With all the doom and gloom in the forecast about the impending hurricane Earl, we didn't head down to Ninigret shortly after dawn as usual, so we got gypped out of our traditional Friday afternoon feast, not to mention the relaxation/ catchup/ socializing time.. it was all about Earl! But I was glad that some friends, including one who was driving in from Ohio, inspired me to come down later on Friday rather than wait until Saturday. I mean if she could drive 10 hours from Ohio I could certainly make it from Providence....what's a little rain? (which is all it turned out to be..... we've seen much worse with no warning at Grey Fox and other festivals) Having all of Friday night's performances in the dance-tent worked out really well - the sets were a bit abbreviated but once you were there you didn't have to leave... and the rain was not constant anyway, there were a few breaks so you could make your way to food/beer/bathroom. The dance floor was beautifully decorated with Mardi Gras masks, was not too crowded and everyone had a defiant yet relaxed "what-me-worry" attitude. It was fun to be part of it.
Red Stick Ramblers ruled the dance tent - too bad they couldn't stick around longer. And Little Freddy King was a treat to listen to and watch with his natty suits and snappy dance moves. He also sat in with the Red Sticks, as did Jesse Lege for the Cajun portion of their set.
The next 2 days were sunny and breezy not a cloud in the sky nor drop of rain. Once the rest of our party arrived and settled in I went down to catch the end of Little Freddy King on the main stage, then Horace Trahan and New Ossun Express, the host band for the weekend. I don't remember ever seeing them before (except the previous night), although Horace had played here with DL Menard several years ago. They were really good with a driving zydeco sound, with the addition of saxophone and flute on some songs (both played by the same guy). They covered some Fats Domino songs and Ray Charles as well as traditional zydeco numbers like "MotorDude Special" and "Uncle Bud".
Bonerama in the 5 pm time slot was, to me, the highlight of Saturday. They opened with "War Pigs" and closed with "Helter Skelter", and funked it up big time in between. Lots of people were up and dancing - they just couldn't sit still for the funky 'bones. Steve Riley joined them for at least one song, another Fats Domino tune I think - seemed like I heard a lot of Fats Donmino songs over the weekend, performed by several different artists. I don't think it was intentional - everyone was just in that rollicking kind of mood. Marcia Ball - who I'd already seen twice this year so I took my time getting there, was spectacular as always, especially when she had the 'bones join her on stage. She is such a pro.
I was not so thrilled with the Texas Tornadoes. Not being all that familiar with the "old" version of the band, even though I had heard some recordings of them before, all the references to the past didn't really resonate with me. The performance seemed kind of forced to me, with the lead singer continually yelling out things like "alright Rhode Island!" between songs. More Fats Domino and Swamp Pop songs in the jam at the end with Johnny Nicholas, Marcia Ball, Steve Riley and others. It was not bad, I just felt that it was too much of a tribute to a past we have not experienced and perhaps could not fully appreciate.
After having seen Donna the Buffalo do a 2.5 hour jam in the dance tent at Grey Fox earlier this summer, I skipped their set at the end of the night to go find some people to jam with in the campground. There was a big tent set up with what sounded like it could have been recorded music but turned out to be a live band, Shaky Ground out of Worcester, I think. It was less of an open jam, more of them just running through their set list with some extra percussionists and some guest singers. It was funky and many people were drawn to it, but unfortunately the amplified instruments dominated the whole after hours scene both Saturday and Sunday nights. Now I am the LAST one to complain about after hours jamming, and even drumming which I have no problem with as long as the drummers have rhythm. Participating in these after hours jams is one of the highlights of the fest to me. But this setup was a little too much, and surprisingly, it went on well into the wee hours. I did find some of my other jam-buddies in different campsites doing the acoustic thing as is the norm, and I was able to join them. But every time someone would finish a song it was hard to get your head around the next song, what with "Mustang Sally" and other bar-band classics, each of which lasted for at least 15 minutes, blaring through the night. If any area club owners are reading this, please book "Shaky Ground" next Labor Day weekend. You and your patrons will definitely get your money's worth!
Sunday started out with Danny Barnes trio, which was cool. I'd never heard him play electric like that. Then some dancing to Horace Trahan, but I missed the Texas Sheiks - musta been talking to someone or getting something to eat or something. There is just not enough time for everything one wants to do at these festivals! Got back to see CJ Chenier, they always perk everyone up in the late afternoon. It was hot by now so I went for a swim. I could hear both CJ and the Poullards as I splashed around in the pond. Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women was the best set of Sunday, with their rocking good tunes. Everyone wanted to hear more but they were strict about sticking to the schedule and no encore was allowed.
I have seen Steve Riley so many times I did not catch his main stage set which followed Dave Alvin; instead I went to see the Occidental Gypsy Jazz band, which was different and fun, then went back to camp and got back for some of Donna the Buffalo. Then we went back to the dance tent for some more CJ while Robert Randolph band got set up. They had about a dozen guitars and a few of those pedal steels and a huge drum kit....impressive I guess but it takes a long time to set up. Robert Randolph band was very energetic and had a good groove going, though it was repetitive at times. At least they had a good stage show, switching around on instruments, and balancing on top of the pedal steel. Among the songs I recognized were the Stones' Hip Shake, the current single "If I had my way", with some vintage recordings dubbed in the background, Doobie Bros "0ld Black Water", some Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin riffs. The last set on the mainstage was definitley not a sleeper!
Closed out the night in the dance tent with Steve Riley & members of Donna the Buffalo. At this point the dance floor was filled, a smaller front section of jumpers and spillers gradually giving way to the couple-dancers moving in a circle. It was a big old jam and even went a little past curfew. All in all it was a wonderful weekend, it was great to see and hang out with everyone...and as usual it just went by too fast!
Here are a few photos from Sunday
And it used to be the Cajun festival / Rhythm and Roots on Labor day weekend was the last chance to jam for the year.. but now we have not one, not two but THREE festivals to choose from next weekend - The Pawtucket Arts festival in Slater Park Sat/Sun, The Narrows Festival of the Arts on Sunday in Fall River, and the new "Life is Good" festival in Canton, MA. Too many choices for the week after Labor Day! 2 out of those 3 are free but one has much bigger names...so you decide.