Monday, September 5, 2011

HIPPIEFEST: A resurgence of the flower children and the music that mattered



  By Ray Shasho


Ruth Eckerd Hall on Saturday night was a majestic flashback to the heyday of rock and roll. The Flower Power disciples of Peace & Love manifested throughout a sold out Hall. These weren’t Bankers and Attorneys dressed up to resemble what they once adored in the days of their youth. Remarkably the crowd was the genuine persona. You felt the love flowing from every direction. There was even an optimist with a painted smile on her face carrying a sign that read “Free Hugs” as she walked up and down every row carrying out her humanitarian task of harmony.
The show itself formatted perhaps to resemble the prodigious entertainment distinction of Burt Sugarman’s The Midnight Special or Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in the 70’s -nevertheless a clever and inspiring compilation for producing high quality entertainment.
In other words …I was Blown Away; the concert was Outta Sight Man!

The first of (5) legendary performers to grace the Ruth Eckerd stage Saturday evening was Felix Cavaliere lead vocalist and keyboardist of the blue-eyed soul group The Young Rascals. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Sitting behind his keyboards Cavaliere appeared and sounded hip as he should while reminiscent of his first television appearance on Hullabaloo in 1965. Felix inaugurated the evening with The Young Rascals 1967 hit “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long” followed by a couple of Wilson Pickett classics “In the Midnight Hour” and “Land of 1000 Dances.” Then his number one hit song from 1967 “Groovin’” with a cavalcade of soulful cover tunes mixed-in followed by “People Got to Be Free” and the finale crowd pleaser “Good Lovin.” It was a persuasive performance that hastened the crowd out of their seats and into dancing in the aisles. The Young Rascals may have been responsible for launching so many legendary groups. Bands like Bruce Springsteen and The J Geils Band to name a few.

After Cavaliere’s set it was time for Bradenton resident/Ohio native Rick Derringer to set a tone of electric solos and hard-driving rock and roll. Derringer’s been on the road a lot lately finishing up a European tour with Ringo Starr & His All- Starr Band.   
Derringer opened with “Still Alive and Well” a song he wrote and album he produced for Johnny Winter. He was also the Producer of Edgar Winter’s They Only Come Out At Night which spawned the classic hits “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride.” Then Rick saluted our troops with his electrified rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Real American.” Derringer finished his set strong with as he pointed out, “the full- unedited version” of The McCoys Number One hit tune from 1965 “Hang On Sloopy” (The official rock song of the state of Ohio) and then a thunderous performance of “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” that lifted the entire crowd up on its feet. Rick has always been a crowd pleaser and he always leaves with you wanting more.

Next on the bill was Gary Wright. Gary had already joined Rick on stage for his finale. Wright looked great. He opened with a couple of Spooky Tooth tunes “Waiting For The Wind” and “Better By You, Better Than Me.” Then Wright sang his huge Top 2 signature solo hit “Dreamweaver” to its perfection. His voice never sounded better, it was incredible. But the crowd ignited to their feet with the finale, a funky space jam called “Love Is Alive.” The song also reached into the Top 2 on the charts. Wright is also an alumnus of Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band.

After one of only a few short intermissions it was Grand Funk Railroad’s guitar hero and inspirational leader Mark Farner’s chance to rock the house down. All the performers on the Hippiefest bill were fantastic but Mark Farner took it up a notch or two. Farner’s energy was reminiscent to his days of playing high school football. He was in terrific shape and his voice superb. Farner opened his set with the Grand Funk Railroad tune “Footstompin’ Music” by singin’, playin’ his guitar and jammin’ on keyboards. The opening lyrics from that classic tune “Come on everybody, we’re gonna’ have a good time, yea” set the jovial tone for his overwhelming performance.
Mark Farner followed with the Little Eva cover “The Loco-motion” which was a Number One hit for Grand Funk in 1974 and “Sins a Good Man Brother” from the album Closer To Home.”
Mark stopped and thanked everyone at one point during his performance for all the thoughts and prayers from everyone for his son Jesse. Mark’s son Jesse (at 21) fell and sustained a near fatal- fracture to the C-5 vertebra in his neck.

Farner’s impeccable performance resumed with “Bad Time” and “Some Kind of Wonderful” both huge hits from Grand Funk’s 1974 release All the Girls in the World Beware.
Mark Farner’s finale which he dedicated to our troops “I’m Your Captain” (Closer To Home) was the highlight of the evening. If you had closed your eyes you’d swear that you were at Shea stadium at that monumental concert in 1971, a show that sold out in only 72 hours breaking The Beatles record.
Everyone at Ruth Eckerd Hall stood and mimicked Mark’s inspirational lyrics. As I gazed around the Hall I witnessed the faces and you just knew that during the span of the song everyone reflected on what their lives were like at the time when the song was first heard and what their lives were like today, and man, how life flies by.

After another short intermission Dave Mason walked on stage with his own band. Mason is a true legend in the music biz. He opened his set with “Let It Go, Let It Flow” from the Let It Flow album. Mason’s voice seemed a bit strained during the tune. After the song he made the announcement that he had begun to catch a cold from the air-conditioning. Because his voice was compromised he changed up his setlist for the evening. He immediately jumped into playing some great blues demonstrating why he’s considered among the elite guitar players of the world and the reason why all those legendary guitarist wanted to jam with Mason.
Mason’s voice seemed to improve with his classic tune “Only You Know and I Know.” Nevertheless the band was tenacious and the crowd rocked.

Mason surprised the crowd with Bob Dylan cover “All Along The Watchtower.” Mason actually played his 12-string acoustic guitar on the classic Jimi Hendrix version and also sang on “Crosstown Traffic”- both from the Electric Ladyland album. Mason and Hendrix were great friends.
The monumental moment was when everyone joined Dave Mason on stage for the finale of his signature tune “Feelin Alright.” It was reminiscent to that great performance on stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after being inducted with Traffic in 2004. Mason’s musical abilities overshadowed any problems he may have had with his voice. It was still a phenomenal performance.

Hippiefest was an exciting and fulfilling rock and roll and cultural experience. Let’s hope there are more Hippiefest-type shows in the future because it was A Real Gas Man!

I want to thank Jeff Albright from The Albright Entertainment Group for making it all possible.

Also special thanks to everyone at Ruth Eckerd Hall for their generous hospitality.
Bobby Rossi you’re the man!

Order author Ray Shasho’s new book called Check the GsThe True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business at http://rayshasho.com/

“I found Check the Gs to be pure entertainment, fantastic fun and a catalyst to igniting so many memories of my own life, as I too am within a few years of Ray.  So to all, I say if you have a bit of grey hair (or no hair), buy this book!  It’s a great gift for your “over-the-hill” friends, or for their kids, if they are the history buffs of younger generations trying to figure out why we are the way we are.”
~~Pacific Book Review
Contact Ray Shasho at rockraymond.shasho@gmail.com

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