Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Orlando Calling Festival REVIEW/ INTERVIEW with Doobie Brothers Pat Simmons


 By Ray Shasho


REVIEW: The Citrus Bowl in Orlando hosted a (2) day music festival over the weekend labeled Orlando Calling 2011. The event was contrived by Managing Director Melvin Benn of Festival Republic a UK Company distinguished for the Reading and Leeds Festivals. The company signed a three year contract in Orlando so we can probably expect to see another festival next year.
Saturday’s Day 1 lineup included The Killers, The Raconteurs (Featuring Jack White of The White Stripes), The Roots, Drive By Truckers, Less Than Jake, The Pixies, O.A.R., The Avett Brothers and over (20) other performers sharing the spotlight on five different stages.

I attended Sunday’s Day 2 event hosted by headliners Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Kid Rock, Blake Shelton, The Doobie Brothers, Warren Haynes Band, Chris Isaak, Buddy Guy, Robert Randolph and The Family Band, Dwight Yoakam plus more than (15) other great acts.

After chatting with singer/songwriter/guitar virtuoso Pat Simmons of The Doobie Brothers a few days prior to their Orlando Calling appearance regarding the Festival headliners, Simmons eloquently stated “We’re all headliners.”
The Music Festival kicked off around noon and the first order of business by many of the early arrivals was to plot out the day with their show schedules and map out what performers they were going to see. The eclectic schedule of talent certainly had something for everyone -from Bluegrass to Classic Rock.

The weather cooperated and that was a key to the event because everyone did plenty of walking throughout the day trekking from stage to stage. Parking was relatively easy and the event was extremely organized. The gigantic 'Main Stage' was inside the Citrus Bowl. The other four stages were positioned at convenient locations within walking distance of the stadium. Although pricey, food, drink and spirits were conveniently accessible throughout the event. The estimated crowd count for Sunday’s showcase was somewhere between 25-30 thousand people and security was extremely evident throughout the day. Saturday’s crowd estimates were much lower.

An extremely important point about this festival which can make or break the integrity of any festival or concert is that the sound system at every stage site was superb. Fantastic acoustics, the music sounded great no matter where you walked to catch a show and even more apparent inside the Citrus Bowl stadium. Although the ‘Main Stage’ was ‘high and mighty’ the (2) gigantic Jumbotron screens comfortably accommodated the large crowd.

At 2:35 the first big cheers from the audience were exhibited when the Warren Haynes Band took over the ‘Main Stage.’ Haynes is an exceptional Blues/ Rock guitarist who played with The Allman Brothers Band, The Dead and with his own Southern Rock jam band Gov’t Mule. Haynes has a great new solo release available called Man In Motion.

At 4pm it was Classic Rock champs The Doobie Brothers turn to rock the house on the ‘Main Stage.’ A considerable increase in population throughout the stadium was evident when they took the stage. Pat Simmons, Tom Johnston and John Mcfee led the band with all the crowd pleasers including “Clear as the Driven Snow,” Rockin’ Down The Highway,” “Black Water,” “Listen To The Music,” “Jesus Is Just Alright,” “Minute by Minute” along with great new tunes from their latest release World Gone Crazy produced by the legendary Ted Templeman. The Doobie Brothers are always rock solid and were among the top three performances of the day.

At 5pm I meandered over to the ‘Authentic Stage’ to catch legendary Chicago Bluesman Buddy Guy. Guy drew a huge crowd to the second largest stage at the event called “Authentic Stage.” He genuinely had fun with his audience and dazzled the onlookers with his extraordinary one handed fingering techniques. He teased the audience near the end of his show with guitar riff bits from legendary rocker’s Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and John Lee Hooker and leaving the crowd wanting more. It was a rare and wonderful treat to witness the great Buddy Guy on Sunday. Buddy played several cuts from his new release Living Proof including “74 Years Young” which exhilarated the crowd. Guy said he was 74 when the song was released but he’s 75 now, so he updated the lyric to reflect his present age.

At 6:15pm following Buddy Guy it was Chris Isaak looking very Ricky Nelson-ish while sporting a pompadour. Isaak and his band were very animated and tight. They’re a great group of musicians who appear regularly in Vegas and Branson. The bands highlight for the evening was Isaak’s romantic hit single “Wicked Game” from his 1989 release Heart Shaped World.”

At 7:05pm it was back to the ‘Main Stage’ and Michigan native Kid Rock. He was definitely the most animated performer of the evening and so was his fans. Rock performed a longer set and was the only one to feature pyrotechnics. The 40 year old Kid Rock performed admirably with his mix of hip-hop, country and rock. Although a crowd pleaser Kid Rock was not part of the top (3) performances for the day. 

