The second annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival in spectacular Natural Chimneys Park began on Friday afternoon under a beautiful summer sky. The promise of the inaugural festival – hosted by the Steel Wheels – brought out an even larger crowd this year. And for the most part the music didn’t disappoint.
My friend Oakley Pearson and I arrived in time to catch the full set of Furnace Mountain, a band from the Berryville, Virginia, area. Comprised of Aimee Curl on bass and vocals, Danny Knicely on mandolin and fiddle, Dave Van Deventer on fiddle, and Morgan Morrison on bouzouki, guitar and vocals, Furnace Mountain is a first-rate roots music band. Knicely is an especially inventive mandolin player, and he displayed some great chops and songwriting skills in today’s set.
Caravan of Thieves was a band I wasn’t familiar with, but they grew on me very quickly. Their web site has a catchy – yet pretty accurate – description of this group::
Driving gypsy jazz rhythms, acoustic guitars, upright bass and violin lay the foundation for mesmerizing vocal harmonies and fantastic stories. It’s theatrical and humorous. It’s musical and intense. It entertains, dazzles and defies classification while welcoming the spectator to join the band throughout the performance in momentary fits of claps, snaps and sing-alongs. If Django Reinhardt, the cast of Stomp and the Beatles all had a party at Tim Burton’s house, Caravan of Thieves would be the band they hired.
That last line is pretty funny.
The band plays hot gypsy jazz, but the vocals have pop sensibilities. Fuzz (I’m not making that up) and Carrie Sangiovanni sing wonderful harmonies. And these guys try anything – one of the wildest being their take on Sympathy for the Devil with a little bit of The Devil Came Down to Georgia and who knows what else thrown in.
The Hackensaw Boys played a spirited set of old time music while we caught some supper. Then came the best band of the day – by a wide margin.
Pokey LaFarge was playing his second Red Wing festival, but he put on a set as if he wasn’t going to get paid unless he won the crowd over.
With a mix of early jazz, ragtime, blues and western swing, LaFarge — backed by a hot acoustic trio and a three-piece horn section — grabbed the crowd with Bowlegged Woman and kept the joint jumping all the way through until Central Time.
The songs – while they sound old – are often LaFarge originals. They played a number of tunes from his newest self-titled CD (which was produced by Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor. Column interruption: Candice used to work for Ketch’s father in a Staunton-area private school and she taught his younger sister. Who knew Ketch would go on to such stardom…in old time music!)
In any event, LaFarge is a great entertainer with a hot band. Pokey really did lap the field today. If you get the chance to see them, take it!
The final full set we stayed for was for The Dukhs.
The band was battling some sound system issues at the beginning, and was not as sharp as the reunion tour configuration that played Red Wing last year. They featured songs from their new CD Get Beyond the Blue, and I always enjoy singer Jesse Havey and the band’s version of Death Came A Knockin‘.
The crowd quickly gathered at the main stage for what was clearly to be the night’s big act, Trampled by Turtles. However, three songs into a very loud set that was all beginning to sound the same, we headed out into the night. It was refreshing, after the overbearing noise of TBT, to get in the car and have Claire Lynch’s beautiful Dear Sister come up in the iTunes rotation. Now that’s music!
But to remember the best of Day 1 of Red Wing Roots Music Festival II, let’s go out with a video of Pokey LaFarge’s Bowlegged Woman. Whoa!
More to come…