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Review Fri Jun 08 2007

Chicago Blues Fest Day 1: Reviews

The first day of the Blues Fest didn't blow me away except in the literal sense (gusts of up to 40 miles per hour plagued the performances and seemed to impact sound quality).

The lunchtime crowd enjoyed Super Percy's set, which battled sound gremlins which often made the vocals difficult to hear. Seems to me Percy ramped down his usual funk level for the mostly-white crowd, but he redeemed himself at the end of the set when he launched into the originals that always raise the roof at his southside home base, Lee's Unleaded. The crowd here responded with copious booty shaking (sometimes not a pretty sight).

Later in the afternoon, Larry "Li'l Mud" Williams, one of Muddy Waters' many progeny, did a crowd-pleasing set with a band led by former Waters guitarist John Primer and harmonica player Mojo Buford. The set had all the pitfalls of "reunion" sets, but had high nostalgia value, and on occasion Williams' resemblance to his dad was haunting. I have to reserve my judgment on his occasionally over-hyped mannerisms, because he's still a rookie -- he's only been singing for a little over two years. With more seasoning he could become a formidable force.

Soulster Willie Clayton delivered an acrobatic vocal performance opening up the Main Stage, demonstrating a range and nuance that isn't always part of the Southern Soul genre.

I had heard that Jimmy Dawkins may have been feeling under the weather, which may explain his disappointing set at the Petrillo Bandshell. Dawkins teased me but didn't please me with a show that never seemed to really get rolling, despite some nice vocal turns by Nora Jean Bruso. Guitarists Keith Scott and Billy Flynn, part of the backing band, seemed to hold back a bit in respect for one of the elder statesmen, but maybe they shouldn't have -- this set never quite reached a steady boil.

"Under the weather" seemed a bit of a theme for the night, as Koko Taylor, the Queen of the Blues, struggled through a set while the crowd had one eye on an ominous sky, which seemed poised for thunderstorms. Her touring band, the Blues Machine, was in top form, with guitarist Vino Louden opening on guitar with a sort of postmodern impression of Dawkins-style syncopated rhythm chording in a high-energy arrangement of "Help Me", the Rice Miller blues standard. The band comported itself well in a difficult circumstance, since Taylor's health has been tentative lately and it seemed that she was having trouble delivering the set with the vigor she's made her reputation on. She soldiered on through several secondary album cuts and "Hey, Bartender", before exiting somewhat abruptly and leaving the band to finish up with a pretty pedestrian "Sweet Home Chicago". She gets points for even making the gig here (anyone would be happy to have her stage presence, especially at 78), but this was a force-of-will show, not a force-of-nature performance, and a reminder that the second generation of urban blues artists is beginning to wane. One can only hope that there is enough young talent to captivate another generation of blues fans the way that Taylor has.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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