So long summer: Beerfest and BroJo see the season out in style
The final requiem of summertime music played throughout Winston-Salem on Saturday as a pair of events heralded the end of the outdoor concert season.
It’s hard to say how many were at Tanglewood to see Kansas close out the first annual Great North Carolina Beer Festival. Of the 16,000 people who bought tickets in advance of the event on
Saturday, several thousand left early amidst impossibly long beer lines, as vendors were running out of supply hours before the festival ended. Oh, and then there were an undisclosed number, though it appeared to be into the thousands, of patrons waiting in line outside to get in. Several reports put the typical wait time at its peak between 90 minutes and two hours, and that’s only if you were to park at the strip mall outside of the park, as onsite parking added another 30-45 minutes to that time.
Three of Kansas’ members — Steve Walsh, keyboards and vocals; Phil Ehart, drums; and Richard Williams, guitar — are originals, but the show was commanded by a virtual newcomer, violinist Dave Ragsdale, who has been with the band since 1991. Ragsdale spent most of the evening gamboling across the stage, the lithe shots from his violin slicing through the dense rhythmic foundation laid down by Ehart and bassist Billy Greer. Kansas was known as a band that stuck with honest interpretations of the album material, but Ragsdale’s presence did sound invigorating on the classics “Dust In the Wind” and “Carry On My Wayward Son,” even if his Reagan T-shirt was a little unsightly.
In contrast to Ragsdale’s pomposity, there was Greer who’s clearly the glue that cements Kansas’ complexities. On top of being a tremendous bass player who doesn’t demand attention, he’s an even better vocalist, as he provided the perfect harmonies to Williams throughout the band’s set, particularly on the grandiose “Miracles Out of Nowhere” and “Icarus (Born On Wings of Steel).”
So was it worth it all for those who came simply to see a dinosaur rock band sans its arguably preeminent member in Kerry Livgren?
Kind of, but not really. Being its first year, the sheer disorganization of the festival alone was enough to cause grumblings amongst attendees that they’d prefer the consistent mediocrity of the Summertime Brews Festival if forced to choose. Conventional (and ethical) event planning wisdom would conclude that since the event was vastly oversold, understaffed and under-resourced in its inaugural year that organizers would use the windfall profit (which they undoubtedly made, barring sheer fiscal incompetence) to make vast improvements to subsequent events.
Meanwhile, in downtown Winston, the final Summer On Trade event saw its season out with easily the best performance in the series, as the New York City-based musical love-in Brother Jocephus & the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra took the stage a half-hour early in what would be an exhausting and exhilarating twohour set. Despite hailing from the Big Apple, Brother Jocephus’ funky, free-wheeling unit
looks and sounds as if they just stepped off of a Big Easy second line from heaven. BroJo and his crew paraded down Trade Street and into the portable trailer stage that could barely hold their sheer numbers, second-lining with horns, drums and parasols bandied about while playing a boisterous New Orleans’ fanfare.
They took the stage in a shower of confetti and hullabaloo; three horns, three backup singers, drums, bass, guitar, a pianist and Brother Jocephus himself, all full of le bon temps and just happy to be there. The face and spirit of the name was undoubtedly their namesake leader, but the main cog was undoubtedly their musical director and pianist the Right Reverend Dean Dawg The Reverend generated a sphere of uncontrollable energy as he tickled his keys to the tune of “Bon Temps Roulez,” “Bury Me In New Orleans” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
There was plenty of room on the 6 th and Trade intersection for the early arrivers to bust out their own second lines alongside the band members, who jumped down to join them throughout, but the crowd grew to hundreds as the beer festival let out. It was an ideal ending to the season, but the best part? It was free, no waiting in line and even easier access to beer.