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H.O.R.D.E. Festival rocks out with clean fun
by Lisa Jann
The Seattle Times, Seattle, WA
Sep 7th, 1998

GEORGE - If Lollapalooza were the rager that the cops broke up, then the H.O.R.D.E. Festival might be the party that Mom and Dad allowed to continue. Chaperoned by Blues Traveler and their hand-picked slate of alt-rock, pop and blues outfits, Friday's stop at the Gorge Amphitheatre offered seven hours of freewheeling sets and feel-good sounds.

Drawing a generally well-behaved scene of mellow teens and subdued music fans, H.O.R.D.E.'s three stages of continuous grooves demanded a vibe of clean fun. Toronto quintet Barenaked Ladies amplified the fest's happy-go-lucky ethos, discouraging a percolating pit from slam dancing and crowd surfing.

"It is our personal desire that each and every one of you go home with a complete set of dental work," pleaded singer Steven Page, before jumping back into their brand of jocular nerd-pop. The Canadian yucksters mugged through their time on the main stage, tossing off snappy cuts like the radio fave "One Week" and "If I Had $1,000,000."

The Ladies finished off with a cheeky medley that tore all over the musical map, quoting from "We Are the World," Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler," hip-hopper Biz Markie, the love theme from "Titanic" and "Memory" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats."

Ben Harper, a descendant of the influences of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and the Delta blues, shimmered in the most powerful performances of the day, unleashing his songs of conscience in two very different sets. On the workshop stage that was reserved for surprise appearances, a solo Harper took up an acoustic guitar for spare, soulful renderings of "Waiting on an Angel" and "I Shall Walk Alone." After dark with the Innocent Criminals, Harper sat back down with his signature Weissenborn lap slide guitar and set off the rippling power of "The Will to Live," the title track from his latest album, before heading into a fuzzy jam that must have palpitated up and down the Columbia River Valley.

Headliners Blues Traveler slid easily into their favorite territory of live invention, rolling out material new ("Carolina Blues") and familiar ("Hook") nonstop. Harmonica maestro and H.O.R.D.E. founder John Popper led the band through multi-song combos with seamless bridging between every '60s-style rock cut.

On the other side of the hill, danceable rhythms dominated H.O.R.D.E.'s second stage, with New Orleans' Galactic and their intersection of acid jazz and funk. Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise also threw a good party; Bradley, a former street musician, let loose his dirty-talking blues vocals as the crowd got up to get down.