BLUES FUN IN FARGO
Vol. 1 Issue 4
Driving back to Rochester from Fargo on Sunday, we were all still high on the incredible music and events that we have experienced for the last two days. We hardly had to speak, as we let the magnificent performances we had witnessed play over in out heads. Not to mention the feeling of fellowship with the performers and other viewers. According to Sammy Avila, keyboard player for Walter Trout, “there’s so much genuine warmth with blues people.” I guess that’s why we’re blues fans- that’s all the high we truly need. The music we receive is food for our souls that sustains us until the next great performance. Enough with the sentiment, on to the music!
WARPED MELON BLUES BAND - very sorry guys, we only got to hear a little bit as we were attempting to get through the gate. We liked what we did hear, and hope to catch you next time around.
BIG GEORGE JACKSON BAND - We’ve been lucky to catch them playing near Rochester at BLUES in Chatfield, MN lately, and have become acquainted with them. Big George was kind enough to assist us in gaining backstage access! His performance at Fargo was nothing less that “Big George Chicago-style blues” perfection. George’s harmonica and vocals are as big and rich as his heart. His players: Jeremy, Phil, Dwight, and John are smooth and soulful, and a great bunch of guys. Always a pleasure to see!
KELLER BROTHERS BAND REUNION - Fargo native son, Mike Keller, or should I say “Mike Killer” on the guitar? All the cameras came out for the “local blues boy done good”. It’s no surprise that Double Trouble has asked Mike to play and record with them. He brought along Mike Barfield of Austin, TX to play with him on harmonica and vocals. That was a real treat, and Mike B. had his Texas harmonica singing it’s own tune. LOVED the “Funky Cupcake” song!
LITTLE CHARLIE & THE NIGHTCATS - If you haven’t seen them, GO NOW directly to the nearest gig and sit your butt down to some cool-ass entertainment. With their supreme stage presence, these guys emit “COOL”. Mixing jump, swing, Chicago-style blues, and a unparalleled showmanship - nobody does it better. They’re simply a “class act”!!
WALTER TROUT $ THE RADICALS - (Sub head for this section might also be “BLUE MONDAY T-SHIRT RESCUES TROUTS SON FROM FARGO’S SUDDEN DROP IN TEMPERATURE.”) Walter’s oldest son Jonathan was with his Dad on stage at the festival. About midway into Dad’s performance, I could see he was shivering, so I offered my trusty Blue Monday T-shirt for a little extra warmth. Jonathan was grateful, and now my Blue Monday T-Shirt is on tour with Walter, Jonathan Trout and the boys. This band is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite blues bands. I recently purchased their DVD of the live Relentless concert in Amsterdam, and have watched it several times - OUTSTANDING!! I LOVE how down-to-earth and accessible these guys are. Walter, Jimmy, Sammy, and Joey are all great fun to talk to and hang out with. They are such a tight band, seem like such a tight “family”, and are amazing musicians. I was touched once again by the dad in Walter during “Cry If You Want To” with the subject of the song, his son Jonathan sitting nearby. I think one reason I like these guys so much is because they seem to have a great handle on the really “good stuff” in life.
JOHN MAYALL & THE BLUESBREAKERS - It’s hard to tell you what it felt like to look into John Mayall’s eyes and shake his hand. I’ve listened to and admired the man for nearly 30 years - this was quite a moment for me. Mayall looks lean, fit, and handsome as ever. I was amazed to watch this 70-year old blues LEGEND hauling and setting up his own equipment for goodness sake!! Dear to my heart, as I’m a graphic designer - a little fact that I recently learned about John Mayall is that he had a successful career as a graphic designer in his younger years. Perhaps I could be a successful blues musician when I’m 70? The Bluesbreakers: Buddy, Joe, Tom and Hank are solid as hell, and along with Mayall’s sharp keyboards, harmonica, and vocals, delivered an incredible performance!
-- SATURDAY --
DEB JENKINS BLUES BAND - Deb is a Fargo resident, local business owner, and talented blues artist! She’s a classy soulful lady, fairly soft spoken, but with a full rich singing voice. Deb and her band, including a wonderful horn section, got the party started on Saturday in fine form. I’ll look forward to seeing this band again, it was a fantastic performance!
