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H.O.R.D.E. Festival
by Terry Perkins
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, MO
Jul 14th, 1998

The 1998 version of the H.O.R.D.E. Festival rolled into Riverport Amphitheatre Sunday, and the band that started it all - Blues Traveler - returned to headline the event.

Led by harmonica ace and vocalist John Popper, the members of Blues Traveler wrapped up more than eight hours of music with a 90-minute excursion through some of the band's best-known hits as well as quite a few songs from a new album set to be recorded at the end of this year.

Popper, with his trademark leather bandolier stuffed with an arsenal of harmonicas, was the primary soloist for Blues Traveler.

He fired up strong harp solos throughout the set, fueling several of the meandering jams the band's fans have come to expect.

Blues Traveler's primary contribution to H.O.R.D.E. Fest '98 was the band's willingness to once more oversee the event it created in 1992.

This year's H.O.R.D.E. lineup featured plenty of musical acts that had followed a similar path, from mainstage acts like New England's Paula Cole and Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Southern Californian Ben Harper and Canada's Barenaked Ladies to second stage performers such as David Garza, Emmet Swimming and Gov't Mule.

Although Barenaked Ladies played the mainstage to a small crowd at 3:30 in the afternoon, the group laid a strong claim to the most entertaining set of the Fest. With a sound rooted in power pop and strong, well-crafted songwriting, the quintet showcased its talents on songs such as "Brian Wilson, "The Old Apartment" and "If I had $1,000,000." But there was plenty of spontaneous fun as well, including an impromptu rap paean to the incomparable taste of a Ted Drewes concrete and its essential ingredient, "Farm Fresh Eggs."

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals were also outstanding, as Harper burned through a series of excellent solos on the rarely heard Weissenborn hollow-neck lap slide guitar. His closer - a roaring version of the Jimi Hendrix classic "Voodoo Chile," had the crowd roaring in approval.

Paula Cole, who won this year's Grammy award as best new artist, gained the strongest crowd reaction with a couple of cover tunes as well. Her version of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" added new dimensions to the song, and her rendition of Bob Marley's "War" brought the crowd to its feet.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones won the award for gaining the strongest crowd reaction with the Fest's worst musicianship. Playing its final set on the H.O.R.D.E. tour, the band was obviously in a party mood, playing to the audience rather than focusing on the music. The horns were flat, the sound mix was non-existent and the volume was too loud, but the Bosstones won the crowd over through sheer energy and an irresistible ska beat.

Thanks to staggered schedules between the mainstage and the second stage, fans were treated to non-stop music for more than eight hours, and those willing to march back and forth between the stages (located at opposite ends of the venue) were treated to strong sets by lesser-known acts such as David Garza, Bare, Jr. and Columbia, Mo.'s Jonny Mosh. Special mention should go to the New York City band, Mosaic, which played for more than six hours at the Fest's workshop stage, attracting a constant crowd. Now, that's the real spirit behind the H.O.R.D.E. Fest.