The weather couldn’t have been better for this show. We’ve been extremely lucky with some great weather over the late few weeks. As an added bonus on this day, your admission included free samples of Junior Johnson’s “Midnight Moon” moonshine, Kentucky bourbon, craft beers, Monster Energy drinks, BBQ and Kroger’s was even there cooking up brats, hotdogs and meats with all the fixins. That’s what I’m talkin about!
As the music began, it began with a very impressive local act, The Tillers. They were the only locals on the bill and they did a great job with the opportunity they were given. This three piece ensemble is not to be missed if you get the opportunity. A crowd favorite for sure to begin the day.
As I moved around to the different stages, trying to capture a many photos as I could, I saw a really diverse set of bands. Take Joshua Black Wilkins for example, he was simply a man with a guitar and a harmonica. With his gritty and soulful Voice, JBW told stories through his songs and music. While listening to him I couldn’t help but think that he reminded me of a young Bruce Springsteen.
Then there was the well rounded JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound. These guys are from Chicago did not disappoint. Led by lead singer JC Brooks, this band plays it all. Funk, Punk, Soul, R&B…didn’t matter, they nailed it. The vocal range of JC was amazing. The band and crowd seemed to feed off of his energy and that made for a rather memorable set.
At the next stage, I caught up to Alejandro Escovedo who came out to an overly enthusiastic crowd. Alejandro delighted that same crowd with his amazing playing. He then surprised everybody by closing with a Neil Young cover, “Like a Hurricane“. What made this unique, was that he brought out David Hidalgo and Steve Berlin of Los Lobos to round out the band.
There were a few surprises on the day as well. J Roddy Walston & The Business were one of the early surprises for me. A good hard rockin’ band that kept the crowd moving from start to finish. Lead singer, guitar player and piano punder, J Roddy Walston was a center piece that is not to be missed. His energy is unlike any other on this day. Most of the time his wild curly long hair can seen flying through the air as he pounds the piano and howling at the moon. Well, if the moon had been out by then.
I caught up with Beth Hart at the next stage. I had never been to a Beth Hart show but many spoke of how amazed I will be when I walk away. I can only say that I was truely delighted in the talent this woman has. Her vocals are soulful and the stories she tells are real and heart felt. You can’t fake the emotions that Beth was seemingly reliving with every note. She was awesome.
Pokey LaFarge was another artist that I personally had never heard of or seen before. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see/hear. Pokey himself is a great frontman/vocalist, but the look and sound that this band produces is one that takes you back to another time in America. A time that I’ve only read about in books. They create a sound of swing, jazz and ragtime blues. Washboard, harmonica and snare drum player Ryan Koenig is an amazing talent. His harmonica skills sent chills up my spine. This band is now on my watch list and I look forward to seeing them again when they are in town. They are not to be missed.
There was old school feel of The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker. If you put the music of Otis Redding, The Blues Brothers and James Brown into a blender and poured it into a tall glass of coolness, that’s what you get at a Dynamites show. These guys are fun and they just don’t make ’em like Charles Walker anymore. Whether it be his dance moves or his soulful singing he makes that silk suite come alive.
Next I was really looking forward to seeing David Hildago and Los Lobos. Hildago is one of the best shredders around, but unfortunately I didn’t get a whole lot of time to catch their set, due to the next band starting at the same time.
That band was the Carolina Chocolate Drops. These guys and girls, dressed in period clothing, were everything I thought they would be and more. There show is more of a theatrical experience. Like going to a play and a concert breaks out. Talent just spews from this group. Hard to pin down, but easy to love. The Carolina Chocolate Drops were one of my favorites on the day.
An all-star band called The Rides were next up on my radar. What a great project this is. The legendary Stephen Stills and the blistering guitar slinger Kenny Wayne Shepherd go together like bread and butter. Never having heard Stephen Stills live before, I was blown away and it was truly a joy for me. His voice sounded like it did back in the Woodstock days. He has one of those voices, like a John Fogerty, that when you hear it it takes you back to the first time you heard it. He and Kenny Wayne seemed to enjoy playing off of each other during guitar solos/leads. Watching them made me think of old meets young. A classic with a future classic.
JJ Grey & Mofro were up next. JJ Grey came out looking like he was ready for a round of golf but when he plugged his guitar in, it was on. Dressed in white e stands front and center while his soul filled vocals radiate above the crowd. The tight band worked effortlessly together, the amazing Andrew Trube on electric and lap steel guitar, bassist Todd Smallie, two-piece horn section with trumpeter Dennis Marion and saxophonist Art Edmaiston and drummer Anthony Cole. I was up close enjoying the effort, and like the Cincinnati crowd I wasn’t left wanting or disappointed. The crowd was eager to dance and enthused with passion when JJ turned the mic on them during Orange Bloosoms ‘Everything Good is Bad‘. A storm of soulful grooves filled the air. That was a barnburner of a performance.
Next up were the headliners the Tedeschi Trucks Band. The husband and wife duo of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi make a Grammy winning, dream rock & roll team! From Susan’s soulful voice to Derek’s masterful guitar work there isn’t much left for a fan to want. Add in a great horn sections, bass guitar, two drummers with an organ and pow! Eleven people making some great music together. One thing that I’d love to know more about, Susan switched up guitars after the first song and I noticed some scribbling on it. After closer review in the photos, I could make out a few signatures…BB King and John Lee Hooker to name a couple. I’d really like to know the stories and names tied to that guitar. They earned their right to be the headliners, as their music was just as intriguing as that wonderful guitar.
Overall, the Ohio River Throwdown seemed to be a great success. Musically, it was the most diverse lineup that I’ve seen in years. Add in all the food, with the bands playing at a venue next to the Ohio River and you have much more of a feeling that you are at a family get together, than a concert. I for one, hope this becomes an annual event.