Hippiefest Concert Tour - "Hill Country Rock & Ride"

Bee Cave, Texas (just outside Austin)   August 21, 2010

 

Jack Bruce

Rare Earth

Mitch Ryder

Badfinger - featuring Joey Molland

 ~~ All acts supported by Godfrey Townsend Band except Rare Earth.

 

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Reviewed by Rick Kent – Austin, TX

 

It was a long time coming but Central Texas fans of bass guitar rock legend and lead singer of Cream Jack Bruce would finally get the chance to see him live, at the Hippiefest Tour deep in the heart of Texas.

 

Hippiefest changed its face for the visit here billing itself instead as The Hill Country Rock & Ride to conform with a charity motorcycle rally to benefit "Texas Night Out" for disabled vets ~~> http://www.heroesnightout.org

 

Staging the event was the famed Austin outdoor venue The Backyard now in its reincarnated location a half block and across its previous location on Highway 71 on the outskirts of Austin. The outdoor festival setting was the recent venue for a Bob Dylan concert as well as the Texas favorites ZZ Top and Willie Nelson.

 

I was given notice of a new Hippiefest tour on Jack Bruce's fan site, which created quite a buzz on the mailing lists and newsgroups. There were a lot of happy Jack fans at the last Hippiefest’s especially those that couldn't make one of the 2005 Cream reunion concerts at either London's Royal Albert Hall (4 shows) or Madison Square Garden (3 shows). The concerts at MSG set an all-time record for sales of souvenirs.

 

The Hippiefest phenomena began two years ago as an idea to get the Flower Power generation to relive a few of their 60's pop favorites in the form of bands like The Turtles, Badfinger, Eric Burdon, War, and Jack Bruce. One major difference in the new millennium would be many of the fans would be the same attendees as in years gone by but this time with kids or even grandkids.

 

I wanted to bring in my camera gear so I had to scramble for a media credential, which can be very difficult unless you’re with AP, Reuters, or the regional newspaper. I’m a freelance sports photographer but this day I’d be doing a concert story and photography for jackbruce.com, Jack’s FaceBook, and Jack’s email list. At sports events I’ll be in possession of a VIP badge and/or a media credential hanging around my neck. This was no sporting event but I had some connections ;)

 

I got there way early with another fan Jeff Platt. Jeff flew in from Tulsa just to see Jack. He’d be a big help as my camera assistant. At the will call desk there was no media credential for me a few texts and emails back and forth to the UK and things fell into place. Thank you Dean & Natasha!

 

It was hot and humid with a beautiful blue sky.

 

The music started at 6:30 with Badfinger featuring original Badfinger guitarist Joey Molland. I was backstage getting the lay of the land when the pre-recorded intro to Badfinger started. The tone and voice of the canned recording was a more restrained version of my image of Alan Freed at one of his "Rock and Roll Show" extravaganza’s of the '50's.

 

As I made my way back to stage front, "Baby Blue" officially began the trip back to the classics. The attendance was sparse. I began my photojournalist duties, which would keep me very busy until late evening with little or no breaks. 

 

Joey Molland was center on vocals & guitar but with the Godfrey Townsend band to fill in for Badfinger.... or for the purposes of the day "was" Badfinger. The Godfrey Townsend guys were in for a long day because I knew they'd be back to play with Jack.

 

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The band sounded excellent and the venue’s speakers had the punch needed for the deep bass playing of Jack Bruce to come later. The Badfinger set would be short with only four classic hits but hits a child of the early '70's listened to several thousand times by the time they hit senior year in high school. 

 

Joey rapped it up talking about how he wrote some of the Badfinger songs such as, "Come And Get It". He joked that George Harrison told him he’d be singing those tunes the rest of his life!

 

Set list:

 

Baby Blue 

Come and Get it 

Day After Day 

No Matter What

 

The four songs were over fast so I had to be quick on my feet to get decent shots. There would be no loafing or sitting down if I were to get shots of every band member from every angle. Fortunately I had my pal Jeff to watch all my extra camera gear, which was a lot.

 

Info for photography enthusiasts:

••I brought two Canon 1D Mark lV bodies, 70-200 2.8L IS, 16-35 2.8L, 24-70 2.8L, 300 2.8L, tripod, and monopod. I ended up only using the 16-35 & 70-200 with 1.4 extender attached.

