The Long Beach Blues Festival (Day Two) 09/03/06

Featuring Joe Cocker, Jerry "The Iceman" Butler, Bettye Lavette, Kenny Neal, Billy Branch & Carl Weathersby and The Campbell Brothers


That day was on the phone to the following day...
The day after that was on the phone to me!

J.C. Mašek III... So Blue he's YOU!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

I paid this time, too!

These are the Dolls (and Guys)!

There we sat, copping our place in the sun, watching the steam rise off of that famous, blue pyramid, hoping to catch a shot of a passing jet's silhouette on its changing hued walls. It was hot. The women were hot. I was not.

I thought I was... hell, I've lost three belt sizes in the past few months and I'm approaching the old weight I used to model with, so I figured, hey, I'm date bait again. Well, then I got the photos from the Long Beach Blues Festival, 2006. Dude, I look like something ol' Uncle George got matted in to the Star Wars special edition. I feel like I should be schmoozing with Han Solo, saying "Han, my boy, you're the best..." And Michelle hung with me the whole time. That's a friend. Personally, I even asked to not sit by me.

As happens occasionally with these festival shows, we ran into some folks from the previous day, asking how our bet turned out. This, of course, was the bet in which I swore I could carry Michelle and all our stuff back to the car, if for no other reason than to prove a point. The bet was made when I was drunk. The people were asking how the bet went when I was sober again. Therefore, I couldn't, and can't, remember what my point was. However, Michelle swears she won the bet... seeing as how I didn't carry her and all our stuff to the car. I claimed that was revisionist history and we began to bicker about which one of us was a more prime example of just what is wrong with the History Books today.

Michelle won.

Both arguments.

More later.

I'm not here to talk about that, though. Okay, yeah, I am, because I'm pretty sure it was part of the bet, but more importantly, I'm here to talk about... The Blues... and the Booze that Accompanies the Blues Revue, which I now review.

The Beer line opened right when The Campbell Brothers took the stage. I've never been a fan of "The Hair of the Dog", but we got three free drinks a piece and I was damned if we were gonna waste that gold! Therefore, the very concept of "Decisions, Decision" was brought to new heights for me. The Campbell Brothers ROCK, man! I've got a thing for the sound of the Pedal Steel guitar, and these guys used more than one of them to great affect. One interesting thing is that in almost every case the Pedal Steel ends up sounding like a scratchy Theremin. Now, I happen to love that sound, but the fact that The Campbell Brothers' Blues and Gospel combinations were almost devoid of this sound, in favor of an entertaining wall of strings, was very refreshing to say the least. With their soulful lyrics and sweeping hymns of Jesus Worship (I too am a witness, my Brother!), these rockers redefine what it means to be a "Righteous Dude". Imagine a group of serious musicians, moved by the LORD playing their hearts out with their eyes closed. I was moved... but then I saw the white guys peekin'! Dude! But I kid. These guys were more than worth their soup with their Rhythm, Blues, Soul, Rock and Gospel lyrics, not to mention their shining example of just how great the Pedal Steel can sound. Further, their use of the standard Strat was mind-blowing, adding in the fret-board exploration that makes any Electric Blues not just good but great. Bravo! YYY1/2

At one point on the previous day, I thought I was losing Michelle. Turns out all she needed was some Catfish. This day, Sunday, I was determined to make sure this wasn't the case (and to keep my ATM Card, lest I have to pay rent late). This time, it was food and water... strength! Fruit, hydration... idiotic stories that had nothing to do with anything (that was my contribution) and... oh, frig, wait, there's Tracy. Tracy's bringing more free beer. Well, there goes that idea.


A trio of stand-alone Blues Men took over from The Campbell Brothers and contributed to the whole "Supergroup" vibe. The trio on stage was Kenny Neal, Billy Branch and Carl Weathersby. The trio on our beach blanket was Pilsner, Margarita and Kneumsi. The trio on stage sounded better and, as I found out, was more attractive. Billy Branch brought forth a Tremolo-Sounding Harmonica that fluttered on the wind like a blue moth. Kenny Neal was a six-string dynamo, playing his axe like a madman, and showing off the scratches to prove he was a veteran at it. Carl Weathersby is a great guitarist too, but it's his crooning (the good kind) vocals that make his show for him. Each of these guys could have probably pulled off that whole "minimalist" vibe with just their own instrument and voice, but together, these guys could play the damned BLUES! Chicago Blues, baby. Sweet Home! Having a similar history (though decades apart) to Guitar Junior, Weathersby brought that Southern Blues palate to the Big City Chicago electricity, helping to round out an incredibly eclectic set. They also gave me the unique opportunity to tell Michelle all about Blind Mellon Chitlin's cover of "I'm a Man!" Before I give you your rating, Blind Baby, Spell Now! YYY1/2

