Hippiefest (concert review)

Hippiefest 2011 – Sat. Aug 20, 2011 – Fraze Pavilion – Kettering, OH – (Concert review) Hippiefest 2011 recently made a stop at Ohio’s Fraze Pavilion.  The near-capacity crowd got treated to a2 ½ hour plus set of smash hits from the late Sixties and early Seventies.  The evening began with the artist probably most associated with the Sixties, Felix Cavaliere, who sang lead for the Rascals.  He opened with a soulful rendition of “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” before launching into all three of the Rascals’ number one hits – “Groovin’,” which contained snippets of several Motown songs, “People Got to Be Free,” which he dedicated to those in the Military (a recurring theme of the evening), and their biggest hit, “Good Lovin’,” which ended with a verse sung by the crowd.  Cavaliere was in fine voice as he stood front & center, playing organ.

Next on the bill was Dayton native Rick Derringer, who opened with the appropriate “Still Alive & Well,” before unearthing the strangest song of the night – “Real American” – strange because it was once wrestler Hulk Hogan’s entrance music, but the words of the song certainly rang true in this post-9/11 world.  Derringer certainly took the opportunity of being in the Buckeye State to play “Hang On Sloopy,” which his band the McCoys made famous way back in 1965, and is now, not only a staple at Ohio State football games, but is also the official state song.  He closed with a raucous rendition of his biggest hit as a solo artist, “Rock n’ Roll, Hoochie Koo,” bringing Gary Wright up to sing backup vocals, and featuring a blistering guitar solo by Derringer at the end, which put the audience in a frenzy.

Gary Wright was next, and he blew the dust off a couple of Spooky Tooth tracks, “Waiting For the Wind,” and “Better By You, Better Than Me,” both from the 1969 album Spooky Two. Despite selling a good deal of records back in the day, Spooky Tooth rarely gets played on the radio, and these songs sounded fresh.  Wright then talked about his friendship with George Harrison, who introduced him to Eastern religion, the main inspiration behind his smash, “Dream Weaver,” which he then played.  There’s something magical about that song being performed under the stars in an open-air stage like that.   Rick Derringer joined Wright for a surprisingly rockin’ version of “Love is Alive,” which morphed into “Get Your Hands Up,” a single off Wright’s new album Connected.

Mark Farner, whose former band Grand Funk Railroad, was a huge hit in the Midwest, got the biggest crowd response, rocking out the #1 hit “The Locomotion,” and well as “Some Kind of Wonderful,” and “Bad Time.”  Several of those songs contained some pretty high vocal parts, which Farner hit with surprising ease.  He closed his set with a stellar version of “I’m Your Captain,” once again dedicated to the troops, and containing the repeated line “I’m getting closer to my home.”

The final act of the night was Dave Mason, whose mellow demeanor seemed to bring the excitement down a little.  He opened with “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” a song he played on with his band Traffic (but Steve Winwood actually sang the original version).  He touched on a couple of his solo hits, “We Just Disagree,” and “Only You and I Know,” which settled into a nice groove and was one of the surprises of the evening.  I’ve seen three concerts in the last month (ZZ Top, and Paul McCartney are the others), and all three have done a tribute to Jimi Hendrix.  Mason talked of playing with the guitar legend before launching into “All Along the Watchtower.”  The final sendoff of the evening was “Feelin’ Alright,” which also featured a nice back and forth guitar duel between Mason and Derringer.

Although this version of Hippiefest seemed to feature a lineup that leaned more toward the Seventies than actual Hippie rock, it ended up being a fantastic show.  There was very little down time between artists – except for the intermission in the middle for us old farts to use the facilities.  And, the emphasis was on each artist’s hit songs, which made for a night of sing a longs.  –Tony Peters