 

As it turned out later Godfrey's band would also play behind Mitch Ryder for the second act.  With no break Mitch Ryder came out with a similar prerecorded intro about his history and status as a legend of '60's rock. The transition was quick.

Set list:

 

Little Latin Lupe Lu 

Sock It to Me, Baby! 

Jenny Take a Ride 

Devil with a Blue Dress On/Good Golly

 

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Mitch Ryder stated Austin had a lot of great musicians but Detroit had great ones too.  He went on to state, "Sock It To Me Baby!” was banned from the radio at its peak. 

 

This was way before the advent of FM radio. As an eleven year old I remember Houston KILT AM evening DJ's complaining how some popular songs got banned. The phrase and name of this song was popularized by '67 NBC show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" ...the #1 TV show that year and very risqué for that period. 

 

Not long before in music history in '63 censors made every attempt to ban the song, "Louie Louie" (by The Kingsmen) despite the fact that no one could distinguish the actual lyrics.

 

Following Mitch Ryder there was a minimal break before Rare Earth took the stage. Missing from the line up was original drummer and lead vocalist Peter Rivera. Floyd Stokes Jr. filled in on both drums and vocals. A cornerstone of '70's FM rock, Rare Earth was very popular with the audience, many of them in motorcycle attire. I can see back in time when many of us were playing Rare Earth on a friend’s 8-Track car stereo ...while rushing home to make a 10pm curfew.

 

Set list:

 

Born To Wander

Papa Was A Rolling Stone

Get Ready

(I Just Want To) Celebrate

 

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Before "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", front man Gil Bridges talked about how Motown songwriter Norman Whitfield recently passed away. While working for "Hit USA" in Detroit Whitfield would pen hits for "The Temptations" that would later become Rare Earth classics, "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", and, "I'm Losing You”. Whitfield was also responsible for a dozen other immortals such as,  "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", "Ain't Too Proud To Beg", "Car Wash", and "Just My Imagination". 

 

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

 

After Rare Earth I took a break from the 100+ degree heat and humidity in the little shed used by the Hippiefest staff, which thankfully had air conditioning. I got the lowdown on how attendance has been for Hippiefest so far this year and the answer was dismal. The economy has taken a big hit on the entertainment industry across the board. That combined with the record high temperature in Texas just didn't motivate Austinite's to come outside and make the 20-40 minute drive to Bee Cave.

 

I hung out until I knew Jack was about to do his set. Staffer Dean Golder went to get him so I tried to be ready to shoot Jack on his walk to the stage but now it’s totally dark and I had to get camera and flash unit settings correct fast. I waited by the stage until I saw a flashlight guiding someone up the path.

 

This is it. I wanted to get a couple quotes about his dedication I knew he was going to make during the show (supposed to be a secret). I shook his hand and gave and him a message from his daughter. He asked me how I knew Natasha (his daughter) and I said the Internet. He laughed.

 

I refuse to intrude on someone’s space as a photographer or interviewer and the time wasn’t right to do either. I have too much respect for the guy.

 

Jack was introduced with prerecorded introductions that were longer than the other acts’. His accolades are endless including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in ’93 (as a member of Cream). Jack walked up the stairs with his wireless mic turned on but before anyone can see him he's joking along with the introduction making fun of himself. "Stop it, stop it" while laughing it up.

 

This was an indicator for how he'd be cracking jokes and generally having a good time the rest of the night.

 

To be true to my photojournalist role I'd have to forsake my desire as life-long Jack Bruce music listening fan for the intensity of the photography. Every time I level off the camera at a subject I want to get a Pulitzer Prize. Don't think for a second I'm joking!

 

Sunshine of Your Love

 

His opener was "Sunshine of You Love" (aka: "Sunshine"). The entire set was to be Cream songs. Jack handled the legendary Sunshine opening riff on his bass. Godfrey Townsend’s heavy hitting guitar was terrific. For this oldies Hippiefest tour Jack wasn't going to get complicated and do anything that might be unfamiliar.

 

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Jack's vocals seem stronger than the 2005 reunion shows when prior to that Jack was in serious risk of death. In the summer of 2003 he required an emergency liver transplant. Following the surgery his body rejected the new liver, which was almost fatal. Not much was heard or seen from Jack until Cream reunited May 2nd, 2005 at the Royal Albert Hall in London the last stage they played together almost 38 years before November '68.

 

Following Sunshine Jack spoke to his players saying he could only hear the guitar and not drums. From my vantage point Jack was the boss and things needed to be fixed fast and they were. 

