Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 - by Mark Bastin

Posted on 7/23/2010 by Mark Bastin

WOW! What can I say? It's been days and I'm still on a musical high I refuse to come down from! After the event I ventured out on an extended leave of sorts and I've returned to share that which was Crossroads Guitar Festival! It was the largest single music event I've ever attended and gave promise to be the most amazing assembly of musicians I've ever witnessed live and it didn't disappoint! First off, let me tell you the weather was warm but a gorgeous sunny day which turned into one unbelievable evening! As the day started people made there way into Toyota Park, finding their place on the field which was covered with a removable flooring, others located their seats in the stands. You could feel a sense of excitement in the air as every face you met gave way to a smile, as there was much to smile about! Prior to the actual Crossroads kickoff they had Kirby Kelley, Guitar Center's King of the Blues winner out to perform the track which won him the title and prizes. It was a tease of sorts as people including myself filed into the area in front of the stage reserved for the first 3,000 attendees who entered that morning. They all had wrist bands, some with cameras, many sporting previous Crossroads shirts, finding their way to the stage as the event was about to open. Bill Murray once again graced the stage as Ambassador of Chicago to begin the festivities and Crossroads 2010 was under way!! I'll come back to the music highlights but I want to continue on in describing the event and the attractions.

I was able to move about freely while my photographer Raymon Guajardo was stationed on the photo riser just left of the sound booth on the field, as I walked within those on the flooring it was apparent many were return visitors from the 2007 event and the conversations combined to highlight past performances and praise what was ahead. The best part of moving through the crowd which was evident throughout the whole day was the unity displayed. Guitar fanatics unite!! Early in the afternoon I had made my way over the far end stairs to investigate the Guitar Village which wrapped that end at ground level. My discovery was both exciting and educational! Among all the vendors one theme was constant, plug and play!! You could walk up to Fender, Gibson, Guitar Center, and many other vendors and sample their offerings to the guitar world with many on hand to field questions and encourage purchases. Guitar Center had a Legends display showcasing three world famous guitars, two of Clapton's most famous including his strat named Blackie. The third was one which stopped me in my tracks, the strat played by the man responsible for drawing me to blues, Stevie Ray Vaughan's 1965 Lenny! As I stood in front of the guitar my eyes began to swell, now I realize this was most likely a replica of Lenny but I was struck with the overwhelming feeling that came when I heard Stevie's music which still gives chills when listening. I had my picture taken in front of the larger than life picture display of Stevie, it's now my phone background.

As I strolled through the village it was my intent to hear Ryan McGarvey, the Ernie Ball contest winner who earned the right to perform on the Ernie Ball Stage placed within the village. It was a small trailer stage and very much like walking up to a game at a local fair which had a huge impact on my day! It was early afternoon as Ryan and his band began to play with many from the midwest who knew nothing of him on facebook or myspace as they were all asking his name. As Ryan's set proceeded viewers began to gasp in amazement for never knowing of such a talent! Words like incredible and hot were used to describe the young guitarist as the crowd grew larger around the stage. The song which impacted the audience most was saved for his finale, a nine minute instrumental called "Mystic Dream" and it delivered as the crowd erupted after his guitar solo where he displayed why he was the winner! As the song and set ended Ryan gave thanks for the invitation to Crossroads and to the crowd for listening. After a blistering acoustic set from Joe Bonamassa on the same stage I was off to hear more from the main stage. Joe was equally as exciting and gracious to the fans with more to come on him in the arena.

