The Thirsty Ear Festival snuck up on me this year. For the first time in its 10 year history, the festival was not held on Labor Day weekend. As I said before, I thought Mike Koster was crazy for changing the date, but yesterday shattered all previous attendance records, so that shows you what I know.
I wasn't able to make the Friday night show, but I was there for nearly all of yesterday. As always it was a good solid day of music from both local and national blues/country/folks acts at eaves Movie Ranch southeast of the city.
Most of the music through the day was nice and mellow. But for those of us who prefer it nice and rowdy as opposed to mellow, the show didn't really come alive until last night when Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas took the stage.
Nathan Williams and his band play good fast-paced traditional zydeco. Nathan dances around like a man half his age and his cousin, rubboard player Mark Williams, is even wilder. Great showmen and fun sounds.
* Definitely the strongest part of the afternoon was banjo man Bela Fleck's set with African kora playerToumani Diabate. That was downright celestial. Diabate's instrument, which is a cousin to the banjo, reminded me of Washington Phillips, the itinerant gospel singer of the 1920s who played a stringed instrument that nobody has positively identified.
* The most stunning moment of the festival was during Felecia Ford's appearance with Sharon Gilchrist & band's late-night jam in the "hotel." It seemed that about half the musicians in town I know joined on stage at some point. But Felecia's performance of the Patsy Cline song, "So Wrong" would even put Patsy to shame.
* Watching Santa Fe's Alex Maryol in the hotel earlier in the day, I flashed back to the first time I'd seen him play in that building -- one of the very early -- maybe the first? -- Thirsty Ears when Alex was just a teenager. He was doing a solo acoustic set in the hotel -- if my memory serves me well because it was raining like crazy and the main stage act couldn't play. At one point songs, his cell phone went off. Alex answered and said "Hi Mom." He listened for a couple a couple of moments and very politely said something like, "OK, well, I'm on stage now .." I later told him that Elvis would have been proud of him.
* Sorry, Keb Mo fans -- and that includes about 99.6 percent of the people at Thirsty Ear yesterday -- I'm just not that big a fan. I just like my blues rougher and crazier.
* Early in the afternoon I ran into Otis Taylor wandering the grounds. He said he was just vacationing, not there to play. Dang! Would have loved to hear Otis!
The festival goes on today. It's "Community Day" which means local bands including Soulman Sam & Soul Explosion and Felix y Los Gatos. Admission is only $5 and two cans of food. ($10 if you don't bring the food.)
So get your cans out to Eaves Ranch!
Here's my FLICKR photos from Thirsty ear Saturday.