A Tale of Two Festivals – Part Four: The Cazorla Blues Festival
By the Friday, the whole town was in on the Party, beneath the unforgiving sun, the blues fans boogied, shimmied, got drunk, and availed themselves of the spring water that flowed freely all over town, almost as freely as the beer! The variety of acts was great, even though I has some misgivings about the inclusion on the Thursday night of Fito and Fitipaldis (or Emerson and the Fitipaldis as I couldn’t resist christening them) -who were plainly a Spanish ‘chart’ band, and an undeniably big draw. A commercial decision? Certainly. The right decision? I’m not so sure.
The Friday night saw the likes of Little Mike and the Tornadoes – a fast talking New Yorker who delivered a powerful set…then we were assailed by Janiva Magness, a woman who, if the bio in the programme was to be believed, had suffered immeasurable hardships in her life. Her considered portrait alongside however, did not prepare us for the behemoth of bad taste that tottered onto the stage in impossibly high heels. The woman can sing, and sing well….but I can’t help feeling she needs direction, both in choice of material, and dress sense. But that’s just my opinion. I’d so wanted to see UK blues stalwarts Nine below Zero, but their inexplicable time slot of 3.30am meant that realistically wasn’t going to happen.
Saturday afternoon saw Suzzete Moncrief accompanied by guitarist Lito Fernandez on the stage in the old square. She did a great job, and had the sweltering crowd with her, particularly on ‘Dock of the Bay’ where the whole crowd attempted to whistle the solo!
Next up, Chino and the Big Bet, one of my favourites of the festival. A resonator guitar, half a drumset and an upright bass, this Spanish trio from Barcelona proved to be excellent exponents of Blues and Swing, having come 2nd in the European Blues Challenge. Although the seemed a little ill-at-ease out of the confines of their more normal club-sized gigs, they nevertheless delivered an endearing set with great style and feel.
The Saturday night of course, we headed to the Plaza del Toros for George Thorogood, but we were blown away by the band that took to the stage before him. the band of the festival for me. Los Coronas were simply magnificent. Imagine being thrown into a dream where you were at a rock concert that kept morphing between surf city, a Quentin Tarantino movie, and a Spaghetti Western, and you might get an idea what Los Coronas are all about. Their set, devoid of all vocals save “Poison Ivy” sung by their drummer, who does the whole set standing up (some of the most magnificent snare work I’ve ever witnessed, by the way) – is a journey, cinematic in scope, on the wings of blistering, glorious twanging guitars, channeling Duane Eddie, The Surfaris, and Ennio Morricone. Many years ago, in a covers band, we would play ‘Wipe Out’ as a filler, a throwaway number….when these guys exploded into it about three-quarters of the way through their set, it was pure joy. If anyone had told me I could not just sit through a 90-minute instrumental set, but wildly enjoy it, I would have said they were crazy. All wearing White cowboy hats and shades, and possessed of a trumpeter extraordinaire, surrealistically hailing from the Ukraine, they exuded style, cool, top-drawer musicianship and self-deprecating wit – they were one of the best live acts I have ever seen.
It is to George Thorogood’s credit that he was able to follow that, it would have killed most bands. his open statement “Somebody’s got to go to jail for rock’n'roll, it might as well be me!” set the tone for the evening, and he and the tornadoes delivered a blistering set that had to of course, feature his take on John Lee Hooker’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer”, and the classic “Bad to the Bone”, where he wrings ever last drop of blues out of the slide that attacks his hollowbody guitar.
Cazorla Blues – you have some festival here. Love the town, love the people love the vibe, but keep your eyes on what’s real. Don’t let pop insinuate itself. Keep this festival BLUES.