Sep 4, 2012

Of blues and barbecue – 2012 edition

As my four faithful followers have come to expect, I’m more than a week behind in blogging about events I recently went to.  The good news is that this commoner keeps on traveling, so there’s plenty of material to reminisce on to carry me into the fall. 

The purpose of this entry, however, is to recap the 9th annual Old Capitol Blues and Barbecue Festival, held Aug. 25-26 in downtown Springfield, Ill., appropriately enough at the old capitol.  It also coincided with my friend Big Don’s going away weekend before he spends two years working in Doha, Qatar. So, how appropriate we send him off with a bunch of beer and smoked pork since both will be in short supply in the Middle East.  The blues, of course, can be found anywhere.

And, for no particular reason, here’s a picture of Big Don starting the night off wearing a sombrero. 

That's more like it ... Big Don, me and Eric "SOHO" Welch (left)
Now if that doesn’t put you in a festive mood, what will?  Perhaps these pictures of the culinary stars of the weekend …

I’ve been going to this festival long enough that I’ve come to expect certain vendors to be there.  For example, I always get my fix of Clay’s Popeye’s fried green tomatoes. 

The line always seems long, no matter the time of day, but they’re worth it.  And, on the first night, I was fortunate to get their very last order of ribs, which fell apart effortlessly after simmering in their sauce all day long.  Always delicious!  Now, that I’m thinking about them again, I’m going to have to go there for lunch sometime this week. 

And even though this year’s drought has been rough on the corn crop everywhere, I had to get an ear of grilled corn on the cob dipped in butter.  If the barbecue isn’t messy enough for you, this will do the trick. 

The vendor food is always excellent, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that many of them are competing with prizes, along with many more who are just here for the competition.  And, hey, when you win it’s great for business.  Just ask these guys, who took first place in the beef brisket category and second place in the pork shoulder competition.  After the trophies were handed out, the line at this stand was enormous. 

The second half of the equation for this festival’s continued success is the music.  Friday’s headliners were J.D. McPherson, followed by Wayne Baker Brooks.  And Saturday featured the festival’s top bill – Maria Muldaur, followed by Rockin’ Johnny Burgin.

I wouldn’t call McPherson’s sound bluesy, so maybe that’s what threw me off when I saw him.  It definitely has a slice of blues, along with rockabilly and roots rock.  Still, he and his band put on a quality performance.  I have to admit, though, the contemporary hard rockin’ Chicago blues of Wayne Baker Brooks got me moving a lot more.  And, as Lonnie Brooks’ son, he certainly has the pedigree. 

J.D. McPherson ... see if you can find the stand-up bass.
Wayne Baker Brooks

On Saturday, Maria Muldaur was every bit as good as advertised.  But then again, with her “Bluesiana” sound she’s recently latched onto, I easily became a fan.  She also mixed in a good smattering of her old hits (“Midnight at the Oasis,” of course) and traditional blues as well.  And, despite warnings of how much she hated having her picture taken on stage (nobody told me at the time), I took this picture with wreckless abandon.

She doesn't seem all that distracted ... 
Finally, similar to the night before, the festival ended with an excellent set of Chicago guitar-fueled blues from Rockin’ Johnny Burgin that nearly stole the show (and for those who like their blues more contemporary, maybe it did!).  I’d definitely be for Rockin’ Johnny and Wayne Baker Brooks to both make a return trip to next year’s festival. 

I’m going to try to be a much more prolific blogger in September, if only to catch up from all the summer’s activities.  So my next entry could be about Galena, a restaurant review, or maybe Dr. John’s performance at this past weekend’s big Muddy Blues Festival in Saint Louis.  I’ll only know for sure when I start typing. 

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