 

 

 

N.S.U. 

 

Move ahead to N.S.U., which was the only hiccup in the whole show. It really does take a Ginger Baker to do that purely African intro don't you think? It’s one of his signature songs. Steve Murphy was having as much fun playing N.S.U. as we were watching and listening to his moves. The beats remind me of the marching bands during a Thanksgiving Parade. BOOM, BOOM BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. The band didn't have the time or inclination to jam it up for a 20-minute session circa '68 but the crowd went nuts throughout all the same.

 

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I Feel Free

 

3rd song, "I Feel Free" was rarely ever done in concert by Cream unless you include the BBC recordings. Godfrey Townsend did a marvelous job on backing vocals. Jack has done a good job “covering” this Cream song over the years.

 

I was trying not to be overwhelmed by these facts whirling around in my head while I’m photographing all this from every possible angle. At one point I was hanging off the stage on Jack’s left getting shots from as low as I could get and waiting for him to turn around. I wanted to get fans at the stage in the bottom of the frame. I had full access to the stage but to get to that vantage point I had to climb the stage scaffolding or crawl on my belly across the stage behind the drummer to get there. It’s not a job, it’s an adventure.

 

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We're Going Wrong

 

Before song four Jack got serious and asked for everyone to hear a dedication. He wanted everyone to know Texas has a person on death row named, "Linda Carty" a British citizen who is scheduled to be put to death in 2010 even though she was convicted with insufficient evidence. I was given advance notice of this dedication by Jack's daughter Natasha (aka: "Aruba Red"). It was quite brave of Jack to test the waters in this notoriously conservative environment, however this is liberal Austin, which is an entity of it's own much like Texas is a republic set apart from the rest of the Union. The people seemed to appreciate his appeal for her. 

 

The tone was set for a very powerful, "We're Going Wrong". The words took on a whole new meaning. 

 

We ‘R Go N   WRONG

 

That transition from his Linda Carty speech to "We're Going Wrong" was the pinnacle of the show. I had to really stay focused to keep working. I was behind the sound tech onstage shooting Jack straight from his left. Godfrey did a beautiful solo during this one.

 

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Jack introduces the players, Steve Murphy on drums, Godfrey Townsend on guitar, & Manny Focarazzo on keyboard. When introducing Townsend he joked, "I simply call him God".

 

Jack has a long history of playing with Godfrey Townsend and has an album named, "More Jack than God" referring to a studio session when a producer wanted more sound from JACK Bruce than GODfrey Townsend. I imagine Jack laughing it up. He thought enough of the moment and the phase to give it the album title.

 

I'm So Glad

 

Jack says, "now it's time for the devil's music" which I assumed would be a reference to the devils "Crossroads" which I quickly dismissed since that is more of an Eric Clapton song featuring his guitar and vocals.

 

Thankfully now I’m shooting with a wide-angle lens or long zoom capturing shots very close to Jack with the rest of the fans …like my pal Jeff Platt who flew in from Tulsa.

 

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He continued with “this one is by Skip James”. He did "I'm So Glad" with more speed and punch than six years ago. I used to go around singing this song real loud when I was in Junior High School. It was probably the least well known

Cream song to fan who only heard them on the radio however it was a heavy favorite of the serious fans with its live version on “Goodbye”. Skip James family still gets the royalties. http://tinyurl.com/23vcedb

 

 

 

Politician

 

“Hey now baby, get into my big black car,

I wanna just show ya, what my politics are”

 

This song is way out in front as one of my Cream favorites. It has such a mean bass line and those naughty nasty words to go with it. “Steve Murphy locked in well with Jack on Politician” according to another fan Jeff Platt. Funny how I was thinking the same thing about Godfrey Townsend’s guitar as well.

Shutter clicks, click, click, click, click, and click. Jack knows I’m here.

“Don’t deny me Jack, not while you’re in my reach.”

“I just wanna show ya, what my photographs are”

 

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After Politician when Godfrey stopped to take a quick drink of water Jack joked, "Back to work!"

 

If you don’t think kids still dig playing Politician visit this YouTube  ~~> http://tinyurl.com/2vtzxzk

 

 

White Room

 

The next song would be one of the tunes that would secure future sales of the Wah Wah pedal for the next decade. I was so incredibly busy shooting the concert I forgot if Godfrey had used a Wah Wah pedal. In an email he later confirmed he utilized a "Dunlap Crybaby".

