The 19th annual Great Woods Music Festival kicked off Thursday evening at 8pm with the Pigeon Park band hitting the stage like a thunderbolt. Formed in Vancouver in 2008, the band took awhile to find their style as they tried different genres of music, such as reggae and pop, and played the bar circuit around Vancouver.
Well, they seem to have found their niche and it showed as they played a high energy set which included covers of Traffic’s Feelin’ Alright, Led Zeppelin’s What Is and What Should Never Be, Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets, and Little Bones by The Tragically Hip. Their originals were interesting and they even did a song which they’ve only played once before in Lac du Bonnet, “but that doesn’t count cause you’re a better audience,” joked singer Nick Weber.
The sound man was doing a good job as the guitars of lead guitarist Kevin Okabe and guitarist Logan Pacholok panned back and forth between the speaker columns during the Zeppelin solo, as the rhythm section of Hunter Elliot’s drums and bassist Artur Leppert filled in all the spaces.
This was the last night of their Canadian tour. In speaking with Logan and Artur, they both agreed that the highlight for them was being the opening act for Aerosmith at a festival in Kitchener, where Steven Tyler hugged Artur in appreciation. Check them out at pigeonparkmusic.com .
Chicago bluesman Maurice John Vaughn took the stage next. He was backed by three very talented Winnipeg musicians. Brendan Nagle on drums, Gilles Fournier on bass and Big Dave McLean on guitar and harmonica.
Big Dave had jammed with Maurice in the past and they certainly had a good groove going on on stage. Maurice let Dave shine on a few numbers. Besides playing a wonderful blues guitar, Maurice also played keyboards and saxophone.
The band was very tight considering they didn’t really rehearse. The fish flies were thick in the air on the stage and at one point, Maurice did ‘the fish fly boogie’ dance acknowledging the little pests. Maurice injected lots of humour into his set proving that the blues aren’t awlys about bad and sad times.
In 1968, Maurice concentrated on the saxophone in order to be part of a jazz trio. In 1976, he made his first recording with “The Chosen Few” band and shortly thereafter switched to guitar. He later played with the likes of Luther Allison, Son Seals and A. C. Reed (who Maurice did a cover of last night but in his own unique style). Maurice had to leave shortly after the set as he’s off to a festival in Nashville Friday night, but he stuck around long enough to sign autographs and talk with some of the concert goers.
Headliners from Texas, Jim Suhler and Monkeybeat, included Jimmy Morgan on drums, Shawn Phares on keyboards and accordion, and bass player Chris Alexander. The 53-year-old bluesman showed off his mastery of the blues guitar paying tribute to the late great Johnny Winter, dedicating a song to Johnny. I think Johnny would have been impressed by Jim’s very fluid slide guitar. He followed this one by another tune dedicated to Lightning Hopkins.
A fine guitar master with touches of Rory Gallagher influences shining through, the band played the old Canned Heat favourite Bullfrog Blues which Rory would also do live. The masterpiece of the night for me was the Jimi Hendrix tune, Are You Experienced?, which was delivered in a delta style, “Imagine Robert Johnson on mushrooms.” Indeed it was quite psychedelic in a bluesy kind of way. Jimi would be rolling in his grave, not because he would be offended but because he would probably be enjoying it.
Great Woods Music Festival isn’t a huge festival but the small and mighty audience was really digging the music. It is in a beautiful setting on the 120-acre Great Woods Park and Campground by Beausejour. ‘The Long and Winding Road’ brings you into the campground which branches off into ‘Copperhead Road’, ‘Abbey Road’, ‘Tobacco Road’, ‘Yellow Brick Road’, ‘Lonely Avenue’ and ‘Mercy Street’. The road leading out of the campground is ‘Take Me Home Country Road’, and the road leading to the festival area is called ‘Dancing in the Street’.
The festival site is located right on the shore of the Brokenhead River with its own ‘Echo Beach’ where concert goers can be driven upstream for a two hour river tubing excursion taking them to the festival area. Many vendors are set up selling clothing and jewellery and snacks, as well as the Moonrise Cabana bar where food and drinks are served.
The festival continues Friday at 8pm and Sat. at 4:30 pm. For more info go to greatwoodspark.com