Crossroads on the main stage began as it did in 2007, an intro from Bill Murray introducing Eric, then Eric introducing Sonny Landreth and the music was off and running. Sonny performed Promiseland with Eric onstage in one of his songs reminding us all why Sonny opens the show and is who he is! Robert Randolph and the Family Band followed with Joe Bonamassa and Pino Daniele assisting. Joe's only song of his own he performed was Further On Up The Road and it was stellar as usual but it was odd only seeing Joe lead on one song. Robert and Pino both took lead vocal honors with Robert's sister assisting as well. On the next set Robert Cray, and Hubert Sumlin, took the stage with Jimmy Vaughan performing an emotional rendition of Six Strings Down in their set. As each performance ended they spun the rotating stage around to speed the transition so we all had little down time between sets, it was very effective and pleasing to the crowd. I don't want to overlook the fact Robert Cray sounded better than ever and any time Hubert Sumlin is on stage makes it a legendary performance! Moving further into the day I found myself listening to Jesus Just Left Chicago once again having just seen ZZ Top at the Indy 500 Carb Day show but the difference on this day was they sounded better than any time I've ever heard them live! They also covered Foxy Lady which drew great approval. Albert Lee, Keb Mo, and Vince Gill jammed together with Albert's daughter joining in on lead vocals on one song. Vince performed his top hit, Whenever You Come Around but his guitar play was really what took center stage! Then Vince covered with permission, Eric's song, Lay Down Sally, with Sheryl Crow assisting on vocals and James Burton and Earl Klugh jamming on guitar. It was exciting to see and hear all the genres covered with all the musicians on stage as rock, country, blues, and jazz were all represented by many of the best in their respective genres, although blues was the theme of the day.

I spoke of my trip to the guitar village earlier in the day which unfortunately meant I had to miss someone on the main stage, this was a big sacrifice for me as my favorite guitarist, Doyle Bramhall was on stage with Sheryl Crow and I missed it all. Fortunately a few fans had videos online allowing me to see what I missed but as with any live show it's more moving when it's in your face. The next group in our face was Chicago legend Buddy Guy along with Ron Wood, and Jonny Lang, representing three generations of blues and or blues rock. They were like three little boys on stage!! To see Buddy still playing as he does at a young 73 is simply remarkable!! Ron and Jonny's guitar play pleased the crowd as well while Buddy makes the comment, "it's a blast between two who play like that, makes me feel like I'm in heaven." We were all feeling it as Buddy screams and goes into playing the Rolling Stone's song Miss You, while Jonny begins to sing requesting the crowd to join in. This was my favorite set on the big stage as all three have meant so much to me musically so I was truly in heaven with them! This being my largest music event ever to cover I was struggling to focus on covering the event versus falling into an all out blues rock fanatic coma! There were some great songs but the musicians stood out on this day as Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, and Warren Haynes performed in place of the Allman Brothers since Gregg was unable to attend due to a successful liver transplant. David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas from Los Lobos also joined in. They covered the Allman Brothers song Soul Shine as a tribute and it was well received!

Johnny Winter slowly walked out and sat on a chair performing a cover of Red House as the fans all showed respect for the elder statesman of blues. It was a magical day of music and Jeff Beck added to the magic with a magical musical score of his own which left you writing the story in your head as the notes took you to another place. Jeff was also sporting a new bass player named Rhonda Smith who not only had some amazing bass lines, but she also thrilled the crowd with her vocals! After such an amazing performance you'd expect more of the same right? What followed was Bill Murray in one of his many costumes over the course of the day. He was Elvis and wiped his forehead with a red cloth which he revealed was a Chicago Blackhawks Flag, the crowd cheered as he through it in the audience as Elvis had thrown a scarf. A last minute addition to the event was Citizen Cope as he performed I Shot The Sheriff with Clapton leading into Steve Winwood's performance with Eric Clapton and a stirring Clapton style cover of Voodoo Chile which was very intense! Cocaine and Mr. Fantasy were also favorites played for an estimated crowd of 30,000.

The final set was upon us with what appeared to be 20 guitar amps across the stage as Eric, Jimmy Vaughan, Robert Cray, and B.B. King took the stage. As the three younger artists strummed softly B.B. began to tell a story which took a very long time to complete but the living legend of blues was given his due and began to sing Rock Me Baby. Watching this finale made me realize I could be seeing things I may never see again so it was both amazing and emotional for me. These four men then went into another B.B. tune, The Thrill Is Gone, and it was equally special to witness! From there many of the day's performers took the stage to sing Sweet Home Chicago and nearly all of the crowd had remained in their seats to witness another historical ending in the making! It was a truly sweet ending to an extraordinary day in witnessing some of the best musicians the world had to offer, leaving memories which would last forever! One last note, Eric Clapton spoke at one point in the day stating that the crowd was reason to say there would be another Crossroads, so for those who had heard this was the last one, rejoice, and get to the next one, it will be all you had hoped it would be. I know it was for me, an unforgettable experience as a writer, fan, and music lover, one I will cherish!

Mark Bastin

American Blues News

Photos courtesy of Raymon Guajardo

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