Labor Day Festival: Feelin’ groovy
September 8, 2005
By Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Between the aging rocker and the youngish jam band, call it a draw.
John Fogerty, former leader of ’60s rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Widespread Panic, the Georgia jam band whose exploits are closely tracked by fleets of 20- and 30-somethings, made memorable debuts at Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ 11th annual Labor Day Festival last week.
Widespread Panic opened the festival with a one-two punch, playing the first two-night stand in Jazz Aspen history. The first show leaned more toward the band’s vicious Southern grooves, with songs routinely opening up into instrumental jams and spotlighting the rhythm machine formed by drummer Todd Nance, percussionist Sunny Ortiz and bassist Dave Schools. The second show, which drew a massive Friday-night crowd, was more consistently structured, as Panic pulled out reasonably concise versions of fan favorites “Tall Boy,” “Porch Song” and “Chilly Water.” Sound, spirit and crowd behavior all made for a positive scene.
Fogerty lacked nothing in his Sunday night set. The 60-year-old relied mostly on his familiar CCR hits, from covers of “Suzie Q” and “Heard It Through the Grapevine” to his own classics “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and “Down on the Corner.” But with Fogerty’s nonstop energy, crackling country-rock guitar and an obvious aim to please – not to mention a stellar band that occasionally featured a four-guitar front line – it never had the feel of an oldies show. Capping the freshness, newer tunes like “Blueboy” and “Deja Vu (All Over Again)” – the latter played as a solo acoustic number and preceded by a short but pointed critique of America’s latest wars – came off as well as the CCR material.
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The other oldies act, a reunited Loggins & Messina, relied entirely on their old material. And while they paled in comparison to Fogerty, their set was hardly moldy, with Loggins in fine voice.
The true winners at the festival were those who came to dance. Joining Widespread in creating a thick groove perfect for moving were New Orleans band Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Colorado’s Motet. Pulling the short stick were the reggae fans who made up a sparse Monday audience. African singer Alpha Blondy pulled out after a few songs, complaining of a weak voice, while Brit Maxi Priest’s enthusiasm couldn’t overcome the limp reggae-tinged pop.
Joan Osborne gave a fine performance, giving her soulful, raspy treatment to tunes by Dylan, the Grateful Dead and Dolly Parton, as well as previewing several new tunes. DeSoL’s Latin-accented rock got a warm response. And making the Village Stage worth the walk to the back of the Vendor Village were tribal band Kan’Nal, electro-funk group Particle and fusion combo Oteil & the Peacemakers.
Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com