- By Markus Hagner & Photo's © -
Take Root 2013 the festival at the wonderful De Oosterpoort in Groningen with the aim to present old-time, current, and uprising American Roots Music had besides the headliner Kris Kristofferson no big name in the lineup, but there was musically so much to explore and to say it in advance:
The 2013 TakeRoot festival was miraculous!
Johnny Dowd was the opener and he presented live his crooked mix of country, blues, and electro-rock. The old guy, being young in his heart by his music was dressed in a smart suit with hat and was electrifying from the very first tune by his sound-mélange. The freaks in front of the stage were immediately in the mood of dancing to the hot groove. The charismatic, jaundiced Mister Dowd was really a master on his guitar and whiskey-trenched voice. He sounded once like John Lee Hooker, the other time like Jim Morrison would sing if he still would be alive. Great, flashy starter.
From Belfast, Northern Ireland Bap Kennedy was next. The singer-songwriter who is a good friend of Steve Earle and Mark Knopfler was transmitting his listeners in dreamlike estate by songs like ‘Moonlight Kiss’. His voice was so sweet and burly and spreading the words of love and harmony. By Brenda Kennedy he had a female rhythm-ace on bass. Gordon McAllister on brilliant lead-guitar was intensifying the atmosphere by his slide-solos and spicin’ it up by some rockin’ tunes. The gig was like a great serenade from the Green Island.
Joe Pug was to freak as consecutive artist. You can call his career “The Rise Of A Carpenter To A Singer-Songwriter Entertainer” His guitar-play by the finest finger-pickin’ style and his enchanting voice were to enthuse. He was joined by fellow and most remarkable lead-guitarist Greg Tuohey to form a two-guitar-armada on stage. ‘Hymn #76’ was the highlight anthem of his show. The fans loved to clap along. Watch the smart, intellectual young guy out live, he deserves it!
From California and vivid Los Angeles Dawes were next. The music worshippers were immediately amused to their good-time country music with jazzy touch by their intro ‘From A Window Song’. They were taking everybody like on a plane-trip over the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas and back to Hollywood. The multi-harmony vocals of lead-singer and excellent six-string therapist Taylor Goldsmith, what a name… and Tay Strathairn as second voice-man & virtuoso keyboard-player were ever so hooky and capturing the devotees. For the dynamic rock-sound Griffin Goldsmith on drums and Wylie Gelber on bass were caressing their instruments. The atmosphere in the ‘Groote Zaal’ was like ‘Good Night Sunshine’ by the sweet melodies from the balladesque ‘My Way Back Home’. Griffin had his wild-time by his his swinging blow of his sticks. By ‘Hey Lover’ the time for saying good-bye had already come supported by heavy applause. Too short, they could have still played for hours, but this was the end due to the limited festival time.
American Aquarium was one of the most anticipated acts of the lineup. The country-rock-band from Raleigh, North Carolina were not only performing their sing-along hit ‘I Hope He Breaks Your Heart’, they broke and conquered everybody’s heart at De Oosterpoort in triumphal non-hurt style! By ‘Katherine Belle’ they were demonstrating their American Patriotism by the lyrics. A kind of big stadium-rock was celebrated by it. But they had also their contemplative times by their ballad ‘St. Mary’s’. By their songs ‘Saturday Night’, ‘Tennessee’ and ‘Rattlesnake’ they were to kick-ass the heavy rock manner and proving their love to the music of the South of the U.S. The guitar duels of Ryan Johnson on lead-guitar and Wit Wright on pedal-steel-axe were a delight. And off course there was the mastermind B.J. Barnham as the impressive lead-coyote with strong vocals. Big cinema for all the cheering girls and boys goin’ southern wild! Hey, you the organizers thank you for presenting them still in this intimate and close-up atmosphere. Next time they will be as Big-Act one of the headliners with a full-time show; guaranteed! The audience proved by the hurricane-applause they they never could get enough of them, but uuh there was not enough work-study to discover live all the great American Aquarium.
