Loufest 2016: A Mix Of Mud And Musical Surprises
Photos by Kevin Kelly.
If you attended LouFest this past weekend, your first impression wasn’t the music. It was mud.
Saturday’s mud was thick and deep enough in places to put a death grip on your shoes while your feet attempted to keep moving. Thankfully, the swampy areas were negotiable through complex detours, and Sunday’s sunshine and cloudless sky helped dry up the fest grounds on Forest Park’s central field.
The sloppy footing didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the approximately 50,000 attendees at the two-day fest. Everyone seemed to negotiate dealing with only one entrance due to the heavy rains that flooded the South Gate area. There were plenty of parents with kids sprinkled among the hipsters and college crowd, and ample representation by older generations as well.
Covering all 36 bands that played at the four LouFest stages over the weekend proved to be an impossibility for a single reviewer, but your ALIVE correspondent did manage to hear 30 acts (some for almost the whole set; some only for a few tunes).
Here are the highlights.
Major name acts Frightened Rabbit, Diarrhea Planet, The Heavy, Band of Horses and Chris Stapleton drew the biggest crowds and turned in strong performances at the large Bud Light and Forest Park Stages.
And Preservation Hall Jazz Band crossed plenty of musical and generational boundaries at the Bud Light Stage in the afternoon. With a roster of musicians that spanned at least three generations, including 84-year-old sax player Charlie Gabriel, the band proved that if the music hits a groove, it can connect with audiences of all ages. A closing medley of the Jackson Five’s “I Want you Back” and Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” certainly did.
But some of the best music was found at the smaller Shade and Tunespeak BMI Stages.
At Shade, Brooklyn’s Caveman dazzled with tightly focused, shimmering rock; Chicano Batman offered quirky, danceable East LA sounds, and Charles Bradley brought down the house with a primer on old school soul music.
Louisville’s Twin Limb featured an eclectic mix of drums (played by St. Louisan MaryLiz Bender), synth guitar by Kevin Ratterman and amazing accordion played as you’ve never heard it before by Lacey Guthrie. Best band of the day. Remember the name.
Sunday’s music schedule included a strong set by Ms. Lauryn Hill that featured her working with a killer backing band. Early set highlights included Hill sitting to play acoustic guitar and singing ”I Gotta Find Peace of Mind.” Later in the set, as fireworks for the St. Louis Art Fair lit up the sky to the west, Hill turned the clock back to turn in Fugee favorites, “Ready or Not” and “Killing Me Softly.” And yes, she took the stage on time for her hour set after a 15-minute warm-up by her DJ.
Strong Forest Park Stage sets by Nashville’s Judah and the Lion and Greensky Bluegrass were highlights, and 80-year-old blues legend Buddy Guy’s set on the Bud Light Stage blended a blues history lesson, plenty of jokes, and occasional fiery guitar work.
Once again, there were musical revelations to be found on the smaller stages Sunday.
Nashville singer/songwriter Rayland Baxter’s Shade Stage set was filled with memorable original songs and plenty of fine musicianship.
On the Tunespeak BMI Stage, rapper and drummer Anderson .Paak and his excellent band, The Free Nationals, turned in the most exciting set of the day. Focusing primarily on songs from his latest recording, “Malibu,” he had the crowd involved from the first note of the set to the last. Highlights included versions of “Am I Wrong,” “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance,” and “Come Down.” Special mention to Jose Rios for his amazing guitar work.
LouFest 2016 offered the most eclectic mix of musical styles in the seven year history of the event. Let’s hope that commitment continues.