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4.0

Backstage

Written by Alex Mortland Jun 06, 2008 at 03:16 PM
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September 2, 1998

I apologize for the utter length of this review, but it is necessary.

Let's start at 12:00 PM. My dad and I walked over to the officials booth next to the ticket entry, and we explained who we were, and that backstage passes were waiting for us. Things got worked out well enough, and we were shown where to go, who to talk to, etc. After arriving at the stage, we talked to a nice girl named Lisa, and she gave us both passes.

We watched the Lloyd Jones Struggle, an Oregon blues group (who, incidentally, wailed!) and later went off to find something to eat. After eating, we met up with Don Brown, who possesses probably the biggest Peter Green collection on Earth. I'd told him I would get his copy of the Robert Johnson Songbook signed for him, and he and his wife were both quite grateful. We talked with them before going off to find Dave Sjoblom, aka Peach-Head.

Peach-Head is a Peter Green fanatic, and my dad has known him since forever. Since my dad was never really a HUGE Peter Green fan, he was more than happy to give his pass to him.

We walked to the backstage area (which was separated from the crowd by just a small picket fence), and talked with Don, etc., and we saw them. They were walking toward the backstage lounge, and my heart nearly stopped beating. Peter was in the center of the group, and was decked out in a T-Shirt and shorts. They passed on by, and we talked about this encounter (well, a sighting anyways) amongst ourselves. About 15 minutes later, they walked back to where they had came from, and Don talked to Nigel for a brief moment.

A little later, I spotted Martin Bell, and we greeted each other. He also mentioned that he'd arranged for my dad to come backstage as well (he'd wanted to meet my dad). We went over to get his pass, and somehow three passes were waiting for us. We gave the other two to Don and his wife, for which they were quite grateful.

We hung around that area until Martin told us he was going to take us to meet Peter. We walked to the back of the stage, and a computer was set up which was broadcasting the "Liveconcerts.com" thing. Peter was looking over the operator's shoulder, having a look at what he was doing, when we came up. Martin said to him "This is Alex, he runs our official website", and Peter shook my hand and smiled. Then, Martin added "This is his dad, Steve". Peter did the same to my dad, and then shook Martin's hand! All in all, he didn't say a word to me, but his facial expressions were more than enough.

My dad and I walked to the backstage lounge, where everybody in the band except Peter was sitting on the couches. Peter was somewhere else, I don't know where. Anyways, Nigel was sitting on a couch, half asleep. Arthur Anderson, the tour manager, woke him up, and Nigel explained that he'd gotten maybe two or three hours of sleep the previous night. I introduced myself everywhere else, and sat down on the arm of one of the couches. Then Peter strolled in.

He just walked around the room, rooted through the fridge, and eventually found a Twix bar. Nigel asked me if I'd met Peter yet, and I told him yes. He didn't say anything at all, just looked around until somebody directed him elsewhere. He didn't look disoriented, as some earlier reviews have stated. He just kinda looked bored.

Everybody gradually left the room, and I did too. By then, we'd met up with Don, his wife, and Peach-Head, explained to them that we'd met Peter, etc. Then, the show started.

I was standing next to the ramp to the stage when the band was introduced. As they walked by, I hollered "Good luck", but nobody answered. I didn't even need to say it. I'll go ahead with a "song by song" review:

"It Takes Time"- The band opened with this Otis Rush classic, and Peter was barely heard. It was probably due to his whisper-voice, but his guitar was somewhat quiet as well. I thought nothing of it, and the song was very well done.

"Black Magic Woman"- Peter dedicated this song to somebody named Eve, and once again his guitar was very quiet. It was well performed, however.

"Indians"- Nigel introduced this new song of his, and I quite liked it. He stated that when watching westerns as a kid, he'd always wondered why the Indians never won a battle, hence the inspiration for this song. Good one.

"Rattlesnake Shake"- This was quite well done, and Peter started getting a better stage presence by now. He was also more audible, which I was obviously in favor of.

"The Stumble"- Any doubts about his playing ability went out the window. Peter's guitar got louder, and he SMOKED. I was just astounded at the feeling he put into every note. His playing got better and better after this.

"Dark End Of The Street"- This may not be in the right order, but I think I'm including all the songs. Anyways, Nigel sang this song beautifully, and Peter played a gorgeous guitar solo in the middle.

"Keep Your Big Mouth Shut"- I'd never heard this Bo Diddley song before, but I like it. Peter started every chorus with "Hey mama...", to which Nigel and Roger would follow up "Keep your big mouth shut!". Great interplay here.

"The Supernatural"- Introduced by Roger as "spooky rock", Peter took authority here. In fact, I almost prefer it over the Mayall version. Peter didn't use sustain to as much advantage as on the original, but other than that it was a thrilling performance.

"Hip Shake"- Not one of my favorites. Having said that, it has an okay riff, and they performed it well (for what it was, anyways).

"Albatross"- Nigel played the famous hook from this song, while Peter played fills. When it got to the two-part harmony, Peter and Nigel played as one, and won many a "Woah" from the crowd.

