Bean Blossom Blues, Brews, & BBQ

Posted on 9/11/2010 by Mark Bastin

The last weekend in August brings in one of Indiana's largest blues festivals and this year was the biggest yet with Kenny Wayne Shepherd headlining the event! Bean Blossom Indiana has been known for bluegrass with Bill Monroe's Music Park but each year since 1999 blues has invaded the park with promoter John Hall making it a three day event. John owns Bushman's Brewhouse a few minutes away in Nashville Indiana and he's also the proprietor of Bushman Music Works, maker of the Delta Frost Harmonica. So needless to say this weekend event showcases some harmonica seminars as well. The lineup John brought fourth this year was a crowd pleaser from start to finish with a few surprises along the way. Gary Applegate started it off with an open jam on Thursday night then it moved on to Friday evening's performances by Jon Justice and Tad Robinson. Jon performed songs past and present with a new album out in 2010 and a voice beyond his years he brought a great performance to opening night. Tad Robinson's soulful vocals are always amazing and worthy of seeing where ever he may be, and on this night he was soulfully spectacular!

Come Saturday it was nearly time for the days lineup to start when Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Noah Hunt set up on stage to record video for an upcoming video release. The two performed as a duo for the cameras then cleared as the first band set up for the start up. First up was the Zakk Knight Band with 16 yr old Zakk Knight fronting the band on guitar and vocals. Their set started off with "Jeff's Boogie", a song Stevie Ray and Jeff Beck had performed together. From there it was one up tempo song to the next until they got to "I don't Live Today" then the crowd reacted. It was early in the day with a few hundred people watching as Zakk layed down the solo to this Jimi Hendrix song and it was as if Jimi was there himself given the reaction from those watching. The climactic ending to this song lead to an eruption as the crowd cheered for the young guitarist. Zakk and his bandmates finished their set with one encore and additional highlights of their set coming from their originals "Where We All Belong" and "Why." Zakk Knight had appeared at the Bean in 2009 with other bandmates so he was familiar to some and an exciting discovery for many.

The next band up was Harsch Reality who also gave a good showing of songs showcasing Rob Harsch's vocals and guitar play. Rob pulled off a respectable rendition of Voodoo Chile and continued to feed the growing crowd the blues they came to see as he finished another fun set. Next up was Kilborn Alley Blues Band with the first sighting of harp play on the main stage for the day. Many are familiar with this band and for good reason, their multi-talented crew continued the pace with a set giving all the sounds one would expect from a Chicago based blues band with blues nominations and awards to their credit. The crowd once again showed appreciation for such tasty blues and showmanship as their music flowed through the park. The sound quality on this day was the best I personally have heard at an outdoor venue like this and kudos go to Clear Sound & Light, Inc. for the fabulous mix for the day!

Next up was Levee Town from Kansas City who continued the amazing musicianship started by Kilborn Alley as they too had their own style which included harp on songs that had people dancing on the lawn in front of the stage. This band was as exciting and unique as the last and one I had heard so much of coming into this event, so I was listening with a such focus as they ran down their set list leaving nothing out! By this time the hillside was covered with blues lovers who were enjoying the great music at hand along with the food and beverages served up by the vendors. The blues flavor for the day was a mix of tradional and contemporary which covered every blues fans palette yet creating a hunger for more.

Gene Deer, another Bean Blossom repeat performer was up next and showed why he's been a crowd favorite. Gene, an Indianapolis based musician has long showed his talented vocals and guitar play performing originals and covers on this day. He announced the release of his new live album which he had to share with those interested after his set. By this time the light of this beautiful day was growing to a close and the stage lights set an intimate mood. Gene asked Zakk Knight to join him on one song as he gave tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan by performing "Sky Is Crying" one day after the anniversary of Stevie's passing. Both Gene and Zakk played with feeling and gave the crowd another thrill as they took turns then joined together to solo for the crowd. Gene then followed with another to round out his soulful set leaving only one band remaining for the night.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd came on stage and with Noah's vocals started their evening with the slow driving blues rock which has been the signature of this multi-platinum bands success. After running down a few of their own hot singles Kenny announced a song Stevie Ray had also covered in "Come On" as he took off on another guitar filled song showing why he's been at the top of the ranks among popular blues artists. Noah's soul induced voice and Kenny Wayne's style on the strat have long been a killer combo familiar to many and on this night they held no punches as the two pursued a blistering set which kept the crowd rockin' under the stars. Along with the duo's actions came the skill of drummer Chris Layton as he has been a touring drummer with the band for some time now. The bands performance was the perfect finale for what was an amazing day filled with music, sun, and fun! The encore was at hand and an extended one to come offering one of the surprises of the day.

Now it was time for what had been promised earlier, the audience was to take part in the filming of a live video for the song "King Bee", the same song they had started the day filming. Not only would they play it but they would play and film it twice! I must say their version of this classic sounds on cue and Noah's vocal is stellar on this song so hearing it twice was very cool! The band then continued on with a cover of "Oh Well" and the grand finale and signature cover from Kenny Wayne. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) and it was as mind blowing as ever for those present who gave such enthusiastic approval! The song capped off a two hour set for the band and a day of blues which started nearly 12 hours earlier. I was able to speak with a few throughout the day and it seemed as if many were in attendance multiple years and those who camped for the weekend shared in great times beyond the music. It was a great weekend of blues and the perfect weather to facilitate such a spectacular showing of musicians! A big thank you to all those who made this festival possible and for supporting blues in Indiana.

American Blues News

Some photos courtesy of Ward Smith

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