Monday, September 04, 2006

The 2006 Kansas City Blues & Jazz Festival

I had no intention of attending this year's Kansas City Blues & Jazz Festival. I had other obligations on Saturday, so I missed the inexplicable headliner lineup of the Latin Jazz Allstars, Proto-Kaw and Bo Diddley. Is there a single person on the planet who'd care to hear all three of these vastly different acts? And since Sunday's schedule was composed almost exclusively of local blues groups, I didn't plan on driving thirty minutes to pay a $17.50 cover on bands that I can catch in local taverns any night of the week. Luckily, a friend slipped me a free ticket for Sunday's show.

My arrival boosted attendance by half a percent. There couldn't have been more than 500 people there by the time I left early Sunday evening.


I'd read the stories in which the event organizer boasted that fest-goers could wear high heels as they ordered gin and tonics. That's cool, I guess, but I don't recall him mentioning the best feature of the festival grounds. The betting windows are open! Blues and betting- how sweet is that?

I would have happily wagered my October mortgage had a Woodlands staffer been on hand to explain my betting options. Where do these televised races originate? Why can't I find a tip sheet? What's the payout on the exacta? And why in tarnation are these monitors so small?

A few people told me how much they disliked the setup of this festival. I beg to differ. There was only one stage, but the sound and sightlines were great. Beer was fairly priced and the staff, volunteers and blues fans were pleasant. Aside from the sketchy talent lineup, what's not to like?

Bill Dye may be my favorite guitar player in Kansas City. He's working here with The Hatchlings, so named because the guys were once the late Little Hatch's band. Dye is the rare blues guitarist who solos with relaxed, thoughtful and soulful eloquence. I filmed the first minute of a well-constructed solo. Watch it here.

I really hope the festival manages to survive. All it needs is a slighter better mix of talent for me to be all about it in 2007. I'll bring my own tip sheet.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Kansas City Irish Fest

The Kansas City Irish Fest bills itself as the third largest Irish festival in the United States. Perhaps. I'm absolutely positive that it offers the best-tasting beer.

I didn't dare ask these pipers what they were doing at an Irish Festival.

The festival's attractions aren't limited to beer and music. There's an Irish history tent. Kids can bounce on moonwalks, make crafts, and best of all, play in the fountains. This is a bodhran workshop conducted by Mairtin de Cogain of The Fuchsia Band. And needless to say, vendors selling food and merchandise abound.

Plenty of toilets, complete with soap and hand-washing facilities, are a sure sign of a well-run festival that respects its customers.

Seamus Kennedy performed on The Boulevard Pub Stage Friday afternoon. My pal Jason detested Kennedy's efforts the previous night at The Gaf, but I found his light-hearted songs and jokes endearing.

Seamus Kennedy's audience gives me the evil eye. I can't quite identify the expression of the attractive woman with bare arms. Is it revulsion, disdain or pity?

Enter the Haggis irritated me. I'm in the minority; most people adored the Canadian Celtic-rock band.

I had been eager to see The Hothouse Flowers. I share my impressions of them here.

The green team wins. What a great festival!