Hard show-times to top this for Jimmy LaFave from Wills Point, Texas. As conclusion: No, in regard to rock. Yes and definitely by the total performance and the charming vocals of Jimmy. He started by ‘Only One Angel’, with so much feeling and these loving-tenderness melodies. He put from the very first chord a heavenly spell on his fans. ‘Clear Blue Sky’ was like a revival of the past summertime, a song for lovers in hot passion. The devotees were so fascinated and singing along the refrain with Mister LaFave. It was country-blues-time Texas-Style by ‘The Outskirts of Town’ Jimmy proved extraordinarily by it that he was not only a cuddle-bard and presented his other face-voice, the whiskey-saturated and rough style. The man is a big fan of Bob Dylan and ‘Not Dark Yet’ as ballad was the silent, beautiful bow to his hero. But hey, he could rock too with a Texas Twang by his struttin’ his electric guitar by the John Fogerty cover ‘Have You ever Seen The Rain’, in duel with his gorgeous young lead guitarist. Phenomenal end applause as Muchas Gracias was the merit for Jimmy La Fave and everybody was wishing him to come back soon to Europe!
Next there was live time for the young guys of Hollis Brown and their country bugs with even indie-pop-rock influences. ‘Gypsy Black Cat’ was the highlight of the set, hooky chant of Mike Montali and driving bass-rhythm of Dillon Devito. His stage-act was like a heavy punker, crazy in respond to the music. Jon Bonilla was playing hot solos on his axe by ‘Cold City’ and even integrating psychodechelic elements in his plays. The loud-burst of end-applause was hailing them as ambassadors of the modern future of country music.
When Kris Kristofferson as headliner and grand-seigneur of American Country Music was entering the holy grail of De Oosterpoort everybody knew him for being a member of the legendary Highwaymen together with Johnny Cash – R.I.P. and Willie Nelson. Starting by ‘Feeling Mortal’ the title song of his fantastic latest cd he was presenting himself in great physical condition, his voice was though not as strong as in his “Good Ole Days”, but respect for the icon, he is 77! Everybody in the house would be still happy by this age to be in this excellent mental estate, looking so good and having such a hair-mane by this age. On top that he can still enjoy and be able to travel and perform live worldwide. By his aura, charm and being equipped only with his acoustic guitar and some harmonicas there was this special flair in the auditorium. Everybody was overwhelmed by it, clapping and singing along, laughing by the interference jokes and last not least having a good time. Off course he was presenting his legendary songs like ‘Me And Bobby McGhee’ or ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’. Everybody was witnessing by this live celebration that he was the godfather of these songs, although they became hits by Janis Joplin, or with his mate Johnny. A real legendary one-man orchestra! For a little bit of more diversity he could have played some of his more dynamic songs together with Rocket To Stardom, a German Tribute band who had the merit to be very special guest of him in Germany. The end-applause for this great soirée was thunderous and as signs of gratitude Kris Kristofferson was signing autographs directly from stage without nearly no end. Expressing his words as ours as final:
Nocturnal time for the appearance of the band of brothers Wilson and their friends as Sons of Bill. Strong Mainman as singer and second guitarist was James and he was to enthuse specially by his song ‘Virginia Calling’. Hey he was calling as animator for the freaks of Groningen this night and they responded by heart and loud as hell as strong background-choir. It was special time for some guitar-extravaganza by his brother Sam on lead-guitars by “The Rain”. The keyboard-solos of sibling Abe were intensifying the boisterous ambiance. This song was like a welcomed refreshment and relax-pause. SOB had taken their adherents on a fantastic ride through the desert of Nevada. They thanked them after approximately 45 minutes for the safe return and excellence of live-music. Sons of Bill could be one of the children of R.E.M. and their successors. Let their music do the talkin’!
The amazing Take Root Festival 2013 was over. See you a further superb and experimental edition in 2014!