May 30, 2010

My trip to Little Rock

I'm still too tired from the weekend's festivities to do much of a wrap-up or review, but I had a great time at Little Rock, Arkansas' Riverfest. I made a little fun of the state to my northwest along the way, but the city of Little Rock is a really nice place, clean and aesthetically pleasing. The festival was also set up and run very well. I'd recommend it to anyone.

I was only able to attend Saturday's performances but wow. Lucero more than held their own alongside the legendary Black Crowes who followed. This little band that could sounded fantastic and had the crowd under their spell for the hour to hour and a half set. The Black Crowes were just awesome. I'm so glad I finally got to see them, especially since there's word that they plan to take a long hiatus after their next tour.

A band with a quite Google search unfriendly moniker, The See, was the first band we saw. I'd never heard of them, but I'd like to hear a lot more from them. They were somewhere in the realm of Replacements, older Kings of Leon... uh, I dunno... just punky alternative bar rock or something, but they would have made a great opener for Lucero. Instead, that honor went to aspiring country singer, Kid Rock lite Uncle Kracker (pictured below).

While I was prepared to unleash all sorts of hatred upon his performance, it was actually fairly entertaining. No, he can't sing that well. Yes, he's Kid Rock lite. Yes, half his hits are cover song. But he was better than I expected. His segue into country music is at its apex, as he opened with a Hank Jr. cover, did his Kenny duet (sans Chesney of course) and mixed in Kenny Rogers and the inescapable "All Summer Long" by his buddy Kid R.

Lucero (pictured below) was next and blew us all away. The band rocked through old favorites like "Tonight Ain't Gonna Be Good" while mixing in plenty of tracks from their latest record. They had a horn section that was a great addition after some sound difficulties got worked out. It was really cool to hear some of their older songs with the new horn flourishes. Lucero finished their set with a killer take on their "All Sewn Up," with Luther Dickinson of the Crowes and the North Mississippi Allstars coming on to lend some help with guitars. Ben threw in a little advertisement for his parents' local (Nichols is a Little Rock native) furniture store, much to the crowd's amusement.

The Black Crowes closed out our night, playing what was obviously their "festival setlist" of all their major hits with a few non-hit favorites and one song from their latest album "Before the Frost..." They played long versions of "Been a Long Time," "Wiser Time," "Thorn in My Pride" (the highlight of my night) and others, showing off the musical chops of one of the most underrated bands of the last 20 years. While there was almost no stage banter from lead singer Chris Robinson, he nonetheless connected and interacted with the crowd with his movement, gestures and soulful singing. He was magnetic.

All in all, Riverfest was a great experience and except for a little Waffle House excursion, I had a fun and safe time. I got to hang out with local (local to me, not Little Rock) sports talk host, lightning rod Kevin Broughton and his lady-friend for most of the evening and they were very cool to watch the show with.

An aside, I saw this 18 wheeler as we were headed back to Memphis this morning. Yes, Kix was driving. Poor guy.

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