Wheeling Heritage Bluesfest, Day Three, 2011

The final day of the 2011 Heritage Bluesfest was threatened by rain but by the time the major acts were due to appear the rain clouds had passed, the cooling breeze picked up and the thermometer dropped a few notches.

The day’s performers of note included a group called Southern Hospitality, Kenny Neal, and the star of stars in the world of blues, Buddy Guy.

Turns out, Southern Hospitality was a brand new incarnation of some well established blues artist. Serious fans of the blues might be very familiar with the names J.P. Soars, Damon Fowler, and Victor Wainwright. Each has carved a place in the blues either as a solo artist or as part of another established group. It was questioned if these three could combine and still maintain their individual edginess. Well, let there be no doubters, these guys were made to play together. My advice would be to never pass up a chance to witness any of them perform, especially as Southern Hospitality.

Multi-talented blues musician, Kenny Neal, was next on the bill. Neal can play about any instrument but is best known as having once been the side guitar player for Buddy Guy. Not only did he demonstrate his guitar wizardry for the crowd, he didn’t embarrass himself on the harmonica either.

The only problem with Neal was that he had to follow Southern Hospitality onstage. The crowd was so wound up following their set, Neal came off as a little too relaxed.

The day, and the weekend, culminated with Chicago blues master Buddy Guy’s arrival on stage. There’s not much I can say about Buddy Guy except that if you have heard him on records, tapes, CDs, or MP3s you haven’t heard Buddy Guy. If you have seen him on videos, television, the Internet, DVDs or film, you haven’t seen Buddy Guy. You haven’t heard, seen, or experienced Buddy Guy until you’ve seen Buddy Guy live! The innate excitement and energy of this man just can’t be depicted on media, you just gotta’ be there.

On the bill with Guy was a young twelve-year old guitar phenom named, Quinn Sullivan. Guy first met Sullivan when he was performing in the kid’s hometown. It was suggested that Buddy invite the Sullivan onstage for a demonstration of the kid’s guitar prowess. At the time Sullivan was only seven and Guy was totally blown away. Describing his response Guy stated, “Hell, I couldn’t even play a radio when I was seven and here’s this kid picking up my Stratocaster and making it smoke.”

Well, I have no idea what Quinn Sullivan could do as a seven-year old but I now know that at twelve, he is simply unbelievable. He and Guy engaged in a traditional call and response blues challenge and the kid kept pace with the master in every respect except stage presence, which he has the bulk of his life to develop.

My only complaint with Guy’s set was that it devoted too much time to Sullivan’s talents and not enough to Guy’s. The set began late but ended at the prescribed time, probably due to local ordinance. The concert was scheduled to end at 10 p.m. and at 10 p.m. it ended with loud cries for an encore going unanswered.

Something I did notice during Guy’s set was how few of the audience were dancing and moving with the rhythm. In response to just about every festival performer the mosh pit was on its feet and gettin’ down. When Guy came on stage and hit that first power chord, the feet of the pit became frozen to the ground. It was if they were simply in shock over what they were experiencing before their eyes and ears.

I have a video clip of Southern Hospitality and Kenny Neal but, unfortunately, my videos of Guy and Sullivan are too long to upload to YouTube and I haven’t figured out how to cut them down yet. When I get over that hurdle I’ll try to get them posted. Given what I said about seeing BG in person, it really doesn’t matter that I get my videos uploaded.

YouTube videos of:

Southern Hospitality: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxwpSSJ9QnE 

Kenny Neal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZV90vTobjc

Quinn Sullivan at a different venue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ulYGXQVuL4

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