Six Pack Interview with James Hogan of National Guitar Workshop
BB King at The Santa Cruz Blues Festival

Kenny Wayne Shepherd at the Santa Cruz Blues Festival

Memorial day weekend held the annual Santa Cruz Blues Festival with one of its best lineups ever including Jackie Greene, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and BB King --and that was just the first day.  The festival is put on by Bill Welch, owner of Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz, and has run for 17 years at Aptos Village Park.   I managed to catch Saturday's show, which I'll cover here in two separate postings.

First of all, I'm not a big fan of hanging out all day at a festival, but Santa Cruz is a pretty laid back place.  Officially gates opened at 10:00 am, the first act was on at 11:00 and I got there sometime around 1:00, just in time to catch the tail end of the second act, Ruthie Foster.  While all tickets are general admission, I splurged for a "Gold Circle" ticket ($100) which gets you a folding chair somewhere within 50 rows or so of the stage.  Despite the fact that I wasn't particularly early, I was able to find an empty seat in the third row, which was far better than I would have expected and made it all worthwhile.

Local San Francisco blues rocker Jackie Greene did a great set including original songs from his recent albums "Giving Up the Ghost," "Gone Wanderin" as well as a covers of The Velvet Underground's "Waiting for my man," The Beatles' "Taxman" and even some Grateful Dead.  (Green toured with the Dead a few years back, so what the heck.)  I managed to get some photos of Jackie Greene and his band, but unfortunately, I didn't shoot any video.  Nonetheless, here's a link to a nice acoustic number on YouTube.

As good as Jackie Greene was, it was just a taste of what was to come from Kenny Wayne Shepherd, one of the greatest southern blues guitarists I've heard in a long time.  I managed to capture a couple of decent videos of KWS ripping it up on YouTube.  It was a phenomenal set, from the very start.  Lead vocalist, Noah Hunt, has a perfect voice for this band, with a style that is reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix and perfectly complements Shepherd's guitar playing. 

Everyone in the band was having a great time and the crowd was totally energized by the performance, especially on Shepherd's searing solos.  Key songs included Dylan's "Everything is Broken" and the radio hit "Blue on Black."  Kenny Wayne Shepherd's 90 minute set alone was worth the price of admission for the whole day.  The band is touring through the US this summer, so be sure to check them out.

The closing act on Saturday was BB King, and I'll cover that in a separate posting.


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