"The Green Manalishi"- Good god, this was astounding! Peter played excellently on this, but I must say that I was most impressed with Nigel's guitar solo. He COOKED on this one. The rhythm section was quite punishing as well, and the sheer power of this one made my hair stand up.

"Look On Yonder Wall"- The encore, Peter played harp on this (and sang) until Martin gave him his Gibson Howard Roberts to finish things up. What a killer way to end the show!

All bias aside, they just smoked. The crowd was just absolutely packed, and after the band left the stage, about two thirds of them left. People were buying Splinter Group CD's, chanting for more... Unbelievable.

Nigel and Peter went off to the lounge to do an interview, so I congratulated the rest of the band on a stellar show, and asked Martin if I'd be able to talk to Peter again. He said to talk to Arthur after a while, etc., all in all, it was about an hour until Peter and Nigel emerged. They came out briefly, and then went back in. Again they returned, and I asked Peter if he would sign my guitar. He smiled real cooly and nodded. He signed it right behind the bridge, posed for pictures with both myself and Peach-Head, and went off with Nigel.

All of us talked amongst ourselves until we realized that Peter and Nigel were signing autographs at a merchandise table, and Nigel hadn't signed my guitar. He happily did so, and I went around and got the whole band to do so as well, including Martin and Arthur.

After the autograph-signing (just a note: I saw 7-year-olds going up to him asking for autographs. The word has been spread!), Peter and Nigel walked near our location, and I remarked to Peter "Wonderful show!". He smiled, and looked the other way. After a little bit, the whole band got into a van, Peter sitting in back. I waved as they drove away, Peter waved back, and they were gone.

We had a long chat with Martin and another crew member, and Martin explained to us that Peter is a terribly modest person. In fact, he told us that he'd gotten his first phone call from Peter (after working with him for one and a half years) that afternoon! This cleared up why he hadn't said a word to me. We talked about the band's performance and everything until we decided to split.

Expect many a picture (I think I took 60-some total, but I'll narrow it down) to come soon.
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Overall Rating
4.0

Bumbershoot Festival

Written by Wayne M. Berta Jun 06, 2008 at 03:13 PM
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September 8, 1998

Bumbershoot is the type of festival that you sample your way through, a little crab cake here, some roasted corn there. Some Joan Baez or Mary Lou Lord, then Zeke.

My day started at the Mainstage for a double bill of Buck Owens and Screaming Trees. Yes, Buck Owens AND Screaming Trees. Twenty minutes of Buck Owens was enough to inspire me to seek out a burrito and beer garden. Returning to the Mainstage I heard the Buckaroos ending their set with an endless version of Johnny B. Goode. Screaming Trees were joined for about half of their set by Peter Buck. Great show.

The evening plans were for Burning Spear, Keb Mo and Bonnie Raitt; but the immediate plans were for The Splinter Group, featuring Peter Green. They were scheduled for the House of Blues Stage, tucked between the Waco Brothers and Linda Hornbuckle. We endured the closing songs of the Waco Brothers to position ourselves for a front row view of The Splinter Group. About fifty persons or so packed the front of the stage immediately after the Waco's fans left. Many had come due to nice publicity of the local media. It seemed every newspaper and radio station had a list of top things to do at Bumbershoot and most had Peter Green on the list. Others came to see Peter again - he played Seattle with Fleetwood Mac in September of 1968. Others, like me, had come to see Green for the first time. We spent the half hour wait speculating on what weĆ­ll here. Will it be the quiet blues of the Robert Johnson tribute, the covers of the first Splinter release or maybe some oldies?

That question was answered by the second song, Black Magic Woman. This song was typical of the first few: lots of Nigel Watson and a little of Peter Green. Peter's voice was a barely audible whisper and his guitar was drowned out by Nigel's. And it seemed that the crowd took as long to warm up to Nigel as it took Peter to warm up to performing. But Rattlesnake Shake and Stumble changed all that. Peter played some hot guitar while Nigel faded into the background. The rest of the show was Peter playing all the leads or trading off with Nigel. When Watson played the lead part of Albatross the crowd finally showed its appreciation and all of us were stunned by his guitar work on The Green Manalishi. It would have brought the crowd to its feet had they not been standing the whole time.

Rattlesnake Shake, Stumble, Albatross and The Green Manalishi were the musical high points. But the best part of the show was Peter's introduction to Stumble. Earlier Peter had noted Black Magic Woman was by request but didn't say much more. He introduced Stumble as a Freddie King song similar to Hideaway. Peter went on to say that Clapton left John Mayall's band to form Cream and "I replaced... no, that's not the right word, substituted...not the right word, what I'm trying to say is...filled the place of Eric Clapton. And I guess you can say I did a pretty good job of it," he concluded.

The last song of the show was Going Down. When it was over we were asked if we wanted one more and of course we did and the band played Look On Yonder Wall. That was the encore. Even though the crowd shouted for more, they were already ten minutes overtime. At a festival like Bumbershoot they keep to a pretty strict timetable so another song was out of the question. So after nearly ninety minutes it was over. Pretty good job of it, indeed!
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