7BN-Event of the year

28 June 2017
David McCabe

Event of the Year

Most chronicles of an “event of the year” type that one reads discuss one specific performance of one, or possibly two if the opening act merited mention, specific artists. They also tend to be published in the first couple of months of the New Year. I am not doing either of those with my choice of event of the year for 2016.

Friday, August 19, Trois-Rivières en Blues, Trois-Rivières, Quebec

The schedule for the evening looks like this, and that was already a hit with me, because Colin and Kenny have both been on my bucket list for a long time, having never seen either.

Southern Hospitality
           Colin James
           Kenny Wayne Shepherd

All of the above played in the new Amphithéâtre Cogeco, a magnificent open air, but multi seasonal, venue for live shows right on the banks of where the Saint-Maurice river joins the mighty St-Laurent. This was our first time with seats at this venue, and we ended up with great ones in the first 15 rows of the lowest section, on the left side looking at the stage.
Trois-Rivières en Blues
To top off the evening, I had plans to also go see Justin Saladino and his band, A.J. Aboud (Drums), and Gabriel Forget (Bass), at one of the local pubs in the city core that host bands after the big shows are done. 

We made our way to the amphitheater in plenty of time to see the shows, as the hotel we were staying at is the closet hotel in the city to the amphitheater. While there were rickshaw type of taxis available for the short distance, we walked all weekend, enjoying the city and the weather.

Of course, Southern Hospitality were amazing. For those that do not know, they are a Blues “super group”, formed by the trio of Victor Wainwright on keys, and Damon Fowler and JP Soars on guitars, accompanied on this night by Matt Walker on bass, and Chis Peet on drums. All of them are accomplished musicians separately, with groups and as solo artists. The next day, as a matter of fact, JP played with Matt and Chris as JP Soars Gypsy Jazz, and Damon and Victor played a duet show, but I digress. 
Southern Hospitality
I saw them last year at Festival International du Blues de Tremblant for the first time, and was just as happy with this performance at this festival as I was last year. Victor always puts on a show, and is one of the best keyboard players I have seen live. I have been a fan of Damon for many years, before I even knew about Victor. 

The combination of the two different styles of guitar playing brought to the group by Damon and JP evokes memories of early Allman Brothers, when Duane and Dicky were also very different guitar players.

By the way, remember the names of the drummer and bass player. There is going to be a quiz later. 
Trois-Rivières en Blues
Colin James. What needs to be said? A Canadian legend, 6 Junos, 17 Maple Blues Awards, and an induction to the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, and I had never seen him. I have 13 of his albums, and have been a fan since years before I really knew what the Blues were. I especially like his series of three volumes of “Little Big Band” albums, with that great jazz Big Band repertoire of songs he and his band performed so well. I was hoping he would do some of those, but alas, perhaps another time.
Colin James
The performance overall was just what I expected, very professional, great musicians in his band, superb sound, (the venue had a lot to do with that). I may have been a little spoiled by listening so much to his 25 Alive album, recorded live in his hometown as a celebration of his 25 year career, that I had my expectations set too high. That performance in Vancouver was full of emotions and adrenalin that were certainly not going to be present in this show. He did not disappoint; it was just not where I wanted it to be. Still happy that I did see him finally, and would like to see him again.
Colin James
Final show of the evening at the big stage: Kenny Wayne Shepherd. As mentioned, this was another artist I had never seen, but have been following for a while. 

Although I missed his opening tune, (we had gone for a walk during the break) I did see the rest of the show, and got everything I expected, plus more, in the form of a powerful singer with a great stage presence. Kenny can play guitar, and his band has been the same solid lineup for many years now with ex-Stevie Ray Vaughan drummer Chris Layton (Double Trouble,) bassist Tony Franklin (the Firm,) keyboardist Riley Osbourn (Willie Nelson) and that powerful singer I mentioned, Noah Hunt, who deserves to be known by many more fans.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
The band was the recipient of many standing ovations, deservedly, and many reviewers called it the show of the entire weekend festival. I would agree with that, although Mike Zito the next night came close. I have it on good authority that Kenny loved the venue, so we will probably see him again in the future. Do not miss him if he comes back.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
After the three main shows were finished, we went back to our hotel, and had a nightcap before I left to go out to see Justin Saladino at Le Trèfle, Taverne Irlandaise, (Irish Pub) on Rue Des Forges. He was scheduled to start at 11:00, and by the time I got there, around 11:20, he was already going. 
Justin Saladino
And here is where this great, but not quite exceptional, night of shows turns into an exceptional night of live music.

Got a seat at the bar, (where else?), sitting beside Phil Brisse, and near a stand-up table were Brian Slack and a few others were gathered. We were directly in front of the band, about 20 feet away.

I looked over at the band, and noticed the guys on the bass and drums were not AJ and Gabriel.

Remember I said there would be a quiz? Here it is. Who were the drummer and bassist I said to remember? That is who were playing with Justin, Chris Peet and Matt Walker, from earlier with Southern Hospitality. 
This is cool, they had decided to come jam with the local musicians, even though they had just done a show, and were doing another the next day, during the day.

They played their respective instruments for a few tunes. Then they switched, Chris to the bass, and Matt to the drums, while Justin kept playing guitar. Whoa, did not see that coming! Then the ‘musical chairs’ started, literally. AJ and Gabriel and Matt and Chris kept switching in and out, so the band played with no major breaks in the music until around 2:50 in the morning. Almost 4 full hours of live jamming.

All of the musicians did get a break or two themselves, except Justin. But he looked like he was having such a good time, I do not think he even noticed the time. But he missed a lot of shooters, until the end of the night, when he joined in. 

At one point I wanted to go outside to ‘get some air’, but the show in front of me was just too much fun to leave. I never left until the end, with everybody else.

The icing on the cake, so to speak, happened near the end, at around 2:30, when Matt picked up a guitar, and the band had two guitarists suddenly, and did an amazing version of Papa Was a Rolling Stone, that had everybody in the place smiling right along with them.

The expressions of joy that I saw on the faces of these musicians while they jammed is why I love live music so much. That is my raison d‘être for going to shows, to see that joy, and hear it expressed through their talents. When it is done like it was at this bar show, even though it only happens occasionally like this, it makes it all worthwhile. It also makes it very hard to beat for the Event Of the Year, at least in my book.

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