 

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White Room was the #1 grossing Cream single and a song off “Wheels Of Fire” the first ever album to go Platinum. It was easy to tell he was building up to a finality to end the show. He displayed the peace sign and exited with the most appreciative applause from a small group of fans that knew they witnessed something very special. 

 

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There would be no encore. The lackluster attendance certainly wouldn't produce a roaring applause that would get any musicians attention. There was a dedication to the "Texas Night Out" for disabled vets from the bikers and for a moment it seemed Jack might come out to do a song but once Godfrey put his guitar in its case any thoughts of that were squashed.

 

NOTES:

 

The Hippiefest concept is fun. It would be perfect to have it in Zilker Park the same venue for ACL Fest …but the city would never approve it. I had tickets to the ‘08 San Diego Hippiefests but had to back out last minute. I gave away my tickets to my pals in San Diego and they had a blast.

 

Jack's show was done well for the classic’s nostalgia setting. There were a handful of hard-core fans that may have wanted a song added to the set list like maybe “Tales of Brave Ulysses”. It was a bit painful to miss hearing Jack do "Spoonful".

 

It was nice to have Manny Focarazzo as an addition on keyboard.

 

 

To expect a longer set was unrealistic. Hippiefest shows all have been about the same set of less than an hour for Jack.

 

Throughout the evening I asked attendees whom they came to see. 100% said Jack Bruce. There were a handful of teens there with parents.  Tim Lance was attending the show with his wife Jan and made the comment, “a high point for both Jan and I was this teen guy next to us who turns to Jan, pokes her arm and yells with joy and disbelief in his eyes, “That’s Jack Bruce!”

 

After White Room when the show was pretty much done I took this picture of a Mom with her three kids. I tried to get a 2nd shot of just the three teens but the girl in the dress was far too busy texting her friends to care. I think her attention had already moved on to the next thing in her life. It's a new age.

 

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I interviewed Godfrey Townsend back stage while Rare Earth was playing. 

 

He began playing guitar at age eleven. Godfrey's reference for learning lead guitar was figuring out lots of the riffs Clapton played during the jamming/improvisations on the live Cream albums...this was during his high school days from '71-'74. Later in '84 he picked apart the solo to Crossroads while being laid up for almost 2-weeks with an ear infection.

 

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Godfrey Townsend has taken the stage with too many rock legends to count including John Entwistle, Alan Parsons, Pete Townsend, Ringo Starr, and a whole host of players while being “house band” for Hippiefest and “Happy Together” Tours.

 

I attended a Godfrey Townsend show at BB King's Club October '05 following the last ever performance of Cream at Madison Square Garden. It was a sold-out gig particularly due to the fact that everybody thought there was a chance one or all of the Cream guys would show up. It didn’t happen but his band flew through every Cream song and they rocked the house. Most notably him doing “Crossroads”. He had Eric Clapton's style down cold. He did Clapton better than Clapton!

 

Part of Godfrey's guitar collection is a replica of Eric Clapton's “Fool” psychedelic Gibson SG. He played "Crossroads" equal to the sound I'd heard thousands of times as a kid growing up listening to "Wheels Of Fire".

 

We are all older now but I enjoy this music no less than I did 40 years ago. Maybe more. I still watch old videos of Cream and I swear it seems like Jack’s trying to break the strings on his EB3. Now he mostly picks the strings on his Warwick with his index finger and with a lot more finesse.

 

This show pretty much completes the fantasy of what I needed from Jack, Ginger, and Eric. I’ve now seen them all solo and together and photographed Jack up close and shook his hand. I’ve seen Cream as a unit seven times at the reunions …more times than any other band. These are some of the most important occurrences in my life. The first show at the RAH is certainly one of the top three most important things I’ve seen or done.

 

To read and enjoy my reports you’ve made my experience that much more meaningful. Thank you.

 

 

 

A special thanks to Godfrey Townsend for helping with facts and dates for this report …and for being one of the hardest working musicians out there.

Thanks to my friend Jeff Platt for making sure no one made off with my stuff. Thanks Tim Lance and Jeff for helping with facts.

Extra special thanks to Natasha “Aruba Red” Eleonore and Dean Golder for making sure I got my media credential.

Thank you Jack Bruce.

 

 

Rick Kent • Austin, Texas • rkent@mac.com