Monday, August 13, 2007

Fall River Celebrates America

This year's annual festival had a great musical lineup, thanks to the Narrows Center for the Arts ' partnership with the city to bring in some top notch roots music acts such as Los Lobos and the Iguanas. In fact, the Narrows sponsored a whole stage to showcase the types of performers they bring to the area regularly and also to promote the upcoming Narrows Festival of the Arts in September. On Saturday, we got there around 6 pm and mistakenly entered into the carnival area. After going through metal detectors and having our bags searched by both FR police and National Guard, and making our way down the noisy and garish midway, I was rethinking the evening's plans, until I found out the music stages were on the opposite side, near the Heritage museum. We exited and re-entered into a much more relaxed environment and set up our chairs just to the right of the sound booth, just in time for Dave Mason, who started right on time at 6:30. I wasn't particularly psyched to see this this band, only being familiar with the 70's lite-rock hits such as "It's only you and me and we just disagree", but Joe reminded me that Dave Mason had been a member of Traffic. We really enjoyed the set, which ended up with jamming renditions of "Hey Mr. Fantasy", "All Along the Watchtower" and "Feelin' Alright".

Dave Mason

Between sets we met up with several friends, and had some delicious cacoila sandwiches (Portuguese style pork) from the local food vendor. Then Los Lobos came on around 8:00 pm. There was a large area fenced off, right in front of the stage for the local politicos and other VIP's so the rest of the audience was relatively far back and consisted mostly of chair & blanket sitters - but it wasn't hard to go up to the front/ sides to get a closer look and boogie a bit.

The highlight of the evening for many in attendance was the scheduled fireworks at 9:30 so the Los Lobos set was much shorter than usual, with fewer jams, and included more of the crowd pleasing numbers like "La Bamba" and "Good Lovin"; we called it the "Civic event" set. They were just getting going when they had to end it after the one encore of "Cinnamon Girl" so that the fireworks could begin on time. We watched a few minutes then made our way out, pausing to admire the spectacle over the water every so often, and were able to make a relatively quick escape, without getting tied up in traffic. This made Joe very happy!

These types of public festivals are different than other music festivals that attract a core group of fans, in that there are alot of people who are just there for an evening out regardless of the bands scheduled, because it was so inexpensive ($10 for a four-day wristband). But it's nice to see people in the audience who otherwise might not search out this type of music, and who may become new fans. That is how it was for the closing acts on the Narrows Stage Sunday night - Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles, followed by The Iguanas, one of our favorite bands from New Orleans. Sarah and her band played a very loud and rocking set.... perhaps the sound was turned up extra loud in anticipation of the 21-gun salute from the Battleship that was to take place at 7:20 pm, in tribute to our nations veterans ( and also to Jim Haskins, one of the festival's founders who had passed away during the year) . This was following a display of military exercises, known as a "tattoo", with bands and soldiers marching in formation. I caught some of that, including a moving rendition of "America the Beautiful" by the Army band and chorus.

21-gun salute

On my way back to the Narrows stage, which was still rocking, I passed an elderly gentleman who exclaimed, pointing to the Narrows tent, "Now that's how a band's supposed to sound!" Yeah you right, ROCK AND ROLL! When I returned to the Narrows stage, Sarah was closing out the show with an unamplified sing-along, walking around in the audience. By this time she no longer had to compete with the Battleship.

After about a half hour break, the Iguanas took the stage. The chairs were set up in a u-shaped pattern around a dancing area front & center. The Iguanas played a good set, but many people were filtering out because it was Sunday night. There were a few dancers up front, and a few kids dancing around, but most people remained seated, although they seemed to enjoy the music. When they did the song "The Liquor Dance" it was funny because it was a rather sober crowd. It starts out pretty good, and is easy to dance to but then kind of unwinds, to simulate the effects of alcohol. The new trumpet player was really great, and it took them a while to break out the accordion, but when they did the crowd cheered loudly. Joe Cabral, the sax player, remarked "wow I didn't know we were in accordion country here... "to more applause. So they went nuts on a few polkas and conjunto-sounding songs, much to the delight of the mostly still-seated but enthusiastic crowd.

Click here to see more of my photos from Fall River Celebrates America

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