It was nice to have Saturday’s headliner at the Simi Cajun and Blues Festival sound like a headliner. Some years it seems that the players are getting by just on their names and songs they did 25 years ago and it’s the early bands that are the best.
I don’t normally bother with reviews, but at this show I was gifted by the twin gods Timing and Slol (Sh!t load of luck) with a bunch of good photos. It’s a surprise any time I like 10% of my pictures from a concert, mostly due to the lag time between clicking and saving on a digital camera. Since the pics are going up, some explanation is in order. Sorry for all the watermarks, but people photos tend to get stolen and it was easier to modify them all at once instead of just marking the ones I really liked.
Some of John Mayall’s music sounded a little dated, but maybe that’s the mark of a recognizable style that was created over a 50 year span. Every song was done well. The band was good and tight. He deserved to be the headliner.
I wasn’t familiar with guitarist Rocky Athas before the show. I’m going to have to look for some history on him (other than Black Oak Arkansas.)
Mayall is his own kind of perfectionist. In interviews he says that if they can’t get a song together in 2 or 3 tries that it’s probably not a good song, and he records in a single take when he can. That does not sound like a perfectionist. However, preparing for this show he was the only band member on stage during the entire setup. He was telling people detailed instructions like their needing to move a monitor over a foot or rotate a speaker slightly. He didn’t even bother with telling them about his amp’s mike; he moved it himself, 3 inches to the left on up one.
This was sooo not the case with Guitar Shorty. My guess is that he was a couple beers short of a six-pack, but not many. He couldn’t get his guitar to work. For about five minutes. Someone get Shorty a clue. It could have just been my vantage point, but I saw a cord dangling from his back (from his transmitter) and a Stratocaster with an empty jack. I saw him try other chords, I saw people try to help him. But for a long time I didn’t see him connect the transmitter to the Strat.
The good news was that his band started without him. David Abrams took over on guitar and Christopher Jones took up singing duties. Nice. Eventually Shorty got his guitar working, but later I found myself wishing that he hadn’t. He’s a good player, but at times his timing was off. I enjoyed David’s playing more. I’d give Shorty another shot because he plays a style I like. Maybe it was just an off day and in an attempt to compensate for the bad start he tried to be a bit more of a Hendrix than he could pull off.
Which brings us to Canned Heat. I liked some of their songs in the 60s. I still do like a few. But their playing has always seemed simplistic and a bit amateurish. Hearing a bunch of slightly off-tempo quarter note repeated 8 times as a lead solo don’t get any style points with me. I could be missing something — they’re supposed to be well versed in blues and maybe some of their playing is true to form. But it’s not for me. I don’t think they’d get a recording contract today. No pics worth sharing because I got lazy and didn’t go up front.
Continuing to work backwards through the lineup while writing this, I almost forgot about Andy Walo. So I’ll come back to him. I didn’t take any photos, but now wish that I would have.
One of the main pulls for me was the chance to see Dennis Jones again, and he delivered another stellar performance. Before getting ready to go to the show in the morning I was thinking that if I couldn’t get my butt in gear in time to see him, I probably wouldn’t be able to convince myself to go at all later. He lost the cowboy hat, but his playing hasn’t suffered from it. If you were at the festival and wondering about the music playing between bands, it was usually Dennis. If you missed him, make a point of catching him if you can.
Back to Andy Walo. I think that I enjoyed Dennis so much that Andy would have had to have been amazing to impress me. That combined with being so underwhelmed by Canned Heat playing after him that he just got lost in the shuffle. Had I heard him alone or with one other band I probably would have really enjoyed him, so don’t take this as anything negative about his performance. It was just unfortunate placement.