Mule, Clark, Lager Highlight Great Final Day of Best. JazzFest. Ever.
I admit I’m a little biased. I love JazzFest . I’ve been fortunate to be the emcee of the festival for the past 11 years and to sit side stage and see all these incredibly talented musicians. 2014 will go down in my book as the best JazzFest ever. From the opening notes Thursday of the Brandon Sprague Blues Band from Deadwood, South Dakota to the final note of “Soulshine” by Gov’t Mule Saturday night, the lineup on both stages was the best ever.
Saturday found 14 bands playing for free in Yankton Trail Park in Sioux Falls. Music started at noon with the Dakota Jazz Collective followed by the Jazz Camp students with Wycliffe Gordon getting the festival jazzed up for what was to come. The Jazz Camp started about three or four years ago and has grown to the point where the students actually take over both stages for awhile on Saturday’s. Students apply to get a chance to work with the conductor of the Augustana orchestra and a guest musician for several days leading into JazzFest and highlights one of the main missions of Sioux Falls Jazz & Blues Society: continuing music education. It’s a thrill for the students AND the parents alike and isa program I hope continues to grow.
At 3:00, Yankton Trail Park celebrated life with the Kris Lager Band from Omaha. KLB is a bit of heavy soul, add in some revivalist rock n roll, boogie trance, thrift store funk into a sound that is all about having a good time and celebrating just being alive.
I’ve known Kris, Miah, Brandon and Jon for about seven years and have seen them grow as artists and performers over the years while their sound has evolved from straight ahead blues into a vibe that can only be described as feel good music that had us hippies down front dancing, shaking and celebrating and the older crowd nodding their heads and tapping their feet in the back. The band made a lot of new fans at JazzFest Saturday.
The Jack Brass Band from Minneapolis took the stage at 4:30 with a nine-piece horn band that brought everything from New Orleans jazz to 90s pop to the park. They were followed by the Jennifer Keith Quintet, an L.A. based, Las Vegas headliner who brings back the swing movement.
As the sun started to set over the park, the crowds began to swell again as the double headliners were who people came to see: Gov’t Mule and Gary Clark Jr.
Clark burst onto the scene just a few years ago with his “Bright Lights” EP. And Sioux Falls found out what people have been saying since first hearing him: we’re going to know his name! His ‘Blak and Blu’ album gained critical acclaim and became the first album to ever be nominated for Grammy awards in two separate music genres as album of the year: R&B and Rock (it won for rock) The crowd was drawn in by Clark’s fantastic guitar playing and diverse musical set as fans were thrilled and new fans were made.
Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule closed the festival on their 20th anniversary tour that had Haynes ‘apologizing’ for taking so long to come to Sioux Falls JazzFest but promised to make it up to us, and wow did they!
Haynes may be best known for being one of the Allman Brothers guitarists for the past 25 years, but musicians and guitar fans know he is one of the best guitar players ever. A friend mentioned on Facebook after the show Saturday night that he’s seen many of the greats including Clapton, Van Halen, Beck, Gilmour, and Page, but would put Haynes above them all. I’ve got to agree. He has amazing tone and has such a signature sound that the crowd was up and jamming immediately.
Two of my all-time favorite song, regardless of artist, are ‘Beautifully Broken’ and ‘Soulshine’ and Haynes & The Mule played both of them which of course put the show over the top for me. The band ran through songs from their entire career during their 15 song set including a couple of tracks off their most recent release “Shout!”. Here’s their set list from Saturday’s show:
Bad Little Doggie
Broke Down On The Brazos >
Banks Of The Deep End
Funny Little Tragedy with Message In A Bottle Lyrics.
Stoop So Low (Outro 1)
Lay Your Burden Down
Mr. High & Mighty
Steppin’ Lightly with Black Dog Tease
Inside Outside Woman Blues with Voodoo Child Tease
Beautifully Broken >
Breakdown > with Les Brers In A Minor Tease
After three days of cooler than normal JazzFest temperatures and 25 bands, I’ve got to repeat myself. this was my favorite JazzFest ever. Thank you to all the sponsors, Sioux Falls Jazz & Blues Society, Midcontinent Communications, the wildly talented musicians and especially all of YOU for coming out and supporting one of the top music festivals in the midwest every year.
Now to figure out how we can top it in 2015!