Heart & Soul is a two day festival of music, food and children's activities to benefit Camp Heartland, a camp for children affected by HIV/AIDS. Camp Heartland is a year-round camp that provides a unique camping experience for children and their families affected by the HIV virus, basically allowing kids to be kids. Heart & Soul is a realization of the vision of Twin Cities musical stalwart, singer/songwriter Mick Sterling. Beginning just seven years ago inside Bunker's Bar on Washington Avenue in the Minneapolis Warehouse District, Heart & Soul has grown into a major two day event filled with a combination of local and national musical acts that donate their time and talent to the event for free.
This year, because of the road work occurring on Washington Avenue, Heart & Soul was reconfigured, with the outdoor Luther Allison Memorial Stage turned 90 degrees to face Interstate 94 instead of downtown Minneapolis. Bunker's Tent Stage was also added this year which, along with Bunker's Bar, create three separate venues for musical acts. The festival grounds also included an expanded children's area, more food and beverage booths, two VIP areas and a raffle booth which was used to collect additional funds for Camp Heartland by raffling off everything from autographed CDs to musical instruments and a $29,000 custom motorcycle. The event also included a black tie dinner on Friday night and a motorcycle run to Camp Heartland and back, also to raise funds for Camp Heartland.
In years past, the two day festival has included a mixture of better known rock, alternative, r+b, soul and blues acts on the main stage, with more local talent featured inside Bunker's Bar. This year, with the addition of Bunker's Tent Stage, the line up on the second stage was expanded to include acts with national, regional and/or local interest including Houston blues guitarist Sherman Robertson, The Keller Brothers, Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls and Pamela McNeil, among others. During the evening hours, more musical acts were added, playing inside Bunker's Bar and providing entertainment for even more Twin Cities music fans.
One other apparent difference in this year's music lineup was that Saturday on the Luther Allison Memorial Stage there seemed to be more of a focus on Pop/Rock acts including G. B. Leighton, Mick Sterling & The Stud Brothers, Fastball, Wayne Kramer (former member of the MC5) and Little Feat. Sunday was more Blues/Soul oriented with Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles, Double Trouble, Jimmie Vaughan, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Twin Cities favorite, Johnny Lang, as scheduled performers.
Saturday turned out to be a great day for Heart & Soul with a crowd that continued to expand over the course of the day. The music was varied, ranging from Wayne Kramer, former member of the cult rock band, MC5 ("Kick Out The Jams"), to the legendary sounds of Little Feat. G. B. Leighton put on his typical high energy show and Mick Sterling knocked everyone out as always with his powerful vocals and tight musical arrangements. Teen favorites, Fastball, performed their unique brand of Texas alternative rock while Houston blues guitarist, Sherman Robertson offered blues fans a dose of fine Texas blues. A major highlight of Robertson's set was a guest appearance by Little Feat vocalist, Shaun Murphy, who joined Robertson to sing the Buddy Guy classic, "Slippin' In."
Saturday ended with the remarkable sound of Little Feat. One of the classic bands of the 80's, Little Feat performed a host of familiar older tunes along with new songs from their latest recording, Chinese Work Songs. The band's music crossed a variety of styles including rock, jazz, blues country and even cajun. Little Feat's trademark vocal harmonies, mystical instrumental jams and the Shaun Murphy generated images of Janis Joplin thrilled the audience and overcame the negative effects of a late evening rain shower.
Sunday was not only different musically, but also weather-wise (unfortunately!). The great weather that everyone experienced on Saturday was replaced by a cold, windy and very wet day on Sunday. The weather resulted in a decision by the organizers to abandon the Luther Allison Memorial Stage because of the hazards created by the wind and rain. All of the acts scheduled for the Memorial Stage were moved to Bunker's Tent Stage, making for a dry, but very crowded, venue for the Sunday headliners. Except for Pamela McNeil, the first act scheduled for the Tent Stage, all of the scheduled Tent Stage acts were moved into Bunker's Bar.
As a result of the late decision, the Sunday headliners began performing about an hour later than scheduled, starting with Chicago legends Syl Johnson and Ann Peebles who offered some great soul and blues to the packed tent. Johnson played guitar and provided strong vocals, despite having been floored with a nasty virus earlier in the week. Ann Peebles was great too, opening her portion of the set with the aptly titled song, "I Can't Stand The Rain" and finishing up with Syl's hit, "Take Me To The River."
Next to the crowded tent was the band Double Trouble, led by former Stevie Ray Vaughan drummer and bass player, Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. Joining Layton and Shannon were Minneapolis native Tina Schlieske; former Storyville vocalist Malford Milligan; along with Billy Cassis and Greg V. on guitars. As an added bonus, the set included a guest appearance by singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi, a Twin Cities favorite and a regular performer at Heart & Soul. Milligan did his best to stir up the crowd as the rain continued to pour outside in wave after wave. Tedeschi performed three songs with the band, including the Led Zepplin standard, "Rock n' Roll," from Double Trouble's first solo CD as the finale.
