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
"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.