At 9:20pm on the ‘Main Stage’ following Kid Rock’s performance was fellow Michiganian Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. It was a rare opportunity to witness Seger’s only Florida appearance. Bob Seger and his band were impeccable. The band played a 90 minute condensed version of their normal setlist. Seger’s soulful gruff trademark pipes seemed to have improved with age. The Silver Bullet Band was supported by Grand Funk Railroad drummer/vocalist Don Brewer and ex Funk keyboardist Craig Frost. Longtime Seger bandmates Chris Campbell (Sarasota native) on bass and Alto Reed on Sax rounded out an unblemished band of seasoned musicians. Bob Seger & his Silver Bullet band were at the top of their game and his faithful audience responded accordingly. Seger is an incredible musician on stage, singing and playing electric/acoustic guitar and piano. Bob and his band entertained their ardent fans with classic FM hits like “Night Moves,” “Against The Wind,” “Hollywood Nights” and the surreal ballad “We’ve Got Tonight.” Kid Rock also joined Seger on stage for a rendition of “Real Mean Bottle” their collaboration from Face The Promise. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band’s performance at the inaugural 2011 Orlando Calling Festival was superlative.

All the artists at the festival were exceedingly entertaining. Personal favorites were Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, The Doobie Brothers, Buddy Guy and the Warren Haynes Band.

Blues Traveler were scheduled to perform but cancelled.


INTERVIEW: I had the opportunity to interview Doobie Brothers legendary guitarist and songwriter Patrick Simmons a few days before the 2011 Orlando Calling festival.

Pat Simmons was introduced to future Doobie Brothers bandmates Tom Johnston and John Hartman by Moby Grape’s Skip Spence in 1969 forming the foundation to what would eventually be one of the most esteemed classic rock bands in history.  

Pat is usually identified as the Doobie Brother with the longest hair. His heartfelt vocal styles are significant to the bands success. He’s an important musician with eclectic musical styles and tastes. Some of his many compositions with the band include the classic “Black Water” (which became their first number one hit) “South City Midnight Lady,” “Dependin’ On You,” “Dangerous,” “Echoes Of Love” and “Clear as the Driven Snow.” His on stage presence is both surreal and overwhelming during his solo of “Jesus Is Just Alright.”

Here’s my interview with singer/songwriter/guitar virtuoso/Doobie Brother/ Pat Simmons

Hi Pat thanks for being on the call today, are you guys ready to rock the Citrus Bowl on Sunday?

“That’s what we do we rock out.”

You and your wife Cristine are biking enthusiasts and I was fascinated when I heard that you supported her on a cross-country race?

“Last year she did a ride from Kitty Hawk North Carolina to Santa Monica California on a 1915 Harley. It was a race for 95 year or older bikes. She had one of the newer ones 95 years old.”

Was there a lot of maintenance and upkeep during the race to keep it moving?

“Definitely a lot of preparation and then once we got it going we had to maintain it throughout  the run of 16 days and it was pretty much wrenching on it every day we had the adjustments and things did break and we had to fix them.”

Did you get to follow her for the entire race?

Yes I was on the run and started a support crew. It was cool a once in a lifetime kind of thing and never been done since 1915. They are doing another run but it’s for 1929 and earlier.”

You and your wife ride bikes together all over the country, some states make it mandatory to wear a helmet and states like Florida don’t as long as you carry insurance. Do you think bikers should wear a helmet while riding?  

“I’ve always been one of those people to let the individual decide but that being said I recommend people wear a helmet when they ride. I’ve been down a few times and I’ve got friends that are still here because they were wearing a helmet so there is evidence there that it can save your life. Most times people are going down 40 or 50 miles an hour and that’s not even going fast a lot of people are driving 70 or 75 and you hit that pavement without a helmet and its pretty much over. But if you hit it with a helmet you could slide on the road and you can live. When I was younger I was always one of those guys living in California and we didn’t have a helmet law and I didn’t have to wear a helmet and by the grace of God nothing ever happened to me but I’ve had several friends that have been burned and having a helmet on saved their lives. I kind of believe it now.”

I think the Gary Busey incident may have changed a lot of minds about wearing a helmet too.

“Gary Busey was hotdoggin’ around.He drove his bike out of the Harley shop across the street dumped his bike and hit his head. That’s exactly how it happened because I have a friend that was standing there when he rode his bike out of the shop dumped his bike didn’t even get down the road he went across the street going the other way and fell down and hit his head. So hello... learn to ride a motorcycle before you get out there.”

I’ve always wanted to ride but leaned more towards driving sports cars, so this may be a dumb question, why is a Harley Davidson usually the bike of choice and why wouldn’t you want to ride a lighter bike?   