MICK STERLING & THE STUD BROTHERS - Hey Mick, very glad to meet you! Mick and the Brothers did turn the place into a party. Mick’s sexy stage presence and voice, along with his outstanding band had every foot tappin’. The audience was singing along and loving every moment. Excellent keyboards and horns, and of course Mick’s Van Morrison vocals….yummy! I’m going to add a little side not here: To the guys who always sit in the back, and don’t usually get a lot of notice- the DRUMMERS. What a CHOICE selection of drummers at this event!! All the musicians were incredible, but the drummers knocked me out!!
KELLY RICHEY BAND --Started off her set SMOKIN!! And kept us rockin throughout. She’s got a small, but very commanding stage presence, and is a POWER-HOUSE on the guitar. Three pieces is all they seem to need - fantastic bass in Terry Williamson and Eric Mayleben on drums. Kelly plays like she just walked out of Austin, TX instead of Cincinnati, OH. She plays with an incredible passion and is a joy to watch. Beautiful tributes to Hendrix, Jimmy Reed, & Johnny Winter.
JIMMY THACKERY & THE DRIVERS - In speaking with Jimmy Thackery for a few moments backstage, I found him to be a warm, friendly guy. He’s been playing the blues a long time, and has learned the craft very well. Jimmy’s pure style and terrific vocals drew the audience forward out of their seats. The Drivers are a fantastic group of musicians themselves. Their red hot sax player also provides some nice vocals. Jimmy’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner brought the crowd to it’s feet. Sax player red hot - great vocals by the drummer. Jimmy is a master.
COCO MONTOYA and his FABULOUS BAND!!
Smooth as silk, incredibly tight and amazing to watch. Again, I was surprised and impressed to see Coco setting up his won equipment. Everything they say about him being “awe inspiring and a guitar virtuoso” is absolutely true. He’s not going to sit back and play the oldies - he’s plowing headlong into the future of the blues, and I’m loving every moment! The entire band was inspiring to watch, all masers of their domain. As the temperature dropped Coco and friends warmed the air - they seemed to enjoy the audience as much as they were appreciated. Talking with the captivating Coco under the tent in the rain afterward, If found him to be playful, friendly and easy to talk to.
LONNIE BROOKS and his posse arrived looking very stylish and anticipating a great show. They seemed ready to add to the already heightened energy of the audience. The stage as set up and sound checks completed, when a sudden storm blew in. They rain and lightening quickly drove the audience to seek shelter. As the rain / weather continued, the announcement cam: “Ladies an gents unfortunately we cannot continue because of he lightening and another storm on the heels of this one. Lonnie Brooks has kindly agreed to appear tonight at the Great Northern with The Kelly Richey Band who is already scheduled to play there. In some cases that might have been “The End” - not this Saturday night. To the Great Northern we traveled - luckily still able after 2 days of “festing!.” We had already decided that we would probably attend Kelly Richey’s show. New motivation (L.B.) urged us on - we arrived around 9, hoping the music would start soon. Around 10 Lonnie arrived looking sharp, along with a few of his crew. He and Kelly spoke, and very shortly thereafter, Coco Montoya walked in smiling wide and shaking hands. The three conversed near the bar, and then Kelly left the two men to prepare for her show. The bar filled up and the crowd’s energy was electric with anticipation. Anxiously milling, sipping cocktails, re-hashing their favorite moments of the last two day. The man on the stage announced: “Folks please hold tight, Kelly Richey is about to take the stage, and Lonnie Brooks is in the house. You are about to see a fantastic show, and the incredible Coco Montoya has also joined us! [The crowd erupts in cheers, clapping, whistling - deafening.] You are in for an exceptional treat!” The crowd was so thick, we stood on our chairs to see the stage. For the rest of the night, so as not to miss a moment. We couldn’t have wanted more, it was, as the man said, AN EXCEPTIONAL TREAT!
As always, thanks for reading - yours in the blues;
- Lynne Oldre-Mortenson
- Photos by Dean Tollefsrud