|Booker T and Leon Russell performing "Green Onions"|
I arrived in time to see Alvon Johnson at the blues stage. I wasn’t all that familiar with him, but got into his set immediately. Alvon had a good rapport with the crowd, particularly when dedicating a song to those who are with a special someone who isn’t worth a damn. The song ended up being a fun, groovy rendition of “Hey Joe.” Alvon changed the line to “I’m going down to Simi Valley,” which of course got a cheer. He then stepped off the stage to play just in front of the audience.
I stayed at the blues stage because Booker T was up next. He opened his set with “Boot-Leg,” a cool instrumental tune, and, after band introductions, followed it with “Hang ‘Em High.” And then he did “Born Under A Bad Sign.” Yes, for those who didn’t know, Booker T sings. He switched to guitar for a really good rendition of “Respect,” singing “Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me, give it to me,” and then “Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me.” Oh yes! He then went back to organ for “Green Onions.” Leon Russell joined him on organ partway through, drawing a huge response from the crowd, and after a moment Booker T went to the guitar, leaving Leon by himself on keys. Yes, it was pretty awesome. Booker T stayed on guitar for “Mannish Boy.” And then, interestingly, he did “Hey Joe.” It was a very different version from what Alvon Johnson played. This was a slower, heavier rendition, somewhat closer to the Jimi Hendrix version. Booker began it solo, and then soon the band came in. Booker T returned to the organ for “Hip Hug-Her,” another of those great instrumentals that Booker T. & The M.G.s are known for. And then Booker T did a sweet, delicate, respectful rendition of “Purple Rain.” For this, it was just Booker and his son on vocals and guitar, and it was a surprising highlight. Booker T introduced “Soul Limbo” by saying it’s a song that was played at cricket matches, and then wasn’t surprised when there wasn’t much of a reaction to the cricket reference. This version featured a good drum solo. He concluded his set with “Everything Is Everything” and “Time Is Tight,” the latter being an excellent tune that always makes me happy.
I was told by several people that I shouldn’t miss Doug Kershaw’s set over at the Cajun stage. But Leon Russell was going on at the same time, and so I made my choice. Was it the right one? There is really no way of knowing, but I was very happy with my choice. Leon Russell put on a good set, sometimes moving quickly from one song to the next, and sometimes telling amusing anecdotes between songs, like about a conversation he had with Elvis Presley. And before “One More Love Song,” he joked about his wife telling him that his fans wouldn’t like him as much if they knew him like she did. He did kind of a fast rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Good Times” (which is often listed as “Let The Good Times Roll”), and probably the happiest version of “Wild Horses” I’ve ever heard. He followed that with a really nice version of “Georgia On My Mind,” and then a fast and fun rendition of The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face.” Of course he did “Tightrope,” which led straight into “Delta Lady.” And then the band left the stage, and Leon Russell performed a few songs solo (just vocals and keys), including “The Ballad Of Mad Dogs And Englishmen,” “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” “Magic Mirror” and “A Song For You.” The band returned to the stage for “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” which led right into “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” and a brief instrumental version of “Paint It Black” and then into “Kansas City.” Leon Russell then ended the set with Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.”
Like I said, it was a really good set, and everything was great over at the blues stage, but the real party was at the Cajun stage when Dwayne Dopsie took over. By the time I made it over there after Leon Russell’s set, Dwayne and his group were already in full swing. I got there just before he started a really cool version of “Jambalaya,” which led straight into “Iko Iko,” during which Dwayne went into the crowd. The band was seriously cooking, and “Iko Iko” led back into “Jambalaya.” Dwayne and Paul Lefleur (on washboard) later went into the crowd to play on a table at one point. Their set was just fun, fun, fun, and with a ton of energy. A washboard solo? Why the hell not? And who knew an accordion could sound so soulful? I do have to wonder if the bands booked for this gig got together beforehand, because Dwayne Dopsie also did “Hey Joe.” Was this something the bands had decided on collectively? This was the third “Hey Joe” of the day (that I was aware of anyway; there could have been more). And it was the second “Hey Joe” of the day to include the line “I’m going down to Simi Valley.” But this was the only “Hey Joe” I heard to feature an accordion solo. Before that song, Dwayne borrowed a hat from an audience member. Their whole set had a party atmosphere, where the audience was just as involved as the band, and Dwayne even invited several people up on stage to dance toward the end, and also had several people sing with him, including some children. And that was how he ended his set. And that was how the festival ended. I had to walk back past the blues stage on the way to my car, but the folks had already long cleared out of that area.
Here are a few photos from the day: