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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hippiefest 7/26/08 Review

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Hippiefest may have been written off by some as a nostalgia tour. This was in part true: peace and love ran rampant through the crowd. The whole scene was excellent. Everyone was there to hear the music and to have a good time. The audience was incredibly supportive of the artists and the performers definitely noticed and took the performance to a new level. This must have been nostalgia, because I don't think I've ever seen such a good crowd- especially in Dayton. Hippiefest was a trip back to what the late 60s must have been like on a good night (minus the brown acid and mud- no complaints here), but certainly with a modern twist. The songs of protest weren't a trip back to the 60s, but more like a wake-up call that what's happening now is very much the same. It was a trip to the past with a look for the future. I loved it.

Flo and Eddie of the Turtles came out first and mentioned that they'd be the announcers for the show. I must say that they were absolutely hilarious and were perfect for the job. They had tons of hysterical banter and stories between sets, and they clearly had a great time (which was noticeable in every single artist, they all clearly enjoyed themselves and the performances showed). Flo and Eddie introduced Jonathan Edwards, whom I really was looking forward to seeing. He ran through a good, short set of favorites including the mandatory "Sunshine" and an extended "Shanty", as well as a slower acoustic arrangement of the Beatles' "She Loves You". His voice and harmonica playing were in top form. The show's first standing ovation came after Jonathan Edwards' set closer, an a cappella version of "This Island Earth". It was absolutely beautiful and full of hope for the future. The crowd loved it.

Next up was Joey Molland's Badfinger. Flo and Eddie began running through Joey's accomplishments when Joey came out laughing and kicked them off the stage with "okay, okay... that's enough now". Joey's voice was excellent and his guitar work was clean. Despite being "Joey Molland's Badfinger", he was quick to not hog the spotlight. He would point it out when he did a song that one of his deceased bandmates wrote and was certainly complimentary of their work. It was very much Joey Molland playing his band's old songs as a way to honor his friends and have a great time. The Hippiefest house band's guitarist Godfrey Townsend had his first shining moment doing George Harrison's slide work perfectly during the Badfinger set. It was another excellent performance, and Joey also got a few rightfully earned standing ovations.

There was a short break before Melanie's set, and then she came out with her son Beau- an excellent concert classical guitarist. Melanie pointed out that it was great to play and write with her son, and his playing put a new twist on old songs and kept them really fun. She ran through a great "Ruby Tuesday" after (at Beau's suggestion) singing Happy Birthday to Mick Jagger, as well as a fun, story filled "Brand New Key" and "Look What They Done To My Song, Ma". The highlight for me though, was her closing number "Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)". I've heard some criticism of her voice on this tour, but she sounded excellent in Dayton.

After another break to change up the instruments on stage, Flo and Eddie began introducing themselves with the usual hilarity. Excellent. Then the Turtles came out with part of a backing band of their own, including a drummer (who also worked with Alice Cooper and Meat Loaf) they'd been with for 22 years and a bassist they had been playing with since 1978. They also used the excellent Hippiefest keyboard player and Godfrey Townsend's guitar playing. They ran through a fun set that was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. They continued the hilarity on stage during their, telling stories and jokes while playing flawless versions of old favorites. The crowd was on its feet for much of their set, and it was a great time.

After their set, it began getting dark outside (the show started at 6:30) and the psychedelic projection began showing up on the back of the stage. We listened as the roadies began sound checking Jack Bruce's bass. This set was going to be LOUD. Godfrey Townsend took the right side of the stage while Jack Bruce took the left. We were about 10 feet behind Godfrey. Jack came out and the band bursted into "Sunshine Of Your Love" and the Fraze Pavilion erupted. Jack sang confidently and strong, even hitting notes he didn't even try to hit during the Cream reunion in 2005. His bass fills were as good as ever, and he had no problems handing the spotlight over to Mr. Townsend. Godfrey nailed the Cream era Clapton tone much better than Slowhand himself does at this point and his playing was great. They played excellent tunes (each one got a standing ovation), like "Politician", "We're Going Wrong" (which showcased the Hippiefest drummer's abilities very well), a crowd participation favorite "I Feel Free" and the set closing "White Room" which I thought was better than any Cream version I'd heard. During the extended guitar solo, Jack came over to our side of the stage to trade licks with Godfrey. Perfection. Jack and the band had clearly had a great time, which made me happy as I had always pictured Jack as a very serious guy. Jack seemed to enjoy the show as much as the crowd.

We began to wonder what Eric Burdon and the Animals (featuring Hilton Valentine- original Animals guitarist) would have to do to beat Jack's masterful set. He came out with his large band, sang the high notes flawlessly and strutted around the stage through the set. Not bad for a 67 year old. He was definitely the same Burdon we all know from the old Animals records. His voice is still in top form. The set included great versions of "It's My Life", "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place", a perfect-for-the-occasion, crowd favorite "When I Was Young" and of course "House Of The Rising Sun". "House" featured great, blistering organ work, Hilton blasting the trademark guitar riff and Eric crooning the vocals as good as ever. He even changed a few lines up a bit, which was welcome and kept things fresh. As far as I know, there haven't been any encores on the Hippiefest tour so far, but in Dayton there was! Eric and the guys (and girl bassist) came back out for an excellent version of "Sky Pilot". This was a perfect song to close the show with. Even the venue officials were confused when the band came back out for the encore.

In conclusion, this was definitely a show worth seeing (and I almost didn't, but that's another story). I'll certainly be at the show next year and I'm sure most of the crowd from last night's show will be, too. Each act had a great time, and the crowd absolutely loved it. The scene was better there than at any other show I've been to and it had to have inspired the artists to go all-out. None of these artists sound "washed up". If anything, they've just gotten better at working the crowd and are having more fun now than in the "glory days". Everyone's voice and playing were in top form. I wasn't there in the late 60s, but I'm glad to say that I saw this show and I won't miss another Hippiefest. The whole experience of the Dayton Hippiefest must be close to how things were in those days.
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