As I pointed out in an earlier post here, Cindy and I went up to Des Moines to go the Iowa State Fair in August. Our main reason for the trip was to go see both The Blue Band and The BoDeans who were playing at two separate stages on the second Friday night of the fair.
The Blue Band played for the first time in three years at the annual Wells Fargo Street Festival in downtown Davenport over the Bix Weekend in late July. In fact, they were sandwiched between two of my favorite local bands - Jim the Mule and Wicked Liz and the Bellyswirls. The Saturday lineup for Street Fest was the strongest in the nine years I've been involved with the festival. Also playing that day was the great Ernie Peniston, as well as The Ellis Kell Band. It was a day full of great music in downtown Davenport.
In fact, Bob Kelly from Wicked Liz and the Bellyswirls came up to me while The Blue Band was playing and said while looking out at the massive crowd, "Now, how are we supposed to follow THIS?!"
But they did follow them and did a great job. It may have been the best show I've ever seen them play in all the years I've worked with them. In fact, they even had Bob Dorr from The Blue Band come up on stage with them and play a song with them (picture left - courtesy Colin Peterson). It was a great night for everyone. It was, by far, the most fun I've ever had working the stage at a Street Fest.
But back to the subject at hand (I know, I know - I always digress). Cindy and I got up to the fair and after running into my cousins, we took off up the hill to go to the Anderson-Erickson Stage to catch The Blue Band's first show of the evening.
We got up there and grabbed a beer and walked down to see the guys behind the stage. They were all sort of surprised to see us there, but happy we made the trip over from Davenport. Bob Dorr was a little flustered with the guys running the sound, so we didn't get to visit all that much with him. But we caught up with the other guys who were just hanging out. Just before showtime, we wished them the best and went back out front to catch their show.
Playing bass for The Blue Band that evening was Rick Cicalo, a guy I've known for a number of years who used to play with Patrick Hazell in the old Mother Blues Band years ago. Rick is now the mayor of Washington, IA, which, to me, is sort of surreal. Rick also plays with Greg Brown and Bo Ramsey on occasion. The Blue Band's drummer, Steve Hayes, I've known just as long as "Rico" and he also has played with Hazell, Brown and Ramsey over the years.
And Sam Salomone (left) joined the band on the organ that evening at the State Fair. Sam used to play full time with The Blue Band, but has cut back in the past few months playing selected shows with the band. Since he lives in Des Moines, it was an easy gig for him to make.
The band sounded OK, but they were definitely having problems with the sound. Heath and Nathan on saxophones were barely audible when they first began to play. Still, the band did a great job as always.
In fact, just after the State Fair over the Labor Day weekend, The Blue Band was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (See their inductee details here.) It was a double whammy for Steve Hayes who was also inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that same weekend for his work with Mother Blues, along with Cicalo. In fact, Steve and Rick were inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame earlier this summer, too. They're great musicians and equally great guys.
After hanging around for about 45 minutes listening to The Blue Band, we decided we'd better high-tail it back down the hill to get a good seat for The BoDeans at the Bill Riley Stage just south of the administration building. We got there in plenty of time to grab a Gizmo from Carl's Gizmo. It was just killer.
There was a pretty good sized crowd waiting for The BoDeans. My cousins were able to snag some seats up front in the covered bleachers area. But it was still about 30 feet from the front of the two foot high stage - a lot of real estate between the crowd and the band.
That didn't last for long. As soon as the band came out to play, a rush of people went to the foot of the stage area. Cindy and I were part of the crowd and we stood about 10 feet from where Sammy Llanas and Kurt Neumann were standing. It was pretty awesome.
In fact, The BoDeans, backed with a new keyboard player and bassist, along with longtime John Mellencamp drummer Kenny Aronoff, sounded about the best I've heard them in a long time. They seemed to be fresh and upbeat during the whole show.
BoDeans guitarist/vocalist Kurt Neumann
After seeing them a number of times and working with them at the 2005 River Roots Live festival in Davenport, it was good to see them again. They put on a great show. Actually, it may have been the best show I've ever seen them play.
BoDeans guitarist/vocalist Sammy Llanas
Even though Joe Walsh was the main attraction at the fair that night (he was playing in the grandstand), I'll have to say that just for the price of admission to the fair The BoDeans were the best deal of the night. They drew a good amount of people - I'm guessing between 1000 and 1500 people were there to see them. And they certainly didn't disappoint.
We were going to go back up the hill to catch the second part of The Blue Band's second show of the night. But lightning in the skies to the northwest and an ominous looking radar on my Blackberry told us it was probably best to high-tail it to the shuttle bus to take us back to our car at the State Capitol complex. We got back to the hotel just as it was starting to rain.
We got to see two great bands who have been together for a long time, and both with great followings. The Blue Band and The BoDeans may not be the most well-known bands out there, but for the Midwest they're the tops in their class.