“Well it just happens to be the one a lot of people like. There is a lot to be said for a substantial amount of weight underneath you when you’re going down the road and you want to stop or there’s some kind of emergency turn that you’ve got to make and having the weight on the road is a lot more stable than a lot of the lighter bikes that tend to not want to stop as easily when you have to hit the brakes. It doesn’t have the weight to hold the road. If you’re going for long distances it’s a lot more comfortable on a larger bike you’ve got room to stretch out a little bit you’re in a position where you’re more comfortable a lot of smaller bikes they have more like cafe type handle bars so you're bent forward and in a long period of time if you’ve got a long ride it could be tough on your back to be bent forward like that so if you’re sitting up straight or back a little bit it’s more comfortable for a long ride. Also lower revving smaller bikes have a higher rev pattern so that the actual sound that’s coming out of the bike over a long period of time is more fatiguing in itself the sound believe it or not can be fatiguing so having a little lower rev is more comfortable to your ear and to the feel of the bike and it doesn’t have as much vibration. Once again larger bikes don’t have that vibration factor quite as much on a rubber mounted engine although most of them are rubber mounted these days. But there is a lot to be said for that comfort."

"I think a lot of the reasons why people ride a Harley is there is a mystique to riding Harley’s that has been passed down through the years and a lot of people like that.”

Do you have a nice collection of bikes?

“I got a few bikes but mostly I ride one bike. I’ve got a FLH that I ride that is kind of my main ride.”

I guess we should start talking about music, I’ve asked this question a lot but still find it remarkable how some of the greatest guitar players in the world can create music without learning to read it.

“I think a good many guitar players have taken lessons and learned to read music but when you’re playing  modern music or music that you’ve written or that others have written that you’ve worked to put the arrangements together you don’t need to read you hear it and you feel it and you understand what’s going on without having to look at the notes. The notes are before you on the fingerboard so we all know kind of relatively what the notes are that we’re playing they’re just not written out so in a sense you’re reading in a different way.”

The Doobie Brothers have had incredible staying power despite numerous personnel changes in the band over the years and drastic changes in the music industry. Do you think constant touring may have contributed to the bands success?

“Well I think we’re fortunate more than anything I don’t know I wish I knew a formula that I could tell everybody I don’t think there is we’ve been kept alive by the music as much as anything we’ve been able to continually create and I think that has something to do with a certain aspect of the enjoyment being able to come up with new music and that’s enjoyable I think that kind of keeps the juices flowing. And then we have a lot of great songs that we’ve written through the years I kind of can say that because I haven’t written them all but I’ve written some of them and I’m a fan of every writer in this band. I’ve really appreciate the fact that we have some good songs to play that are fun to play and you don’t really get tired of playing them because we have that connection with the audience that makes the songs new and brings them back to life every night and I think that is part of it. And that we just have an audience out there still which you’ve got to give credit to the audience for hanging with us all this time and appreciating the music. It’s a combination of things I think and part of it is luck and good fortune and being in the right place at the right time we’ve been lucky that way and I don’t take it for granted everyday I’m grateful.”

Black Water is such an alluring tune. It doesn’t matter what part of the world your living in there’s something about the song that appeals to everyone. What inspired you to write Black Water?

“Probably my experiences of travelling the south and a lot of my roots are in country blues –ragtime- finger style guitar a little bit of country a little bit of jazz so it kind of has little bits of all that stuff and the lyrical content is really about New Orleans and the Mississippi River and that sort of lifestyle. Just being in New Orleans I wrote a lot of the lyrics when I was down there riding a streetcar and hanging out at the French Quarter and Jazz bars.”

Did you go down there after Katrina?  

“I did yea I was just there actually a few days ago and I go down there quite often and hang out a lot. It’s one of my favorite towns... period. I love the people and the lifestyle so the song is a commemoration of that city more than anything.”

One of my favorite Doobie Brothers tunes is another song penned by you called “Clear As The Driven Snow.   

“That was a song about the drug culture in the early 70’s. I was trying to let go of it and that was kind of what the song was about... and I did.”

The Doobie Brothers latest release is called World Gone Crazy featuring the great Ted Templeman your former producer. It’s a wonderful album and I recommend it highly.

“He’s been retired for quite a long time so it was pretty special to have him back in the studio with us and we really enjoyed doing it.”

I know you worked with Michael McDonald and Willie Nelson on World Gone Crazy. Future projects?

“Ted and I are still collaborating we wrote three songs together on this record and we’re still writing together right now and Willie and I I’m sure will collaborate on some more stuff. I spoke with David Crosby and talked with him on working on a song with him. I’ve always liked his style so we’ll see what happens with that."

Well Pat, thank you so much for spending some time with me today.

“Thank you Ray.”

I’ll see you at the Orlando Calling Festival on Sunday.

“Just tap me on the shoulder if you see me.”

I want to thank Caroline Stegner of D. Baron Media Relations for setting up this interview.

Doobie Brothers official website http://www.doobiebros.com/
Patrick Simmons musical credits on allmusic.com http://www.allmusic.com/artist/patrick-simmons-p20546/credits

Order columnist/author Ray Shasho’s great new book called CHECK THE Gs –The True Story of an eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business. Order now for the holidays at amazon.com, iuniverse.com, barnesandnoble.com or borders.com. You’ll live it!


“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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