Reviews

Hot August Blues & Roots Music Festival: 18 August 2012 - Cockeysville, MD

Tim J. Nelson

By now, if you are a blues and Americana music fan, you’ve surely heard of this annual fest. If not, put it on your radar for 2013.

Hot August Blues & Roots Music Festival

City: Cockeysville, MD
Venue: Oregon Ridge Park
Date: 2012-08-18

The 20th Anniversary of Hot August Blues (HAB), Brad Selko’s “backyard” blues picnic -– this year with over five thousand attendees –- was more than impressive. By now, if you are a blues & Americana music fan, you’ve surely heard of this annual fest. If not, put it on your radar for 2013. If you didn’t go this year, you missed Gov’t Mule, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Cris Jacobs Band, Magic Slim, and other stellar blues stars.

Selko and friends have perfected this festival experience, and that’s an understatement. They allow tents and pop-ups in certain areas, provide great food & drink, and, most importantly, give blues and music fans a new bill of top-notch musicians every year. The weather was amazing, too, with lower temperature and humidity than last year. The picturesque setting makes this a family friendly event, with plenty of space to spread out, explore, and be a child, no matter what your age.

The Music:

As stated, almost a dozen impressive acts were on the bill this year -- here are some highlights:

Drifting between the two stages, between sets, one could take in performance art, attractions, and dozens of merchants and food vendors. For the ticket price, there was a lot of choice of activities and attractions. The food and drink were very reasonably priced, and this year the fest featured Magic Hat’s award-winning craft beer.

The side stage bands continue to be interesting and showcase new local and national talent that Selko and his friends discover and share. Sweet Leda became the artists to watch in the past, and this year offered Matt Pless and his group of talented musicians, including the multi-talented Jon Patton. JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound was a nostalgic rhythm & blues romp, with modern energy and talent. Brooks’s soaring, soulful vocals and the band’s tight rhythm and melodic keys and horns, put on a pot of jump and bump out in the side-stage area, affectionately named the B-side Stage.

Closing down the B-side Stage, Magic Slim and the Teardrops reminded everyone of the roots of this music, providing some good 'ol foot-stomping tunes in the blues masters’ tradition -- think BB King. Playing a beautiful sunburst Les Paul guitar, Slim showed us how it’s done. For fans of King, Waters, Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, and their contemporaries -- Jeff Beck, Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, and more -- this certainly set the right tone for the day. Powerful.

If you like Keb Mo and Lyle Lovett, and bands like Clutch, with a touch of bluegrass-country tossed in, of course, then you’re getting close to the original voice and perspective of Cris Jacobs and his band. “Dragonfly” and “Little Piece of Heaven” were highlights. The group also headlined the fest’s after party later that evening, over at the Green Turtle in Hunt Valley.

For the dancers in attendance, or lovers of Latin-flavored, Afro-Columbian music, Locos Por Juana provided some spicy tunes reflecting their salsa, hip hop, jazz, and blues influences. Fans of Santana, Los Lobos, and related artists were very pleased. Lead singer Itagui Correa expressed gratitude to be included in HAB’s festivities. The crowd returned the love.

Justin Townes Earle and his band pleased the well-chilled crowd, probably introducing many to his own variety of blues, folk, and Americana. The son of (Steve) Earle proved he was worthy of the main stage with a subdued but powerful set.

We were all transported to New Orleans as the first notes rang out from Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. What a showman and what a band! Shorty could’ve easily headlined this event on his own. That being said, Warren Haynes joined Orleans on stage for a few tunes. Later, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews returned the love, joining Gov’t Mule. As a blues fan, these are the moments you live to see.

Gov’t Mule opened up with “Blind Man in the Dark” and then transitioned into “Broke Down on the Brazos”, with things getting seriously funky. Haynes’s blistering guitar leads and melodies, coupled with his smooth-whiskey voice, worked like voodoo. Two songs in and the crowd was already in a frenzy. Next, they played two Beatles’ covers: adding new swamp-fire to “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Haynes slowed it down with the soulful, reflective “Beautifully Broken”, followed with the Americana-flavored “Railroad Boy”, another tune from By A Thread.

“Birth of the Mule” showcased the blues and jazz chops of the band. Spiritually moved, the fest-goers rocked, jumped, and swayed, with Haynes & Co. feeding off this vibe; their sonic music actually caused the sun to set! Other highlights during their set included “The Letter” with Trombone Shorty, “Red House”, a Hendrix cover, “Bad Little Doggie”, and “Higher Ground”. They came back for a quick encore, considerate of the curfew, with the popular “Soulshine”, Ron Holloway joining the mix.

Next August, make sure you’re Oregon Ridge, Cockeysville, bound – for the 21st HAB fest. It’ll be another great celebration of life, summer, and blues. It might just save your soul.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image