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B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, Allman Brothers Band. In any given year this could be a nominee list for the Grammy Awards. Deborah Coleman, Tommy Castro, Coco Moytoya, Johnnie Bassett, possibly a list of several Blues Award winners. On August 25 & 26 each of these performers were on the third annual Madison Blues Festival 2000 billing.
Olin Park on the shore of Lake Monona in Wisconsin's capital city transforms from a beach and boat launch to the bustling activity of 20,000 blues lovers over a two-day period. With the backdrop of the capital dome and boats anchored past the buoys, one by one the energy on stage builds to the legends of several generations of the true American music heritage.
Friday was kicked off with the youthful vitality of the Keller Brothers. Mike Keller demonstrated yet another link to the 90's breeding grounds of young new talent from Fargo, North Dakota. The Keller brothers have shown this year that they are well on their way to becoming top billings in festivals in the future.
The award winning Deborah Coleman suggests that the gender gap of women in the current blues genre is closing fast. Redefining sexy on stage, Deborah brought the crowd to its feet throughout her performance. The majority of the crowd never returned to their distribution of blankets and lawn chairs when Johnnie Basset, Delbert McClinton and the Allman Brothers rounded out the day.
The Allman Brothers 70's psychedelic motif of mushrooms and plasma video backgrounds reminded some of the local festival goers of years past. The only missing ingredient of 70's Madison, was the high level of security such a gathering would have required in those more political times. Greg Allman and band played many of the songs from the early years of the band
some featured a percussion section that rivals many horn sections of the weekend.
A morning storm rolling through caused a delay in the scheduled line-up. The festival coordinators changed up by altering the schedule. Memphis Slim was moved to the parks pavilion and The Chris Aaron band was bumped from the line-up. The crowd was relieved as Coco Montoya started earlier than his published time and got the crowd ready for the building crescendo of the evening.
Susan Tedeschi showed that her 1999 performance at this festival brought many fans coming back for more. Susan played many of the favorites off her Tone Cool Records CD "Just Won't Burn." Her dedication of "You Need to be With Me" to Derek Trucks of the Allman Brothers brought authenticity to the rumors of a budding relationship. Susan like most of the stars of the
weekend signed hundreds of autographs on her walk back to her motor coach.
Buddy Guy got the crowd singing on his very first song, John Hiatt's "Feels Like Rain" and throughout the crowd you could hear singing for the rest of his show. Buddy's rapport with the crowd continued while the crowd filled in for the top billing.
B.B. King's orchestra showed the passion of a group of men with many years of playing the blues. B.B.'s entrance was greeted with awe and enthusiasm by a crowd that was riveted to the 74-year-old legend of the blues as he caressed his guitar Lucille. B.B. indicated that while he no longer stood while he performed, he felt that an old man sitting could be justified as long as he still was singing the blues.
With the rains only falling when the crowds' and performers' batteries were being recharged and warm temperatures well into the late evening, the crowd left each night talking of nearly every act. If the organizers of this festival can ever match this line-up and learns from some of the idiosyncrasies that an outdoor feast can present, this annual event will become a late summer standard for fans of Blues from further reaches each year. If awards are to be given for festivals of the year, Madison's will be a major contender.
This review and pictures are copyright © 2000 by Steve Wagener, 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.