Thursday, October 11, 2012

All About My Girl -- Albert Collins


In St. Paul, Minnesota, they have this event every summer called Riverfest.  It takes place out on this island in the middle of the Mississippi river.  It is like any other city festival with stages spread around with one big stage for the headliners.  One particular summer, Albert Collins was playing at Riverfest.  There was no way I was going to miss it.

The stage where Albert was due to play was an old relic of a bandshell.  It was probably there back when F. Scott Fitzgerald was still roaming Summit Avenue.  They probably played old John Phillips Sousa music back in the day.

Anyway, there are about 15 to 20 rows of benches about twenty feet back from the stage.  When we arrived, all the benches were already filled.  It was probably just me being weird, but I got an indignant vibe from all these people as they sat there stiffly with their arms folded.  In retrospect, it reminded me of that Lil’ Ed show back in San Diego (see post from 9/7/12).  The people just sat there like they were waiting at the DMV.

Eventually The Icebreakers took the stage.  They started out good as usual.  But after a couple songs it just seemed wrong standing twenty feet away from stage.  No one was dancing, no one was rocking out.  Personally, I wanted to get up close and see the action.

Now I’m a very self-conscious person.  I was afraid that if I walked up in front of the stage that the backbenchers would get all pissy.  I decided that I didn’t care.  All by myself I walked up and stood in front of the stage.  

To this day, it still amazes me how fast the ice broke on that one.  My friends quickly followed my lead and before two more minutes went by, scores of people had moved in front of the stage.  All those early arrivers sitting on the benches were screwed.

As I said, I’m not one to draw attention to myself.  But I have to say, the energy in that show changed.  The action got hot.  People were laughing, rocking out and having a good time instead of standing back like they were watching a piano recital.

The interesting side note to all this was that Stevie Ray Vaughn played the main stage later that night.  Why is this interesting?  I am not positive, but Stevie’s gig at Riverfest was the same summer that he played in Alpine Valley near Milwaukee.  It was from the gig in Alpine Valley that Stevie took off in the helicopter that ultimately crashed and killed him.  To this day I wonder if that gig at St. Paul’s Riverfest was his 2nd to last show.  

I like to think it was.

Here is a track from each of these blues masters.






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