Double Trouble was followed on the Tent Stage by the second connection to the immortal Stevie Ray Vaughan, his famed brother and mentor, Jimmie Vaughan. Vaughan came on to perform his personal brand of Texas blues/soul/rock that included numbers from both of his solo recordings and several tunes that were sung by his talented female vocalist. To end the set, Susan Tedeschi made her second appearance of the day to perform "Bye Bye Baby" with Vaughan, trading guitar licks and entertaining the cramped, but appreciative, audience.
The final act to perform on the Tent Stage on Sunday was guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd and the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. Shepherd performed his usual incendiary set, featuring his stellar guitar. However, unlike the past shows I have seen, Shepherd's set seemed to lean more strongly to the blues side of his characteristic blues/rock style (which was alright by me). Ending with my personal Kenny Wayne favorite, "Blue On Black, " I enjoyed Shepherd's set immensely.
The rainy Sunday performances ended back on the Luther Allison Memorial Stage with the Twin Cities' long time favorite, Johnny Lang. Lang opened his set most appropriately with a song entitled "See The Rain," which left me to wonder if it was planned or just coincidence? As he has been in year's past, Lang was a big crowd pleaser and got the audience into his show in a big way, despite the fact that the rain started up again early in his set. Lang's notable performance was a nice ending to a rather dismal day of rain, wind and cold.
At an event that is as worthy as any held in America, all of the volunteers and performers should be commended for their dedication and commitment to putting on great performances despite less than favorable conditions, especially on Sunday. Even though the conditions were trying at times, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves; taking the weather in stride, showing their appreciation to Mick Sterling and the performers. Hopefully, next year will be just as good musically and significantly better weather-wise.
Postscript by Ray Stiles
Following photography © 2001 by Ray Stiles, all rights reserved.
Several years ago prior to one of the first Heart and Soul Festivals, Mick Sterling talked about how he envisioned this festival to one day become a national event attracting many national artists in the cause to help benefit Camp Heartland. That vision is becoming a reality through the tireless work of hundreds of volunteers spearheaded by the efforts of Sterling. This year's festival showcased a line-up of talent that made the price of admission a bargain and went a long way in achieving Mick's vision. It was just too bad Sunday's rain held down what could have been a record setting attendance weekend of music.
Despite the rain here were some of the highlights of the weekend for me:
Saturday featured just a few blues acts with the Dean Weisser Band kicking off the show inside the Bunker's Tent Stage. Excellent short set of their music, but just as they were starting to really cook the set was over. But as it turned out that was okay because we got to see a wide variety of acts throughout the rest of the day.
The other highlight in the Tent Stage was Houston guitar player Sherman Robertson who not only delivered one of the best sets of the day for blues fans but thrilled many who had not heard him before. An added treat was the appearance of Shaun Murphy of Little Feat who joined Sherman in a set-closing duet that kept the audience on their toes.
Outside on the Luther Allison Memorial Stage G.B. Leighton had the swelling crowd singing along with Hey, Hey, Baby and Mick Sterling and the Stud Brothers were in top form with Mick singing some emotionally charged material. Someone from out of state commented that we are pretty fortunate to have talent like this that we can go see every week around town. How true. We are pretty spoiled here in the Twin Cities area with the calibre of talent that would put most other major cities to shame.
Two rockabilly bands, Stockcar Named Desire (more hard edged) and Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls (more soul and bluesy) were playing at the same time - in the tent and inside Bunker's respectively. And the final highlight of the day was hearing, for the first time, the Scott Laurent Band featuring Scott on guitar and vocals and their lead guitar player (Andy Lucia) who demonstrated some impressive playing. Their music is more in the pop/rock vein ala G.B. Leighton and enjoyable to listen to. Good playing with some incisive lyrics on the original songs.
As Dave noted, Sunday was deluged with rain so the main acts (except Lang) were moved inside the Tent. This meant the crowd was packed in like sardines, spilling out the sides and back which made for a tight, sweaty show. It also was an exciting setting to see people like Ann Peebles, Syl Johnson, Jimmie Vaughan, LuAnn Barton, Double Trouble and Kenny Wayne Shepherd up close and personal. The day had one great act after another but it all started off with the highlight of the day featuring Ann Peebles singing some sweet soul music.
So was the weekend a success? I'm not sure about the turnout which may have been lower than anticipated because of the weather but the music was top notch, the event well run and this was a great way to kick off the outdoor festival season here in Minnesota. Definitely make plans to attend next year.
CLICK HERE for a six page photo gallery from Heart and Soul 2001 (photos by Tom Asp and Ray Stiles).
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave "Doc" Piltz & Ray Stiles, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
Click button to join
our mailing list!