by Erik Ritland
Rambling On is a seriously fun blog and podcast covering sports, music, culture, and more. Check us out on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, or at our website.
Who: Kent Burnside and the New Generation, Charlie Parr, Bernie King and the Guilty Pleasures, Black Market Brass, Catl, Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Left Lane Cruiser, Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition, and more
Were: Patrick's Cabaret, Harriet Brewing, and surrounding area
When: July 17-18, 2015
Rock n' roll began as a fascinating cosmic hybrid of blues, rhythm and blues, folk, jazz, and country western. It came from the land, specifically from the sacred land of the deep south, with all its power, paradoxes, and eccentricities. The same spirit that guided the American Indians as they danced and chanted, William Faulkner as he wrote his novels, and Jack Daniels as he created his Tennessee whiskey also inspired the creation of rock n' roll and its roots.
A lot of rock music today is divorced from this spirit. Sure, some of it is good, but the further you are from the fire the less you'll feel the heat.
Minnesota's own Roots, Rock, and Deep Blues Festival is a celebration of the best bands that are keeping rock n' roll alive at its foundation. The variety of the 2015 lineup did not disappoint, featuring hill country blues (Kent Burnside and the New Generation), loose western swing (Bernie King and the Guilty Pleasures), authentic country blues (Jimmy "Duck" Holmes), filthy blooze rock (Catl, Left Lane Cruiser), hot jazz (Black Market Brass), stomping acoustic folk and blues (Spider John Koerner, Charlie Parr), and the cosmic soup of country western, delta blues, Americana, and rock n' roll that is Jimbo Mathus.
Food options were varied, plentiful, and affordable. Highlights included three tacos for $6 from nearby El Nuevo Rodeo, several kinds of sushi from Midori at $3 a roll, a generous portion of chicken curry and rice for $5 from Gandhi Mahal, and huge $4 slices of pizza from Parkway. I indulged in a couple fresh Shrimp Tempura rolls from Midori and the curry from Gandhi Mahal, which had an authentic spice to it.
The weather was hot and muggy, reminiscent of the deep south, as it should be. After all, the warmer the weather the better the beer tastes, right? Beer was everywhere at Roots, Rock, and Deep Blues, everything from PBR tallboys to a substantial amount of taps. Harriet Brewing, which hosted one of the stages, had the most impressive variety. The best bet to beat the heat was their Pils, which has a nice combination of sweetness and hops. Their Wondan Weizen, a well-balanced blend of fruit and citrus, was also refreshing. Although a little heavy for the weather, West Side IPA (Harriet's original beer) was still eccentrically tasteful with its combination of malt, hops, citrus, and spices.
Of course the real attraction was the music, which began at 1:00 PM and went well into the evening. Spanning six stages, the variety featured at this year's festival was expansive. Here are some highlights.
Kent Burnside and the New Generation
Kent Burnside, R.L.’s grandson, does an admirable job keeping his grandfather’s name and tradition alive. He has his own unique approach that is a bit more urbane without losing the essential Burnside grit. He played a few classics, some original material, and of course several tributes to his grandfather. When he says “this is for my grandfather R.L.” there is real emotional and spiritual weight to it.
Charlie Parr hit the Hub Alley Stage after a fun, rootsy set from The Fattenin’ Frogs. High octane as always, he brings an energy to folk and country blues that is unparalleled. Accompanied only by washboard and harmonica, he tore through several classic blues and plenty of his own songs. Highlights included a rousing acapella “Ain’t No Grave” and a thunderous take on Robert Johnson’s “Preaching the Blues (Up Jumped the Devil).”
In case you missed it, check out our exclusive interview with Charlie, where he discusses his new album Stumpjumper, the recoding process, and more.
Bernie King and the Guilty Pleasures
King and company play a lot of shows around the Twin Cities so you should definitely check them out. Click here for current dates.
Black Market Brass
Jimmy "Duck" Holmes
45 minutes wasn’t nearly long enough of a set for this legend, though he will be playing a series of shows in the Twin Cities area in the coming week as well.
Left Lane Cruiser
After playing bass for half the set Joe Bent switched to his handmade skateboard slide guitar. It has only two strings (and its saddle/bridge is a Red Stripe bottle) but he gets a big, crunchy sound out of it. The band’s whiskey-fueled energy only got more intense after he switched instruments. His raw playing on new songs like “Tangled up in Bush” and the aptly titled “Skateboard Blues” proved the power of the skateboard guitar beyond its novelty.
Mathus had a funny, charming outlook about his surroundings. “I heard Minneapolis is trashy. I like that, I like riff raff. Stay who you are.” He mentioned how much he liked the festival multiple times, calling it "funky like down home in Mississippi."
And that’s what’s great about the Roots, Rock, and Deep Blues Festival: it’s funky, it’s different. It shows that rock n’ roll music is still alive at its roots, that it’s possible to look to the past for inspiration while still being fresh. It also proves that there is a lot of inspiring new music being made today if you know where to look for it.
Other exclusive Roots, Rock, and Deep Blues Festival content from Rambling On:
The Evolution of Jimbo Mathus An annotated overview of his career, including work with the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Buddy Guy, and his diverse solo material.
Stumpjumper and the Varied Influences of Charlie Parr (an exclusive interview) The Minnesotan fills us in on the making of his new album and what new ideas he's brought to his songwriting.
Jimmy "Duck" Holmes: A Blues Legend in Minneapolis A short introduction to the work of the important bluesman and a review of his show at the 331 Club.
Heavy Blooze: Left Lane Cruiser's Dirty Spliff Blues On their new album Left Lane Cruizer takes their filthy blues rock to a new level.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik's music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.