Feelin' the blues
By Jeff Baird
The Forum - 02/18/2001
A blues festival in the middle of a North Dakota winter.
And the five bands that rocked Playmakers Pavilion Saturday at the first ever Fargo Winter Blues Festival must have been inspired. The 1,000 or so people that packed the Fargo bar were treated to a show every bit as hot as the temperature was cold outside.
"How's everybody doing out there tonight?" said Pat Hayes of the Lamont Cranston Blues Band, his band jamming behind him.
There was no need to ask. The crowd, having already been warmed up by Fargo's own Keller Brothers Band, was loving life.
Leather, shades, air guitars for one night, Playmakers might as well been a local blues dive in Tupelo, Miss. And, at just $20, the show was a steal.
"Those Keller Brothers were really something," Hayes told the crowd at the beginning of his set. "You know there must be something in the water to draw all these good blues players."
The crowd seemed to agree.
"For being that young (the Keller Brothers) are really polished," said 24-year-old blues enthusiast Glen Braget. "Their guitar solos were already so good, and they're only in their infancy. They can only get better."
Braget and friend Herb Osman drove two hours to see the show.
"For the price, you are getting your money's worth after two acts," Osman said. "What a show."
Back on stage, the Cranston band was still jamming.
"I'm going to tell you what my baby did to me last night," Hayes crooned. "You want to know what she did?"
The crowd answering in a unified, "Yes."
"You want to know what she did?" Hayes asked again.
A louder, "Yes."
"I can't tell you, but it made me feel alright," Hayes sang.
The crowd was whipped into a frenzy when Mike Keller of the Keller Brothers joined the Cranston band encore and jammed with fellow Fargo native and former Jonny Lang guitarist Ted Larson.
"It was a lot of fun," Keller said after the set.
He critiqued his own set, saying the band was still "getting the bugs out" for the release of their CD and tour, which will include some venues with blues legend Buddy Guy.
The Smokin' Joe Kubek Band followed Cranston. The band's blistering guitar solos kept up the show's momentum.
Chicago's Otis & the Alligators played next.
"They're one of the best show bands in the country," show promoter Dan Bredell said.
Headliner Corey Stevens was the perfect end to the night.
"We weren't sure we were going to get him," Bredell said. "Bands just aren't routing up here (in the winter.) And Steve's living in California."
Marcy Baker of Fargo had no problem feeling the music. She was a dancing queen throughout the night.
"They should always allow room for dancing," Baker said. "I appreciate them not telling me to sit down."
Kyle Gylland of Barnesville, Minn., on the other hand, came for the guitar solos.
"I've seen the (Rolling) Stones and ZZ Top, and some of these bands I would pay just as much to see," he said.
That was the type of response Bredell had hoped for.
"We were a little nervous about doing this in the middle of winter," he said with a laugh.