pen Bogert & Billy Bird. The smaller stage at the end of the street is a fantastic venue for acoustic acts such as Pen and Billy.
It was 5:45 and the Stella Vees are set to go on at the Four Roses Stage. The neighborhood was teaming with Blues and music lovers feasting on that thing that is the Garvin Gate Blues Festival, as they were ready to leap to their feet and dance in the street. Jason Lockwood, guitar and vocals, Mark Stein, guitar, Steve Parrish, drums and Michael Anderson, bass were the perfect combination for that occasion as they knocked out a robust set of West Coast Jump and Chicago Blues. Despite some sound problems, the Stella Vees delivered the goods and proved why they are revered all over the world, as they pay tribute to T Bone Walker, Little Walter and Magic Sam.
A festival highlight would definitely be The Louisville Harmonica Blowout, featuring Rick Cain, Denny Thornberry and Andrea Tanaro backed by the 100 Proof Blues Band. Lamont Gillispie was included on the bill but sadly was unable to perform due to illness. His band, 100 Proof, is David Witherspoon, guitar, Byron Davies, bass, Mark Bright, sax, Bill Dean, keyboard and Steve Holmes, drums. The band provided expert back-up for the featured harmonica players and they dedicated the set to their leader, Lamont, as he listened to the festival from home on 97.1 ART x FM, which was streaming live from Garvin Gate all weekend long. The radio hook-up was another nice addition this year to the festival.
Despite the absence of Lamont, 100 Proof and the featured harmonica players knocked it out of the park. This was a soulful Blues explosion as Andrea, Rick and Denny traded licks on harmonica and stepped out individually to sing and play. This combination was designed to satisfy everybody's Blues jones because each of the featured musicians has their own high-level style. Rick Cain's rich raspy growl, Denny Thornberry's pleasingly smooth croon and Andrea Tanaro's beautiful "in your face" vocal gymnastics electrified the atmosphere in the Garvin Gate neighborhood as the crowd grooved in a Blues frenzy.
The Ten Foot Polecats band has been described as naked and primitive and I could not agree more. Their sound finds it's roots in North Mississippi Hill country and has a raw infectious rhythm that will start the feet tapping and the head bobbing. This Boston trio was a real surprise and a refreshing departure from the other acts on the bill. Jay Scheffler, vocalist and harmonica, Jim Chelson, guitar and Chad Rousseau, drums, transported festival-goers straight to the Mississippi mud as the Ten Foot Polecat's loose rhythmic sounds pushed through the evening air.
The topper on the Garvin Gate Blues cake was Saturday night's headliner, Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets. Guitarist and bandleader Anson Funderburgh has credentials as long as your right arm, as he has played with Blues luminaries like Lightnin' Hopkins and Sam Meyers and recorded with The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
I was first introduced to Anson's Texas Jump Blues style in the late 80's when he played the Kentucky State Fair with Sam Meyers. Anson and the band quickly became Louisville favorites and returned to the city frequently to play the Blues for admiring fans.
Anson states that he learned his Blues guitar styling by listening to Blues greats like Freddie King, Jimmy Reed and Albert Collins. He and the Rockets turned in a tasty seamless set of smooth Delta Blues and Jump Blues that left this festival-goer satisfied that the Garvin Gate Blues Festival was a roaring success.
As Mike Suttles, Howard Rosenberg and John Paul put the 19th Garvin Gate Blues Festival to bed, my head is still teaming with fond memories and the music that makes this the best Blues festival in Louisville. Once again, I begin the yearlong journey to October 2015 in anticipation and great expectation for what Blues surprises Mr. Suttles has in store for us all at the 20th Garvin Gate Blues Festival.
For photos and information about the Garvin Gate Blues Festival, visit their facebook page and give it a big thumb up. You can also visit the Garvin Gate Blues Festival website at www. garvingatebluesfestival .com.
Until next time music lovers Peace, Love and The Blues.