So, where was I? Ah yes, Dustin Pittsley was just taking the stage. The boys from Oklahoma revved up the crowd and let everyone know why their Colorado popularity is exploding. This was their first Blues From the Top appearance, but clearly won’t be their last.
In between each of the main stage acts, we enjoyed sets from The Future of the Blues, the kids’ stage. Ranging in ages ten to late teens, the Future Stage produced some wonderfully memorable sets, demonstrating the remarkable musical abilities inherent in some kids, and how fun that can be when they are given both encouragement and room to grow. I think the youth stages at both BFtT and Greeley Blues Jam show how serious we Coloradans are about the future of our beloved music.
A couple of weeks ago, Young Austin received the first standing ovation of the GBJ, and this past weekend, he got a few more, as did all of the kids. At the risk of sounding corny, one would have to be soulless not to tear up and feel a glowing warmth from head to toe and beyond watching and listening to these kids give it their all, with the Blues flowing through their young veins. Every great now and again I get some mild grumbling about how often I put kids’ bands on the stage at the Outlook, usually opening for a bigger act. I’ll take the grumbling, because along with John Catt of BFtT and Pam and Al Bricker from GBJ, I firmly believe it is my responsibility and obligation to do whatever I can to nurture and motivate these talented kids. The Catt, the Brickers, and the Bee will continue our support of these kids and their music for as long as we draw breath.
Speaking of forever, I have a new bestie. Mary Bridget Davies and I finally got to spend some real time together. Coincidentally, I was the first person to congratulate her after placing second at this year’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis in February. This time however, we had a lot more than just two minutes to talk, and she’s like family now. More so since a dozen or more people kept asking if we were sisters. Yes, there is a resemblance. Mary is younger than I am, but I kept insisting she’s the elder sister. And let me tell you, my big sis can SING! Among the several dozen people I knew at the festival, I was one of a very few who was in Memphis and heard her. I blogged that entire trip, and mentioned that out of the eight finalists, the Mary Bridget Davies Group was our primary competition. All the bands were good, but I thought the Lionel Young Band had it hands down until Mary opened her mouth. That’s when we got concerned. As we know, the LYB took first, and MBDG second. Mary (or Betty, as I call her), will be at the Boulder Outlook on Friday, September 2, and you don’t want to miss this show. Her voice sends chills all over the body, while the mind reels at so much power coming out of such a little girl. Love you, Betty! See you in September.
Next up on the main stage was Girls With Guitars, featuring Cassie Taylor, Samantha Fish, and Dani Wild. Now, I know both Samantha and Cassie, but little English rose, Dani, was new to me. These three tore it up! Yes, they are very attractive, sexy young women, but there is no questioning their hard work. Their set was tremendous, perfectly composed, and flawless in their rotation of voices. All three of them can sing their asses off! Cassie has a CD release party coming up on August 24 at the Outlook with the Cassie Taylor Band, so for those of you who missed this weekend, you can at least hear one third of the Girls. And, Cassie’s band is damn good as well.
Then it was time for John Nemeth. I adore this man’s music, and it had been about a year since last I heard him, so I made my way to the front of the stage. Gretchen Troop was standing with me, and I turned to her and said, “I just love him.” To which she replied, “I love everything he does.” So did the rest of Winter Park. He came out in a plaid suit that only he could pull off. He actually looked retro great! However, I’m not digging the new beard. Just saying. But that voice...
Along with his Flip Tops, the powerhouse that is Nick Moss took the stage next. Damn! Just damn! This man is not just from Chicago, he IS Chicago. His big brother, Joe, was with him, and he came out to show us all that it runs in the family. And not just by blood. The next day, Nick’s wife, Kate Moss, took the stage with Samantha Fish, and she PLAYED that guitar. More on the Moss chicks in Part III. There is another one, and her name is Sadie Mae. There’s Chicago Moss growing all over us.
Saturday’s headliner was one of my all time favorite bands, the Ronnie Baker Brooks Band. I don’t even know where to start. Yes I do. I hadn’t seen Ronnie, Carlton, or CJ before their set, so wearing my RBB jersey, I stood right in front of the stage. By about the third song, Ronnie glanced down and saw me, and then pointed at me and gave me a shout out! Made my weekend! A few seconds later, I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned and there was Cricket. In the middle of one of her world class hugs, she said, “I’m so glad Ronnie pointed you out. I’ve been looking for you all day.”
Their set had to be cut a bit due to curfew, but it was still fantastic, fun, funny, great, etc. I could tell who had never seen the band live before, because the first time anyone witnesses Carlton Armstrong on bass, there is an exhilarating fear. Chewing on a licorice stick, Carlton moves in an almost Zen-like fashion, with facial expressions that induce the aforementioned fear. He looks terrifying. The first time I met these guys was two years ago at the GBJ, and I hid from Carlton for most of the day. He scared me. I’ve since discovered one of the loveliest people I know, with a wicked sense of humor, and a relaxed and easy way with people that utterly defies his stage presence. And I miss him already.
Now we come to one of the weekends Defining Moments. Two weeks prior, it had been Kent Obermann who tapped my shoulder and said, “Coco Montoya is looking for you.” At this festival, it was Kent’s drop-dead gorgeous wife, Debbie, who provided the Moment. She tapped, and said, “Someone is looking for you.” I looked at her inquisitively, and she said, “Ronnie Baker Brooks.” I just love the Obermanns! They are always the harbinger of good news.
And gorgeous Debbie can cook. After sitting back stage with Ronnie for a while, my friend Bill and I walked the 50 yards to the condo the Obermanns had rented. They were hosting a small party, and it was great fun. Kent and Debbie, their two kids and their spouses, along with Cricket, Janie Soong (Tommy Castro’s merchandise manager and road den mother), Merrily, Gretchen Troop, and Carlton made up the party. Debbie and her equally beautiful daughter, Megan, had made great guacamole and fajitas, and there was homemade beer, and some of the best laughs friends can have together. I’ve known Kent and Debbie for a while, but this is the first time we had the space to relax together, and I certainly walked back to the hotel that night with the feeling of newness. I have a new family to add to my big extended family, and I’m thrilled. We even watched the Honey Badger video together, while laughing till tears ran.
I leave this installment of the series with a note from Janie Soong, as in its own funny way, it sums up the familial camaraderie between us, particularly at the Obermann party:
A little bit of trivia for you...Carlton was the first to call Cricket, Merrily & me "the Powerpuff Girls," Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles, respectively.
I will never call them by their other names again. Stayed tuned for Part III.
~Honey Bee Sepeda~