Michelle said she was in the mood for a Slushy... They had Margaritas. She acquiesced. I decided I was in the mood for a Beer... They had Beer. I'm easy, kids, I'm easy. I'm fat again, but I'm easy. Right around this time, I was excited to discover that Anakin and Obi-Wan were crossing their Hanzo Lightsabres across the CSULB Sports Field right in front of me. I distinctly heard Anakin yelling "Pepsi's Better!", while Obi was screaming that the better drink was Coke. On the way back it was Kirk vs. Picard. That was weird.

It was at this point that I realized that Alcohol doesn't do anything to prevent dehydration and that I was (well, probably) hallucinating like a muh-fuh! That's right, I said it! I went there! A Muh-Fuh! If you're real nice I'll tell you about what happened next. I'm not going to offer any spoilers, but the story starts with The Great Gazoo popping up out of nowhere and saying "Well, hello there, Dum-Dum!"


Somehow in the middle of all of this, I got an imported Marvin Gaye disc (I hope I paid for it) and Michelle got some kick ass watercolor paintings of Bonnie Raitt, along with some of the great Blues Masters. She was downhearted to note that right there in the middle of the second painting... was Tom Cruise. What the-? Why because his name rhymes with Blues? Hell and damn! You know who they should've put in the middle? Bettye LaVette, that's who. She hit the stage third with an iron-clad set of vocal chords that have been around the world and back. Bettye is fond of telling tales of where she's been and how she got to where she is (she recently won her first ever award), but as cool as her stories are, it's her singing voice that nails your pants to the wall. Bettye LaVette's sweet and soulful combination of Satin and Sandpaper was worth the entire show (but get back, Joe). Known as "The Great Lady of Soul", this great lady was in great shape and could probably have worked her magic to the back row even without that microphone. She evokes the best memories of Tina Turner, Betty Lewis, Etta James, and even (to an extent) Lady Day herself. Paint this lady's portrait, Watercolor people... I just wish a painting had sound. YYYY1/2

I wasn't sure if the sweet voice of Bettye Lavette had ROCKED Michelle to sleep (she was Michelle's favorite), or if Michelle was dead. Now, most people would probably have just reached over and shook her to make sure, but me... I don't know! Boundaries and all! I decided to hedge my bets and make sure we had what it took to survive Mr. Sun's baking, coupled with Mr. Beer and Mrs. Margarita's basting, marinating and pickling. So I went to go get more free wa-wa. But, kids, that wa-wa was ready for Rice it was so damned hot. So, carefully I replaced the jug and went on the hunt for Ice. I figured I'd have to bribe some vendor by offering nude pictures of myself (I hadn't yet been reminded what I look like, and I was drunk) in exchange for Ice. I had even considered fabricating a mask out of a poster-board sign I just passed by and robbing one of these places of all their ice. Instead, I read the sign and realized that it said "Ice by the Bag!" Whoa. And to think there are Atheists in this world. So, just before Jerry "The Iceman" Butler took the stage, J.C. "The Iceman" Mašek III showed up with twenty pounds of frozen water. I rule! Michelle asked how I achieved such a feat. I responded that "I have my ways!" At the time, that sounded rather cool. In hindsight... Dorky with a capitol ORKY!

Ice was all it took, and we both lived (I think...). Naturally, lovin' the Blues, and being a Luzianer boy m'self, it was time to share the rest of our twenty pounds of swingin' cubes with our neighbors. Out came the Solo Cups, and up went my status with all the hot people around us. They began to call me "The Blues Brother" (because when they asked to pay me back I just said "Love the Blues, Baby!") and I really wasn't offended by it.

