Strangely enough for the event they call Bluesfest, there are very few blues acts. It wasn’t that way in the beginning of course, but over the past 20 years the festival has become an everything festival, with country, folk, hip-hop, rap, EDM and rock bands headlining on successive nights. You have to work really hard to find musicians who know what the blues are, let alone play it.
Which made Peter Wolf’s electric blues-rock a breath of fresh air by the Ottawa River. By the third tune (“Rolling On”) he had me sold. His backup band, the Midnight Travelers, were seasoned veterans who gave him the opportunity to showcase his vocal talents while letting the audience know that they too are crackerjack musicians.
The last time I saw Wolf he was the lead vocalist for the J. Geils Band. I’m not quite sure how long ago that was, but I figure at least 35 years. I haven’t followed his post-Geils career, so I didn’t know what to expect, though I more or less assumed that it would be an hour of old hits to keep the fans happy.
I never thought of myself as a J. Geils Band fan. Yes I saw them live, but there were several acts on the bill that night. Those were the bands I wanted to see.
So it was Sunday night at Bluesfest. Peter Wolf was an afterthought. I almost didn’t arrive in time to catch his set. I liked what I heard though, and was pleased to hear a lot of newer material; the biggest J. Geils hits were conspicuously absent. No “Centerfold” or “Freeze Frame.” I was okay with that; the music he was playing was good and I like being exposed to something new.
For me that is one of the highlights of a festival, the opportunity to hear music from artists you might otherwise not get exposed to. This year I must admit I failed to take advantage of that – I only attended two nights of Bluesfest and on one of those nights I arrived only in time to hear the Zombies. So I didn’t hear anything new – you really can’t count Peter Wolf as “new,” even if the material was new to me.
I don’t know if that’s a sign of age that I didn’t automatically buy a full-festival pass, or more a realization that this month I just didn’t have the time for ten days of a music festival. Some years are like that.