Yeah, that sounded a lot cooler when drunk too, but hell! You want to know who is still cool? Blues man Jerry "The Iceman" Butler. This guy was great. Now, admittedly, I did prefer his earlier work with Spider-Man and Firestar, not to mention the tracks he laid down with the X-Men, but if Iceman wants to go solo, who am I to tell him he can't? But seriously, folks, THIS Iceman's super team was called "The Impressions" and included the great Curtis Mayfield back in the day. Iceman did grant us the smooth and sweet "For Your Precious Love", as well as several other soaring and lovely orchestral Rhythm and Blues songs. Although commonly associated with the Motown movement (rightly), Jerry Butler couldn't be more Chicago if he were a Cook County Politician. Oh, by the way, for the past 20 years Jerry Butler has been a Cook County Board Commissioner. (You saw that comin', right?). The show was fantastic, and I'm only glad we all had the Ice with which to celebrate "The Ice Man", because, kids, it's hard to imagine things getting any hotter than when our main man sang "Never Gonna Give you Up"! Let me tell ya... I'd vote for this man! YYYY1/2

Well, we had Ice, we had Beer, we had food, we had Caddy 'Ritas, we had souvenirs, we had plenty of opportunities to check out the lovely ladies wearing nearly nothin'... but we figured, hell, it's time for a coffee cup from Brymus Capitol. Technically we were trying to win iPods, but when someone puts a Coffee Cup in your hand... Actually, I was kind of okay with it. At first I decided this was a burden, carrying my big ass beer and this coffee cup. Then my mind started to (slowly, because it was rusted by fermented barleys) formulate a plan. I held the Brymus Capitol Coffee Cup Aloft in one hand, held the Lite cup in the other... then slowly filled the empty cup with the content of the full one, then tossing the new empty. I felt like a kid on Mister Wizard's World!

This time, Michelle wouldn't even look at me. She had a point. Here I was swearing that when the chips were down I could carry her and all our stuff, and I went and added more stuff. Actually, I guess the point was that I was acting like Professor Bunsen Burner after figuring out how to pour beer. Not only was I a Bartender for years, but even Beaker can do that, man.

Okay, so I never claimed to be smart... but this is smart: I was there to see the great, great Joe Cocker. Unfortunately, I got into my Joe Cocker mood a little too early and kept singing "She Came in through the Bathroom Window" in my scratchiest BLOOZE voice. It was worse than the historical Led Zeppelin lecture I had given (three times) earlier that day. I should've just left it to the Master because Joe Cocker gave one of the best shows you could imagine. Our man is sixty-two years old and still does that Spasming dance that we all know and imitate (flatteringly, most of us). The only real problem (for those around me) is that for most of the show I was conducting like Bugs Bunny dressed as Leopold. Joe had even more energy as he granted us the pleasure of his version of "Feelin' Alright". He need not have asked... I was feeling good myself! Uh-Huh! "Unchain My Heart" was even more adrenaline pumped. One guy got arrested for not having a good time. I spat on him as he was taken away to the stockade (sorry, needed more water... hallucinating again). Even with the entire audience singing, Joe enunciated in his famously distinctive Brit Soul voice.

His penchant for creating Classic R & B hits out of Classic Rock hits was worth its weight in gold that evening, especially as he belted out his first huge hit, "With a Little Help from My Friends", from Sgt. Pepper's. It was incredible to hear live. It was so raw and fresh, but still Studio Quality. Sixty-Two years old and he sounds like this. I was surprised to note that at this point people actually were standing up and walking out on him, though he wasn't singing out of key. Then I realized it was just the people around me, man. I needed to shut up. Look, people, I gave you Ice! But on the bright side, at least he doesn't have to introduce this number as "That song from The Wonder Years" anymore!

It was obligatory that Joe bring out the Top Forty for a crowd pleasing bit. "You are so Beautiful" melted the ladies in the audience, as well as described them. Joe's back up band, of course, consisted of two fantastic female backing vocalists (they're all over his tunes), therefore "Up Where We Belong" was no problem at all. And it never sounded so great. What a great duet. I grew up hearing the song on KVKI in Shreveport, Louisiana (which pretty much means I'm burned out on it), but I still ate it up like a Caddy 'Rita, baby. I'm still singing it.

But then came the moment at which I leaned over to sweet Michelle and said "Look, if anything should happen to me, if I get hit by a bus, or a Satellite falls on my head or something, you need to let people know... that I died happy!" What am I talking about? "The Letter", baby! I mean that, man! Cocker's version is so hard hitting that my bruises are more prominent than my sunburn, which is, damn, which is saying something. Good thing he was loud because I was screaming those lyrics. I was in Seventh Cleveland, kids, with the whole "I don't care how much I got to spend, now... I got to find my way, my way back home again! OH, Lonely days are gone... I'm comin' ho-ome" Vamp, Vamp, Vamp, Vamp, "My baby she wrote me a let-ter!" and then the punctuating Brass hits with the "Dant, Dant, Dant, Da-da-da! Dant, Dant, Dant, Da-da-da!" It wasn't so hot around me anymore, dudes, I was a human fan, flailing my arms about and punching the air with each horn blast.

But it didn't happen yet. Not yet... not the moment I was waiting for. The moment at which the non-believers out there would finally learn what the hell is so great about a song concerning some chick, some bathroom and some window. Joe left the stage, and the KKJZ dude took the mic. I was crestfallen. I started looking for a falling satellite to stand under. But then the KKJZ dude started the chant of "Joe! Joe! Joe! Joe!" and BAM! "She came in through the Bathroom Window!" Here's where things get really embarrassing. I did the Joe Cocker Dance, kids, and I have the gut for it, apparently. There I am rasping out my famous "Sunday's on the Phone to Monday! Tuesday's on the Phone to me!" (which I do all the time, not like just that day), when I discovered Michelle had boggarted my camera phone. Now, preserved for POSTERIOR is my disturbing jaunt into the realm of Joe Cocker imitation, where few men save John Belushi have gone before.

Yeah... I'm sexy.

Joe... well, maybe he was for a Sixty-Two year old dude with a great voice. He still had that spring in his step, that well-used sandy voice and the bounce at all the right moments. This fellah never once "Sang Out Of Tune!" YYYYY

Slowly, with smug, satisfied and well-iced looks on our faces, we packed up our stuff and began to walk back to the Beat-Up, Red, Nineteen Eighty-Eight Mustang. Those chairs I spent that 80 bucks on... the ones that double as Backpacks? Well, kids, apparently you have to pack them pretty tight to make that work. As soon as we left the gate a Diet Coke hit the ground and started spurting foam. Damn. But that's cool, right, it's cool... No, because then went that stupid Coffee Cup. CRASH! SMASH! People behind me stated saying "You're gonna lose it all, man!" and not a one of them were calling me "Blues Brother" no mo'. Michelle won the bet by default. "You would so have dropped me, man!", she said.

I promised I wouldn't have, and if the chips were down and we were walking across hot coals, she wouldn't even have broken a sweat. I got the big "Yeah, Right!" I said that if the... the proverbial chips really had proverbially been proverbially down, I wouldn't be carrying all our stuff anyway, just her. She reminded me that wasn't the bet. Damned coffee cup. Damned alcohol! Damned butter fingered Kneumsi.

I clearly I can't carry anything. I can't even carry a tune. So now, preserved for Posterior Posterity, I give myself a Dog.

But I give Four (point two) Stars out of Five to the second day of the 27th Annual Long Beach Blues Festival. Joe Cocker could have carried the show all on his own, but didn't have to. I could have carried Michelle and all our stuff to the car, but I'll never live down that shattered coffee cup. Sigh. How humiliating. I can still see it, the two white halves rocking gently in the breeze on the black asphalt, twin symbols of my failure... their porcelain-on-blacktop scrapings echoing the words "lo-ser, lo-ser, lo-ser, lo-ser". I'm going to go practice carrying things. Maybe I'll become a fireman. But before that, let me run. See, I got me a ticket for an Airplane... I ain't got time... to take no fast train! OH Lonely Days are go-one, I'm comin' Ho-ome... My baby she sent me a Text Message! Okay, not nearly the impact of the original. Mine's true though. Hell, I just dropped my phone.

I got the Blues so bad-like,
I'm cryin' in my beer...
But I ain't telling Yo' Dumb Ass Why!
Just click here for more reviews, Foo'
and get all out my bidness!

The Long Beach Blues Festival (9/3/6)
Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is responsible for his own reviews
And for the fact that when the Iceman Cameth, J.C. stole his Thunder!
But man, was it ever worthwhile.
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