Chan Kinchla, Blues Traveler's lead guitarist, sat at an umbrella table
backstage at the Doctor Music Festival, quaffing a beer and soaking up the
late afternoon sun that was casting long shadows across the Spanish
Pyrenees. "We drove through the mountains this afternoon," he
said with a wide grin. "Our bus was having so much trouble getting up
the hill that we had to shut off all the air conditioning, so we piled on
the roof and drove through the mountains on the roof of our bus. An
exciting and dangerous trip in, but the view was so nice we stayed up
there. It's the only way to see the Pyrenees mountains." Drummer
Brendan Hill adjusted his mirrored shades and surveyed the range of rugged
peaks that delineates the border between France and Spain. "This
festival seems very reminiscent of Telluride [Colorado], the music
festival they have up there," he observed. "You're surrounded by
such beauty. All these mountains. Then, as you're coming down the hill you
see all these people..."
Kinchla laughed and nodded in agreement. "And it's just full of
freaks - like Telluride!"
This was the sophomore year for the three-day festival, which featured
four main stages and a number of additional performance spaces, offering
everything from dance music to tattoos, piercings and the always-weird New
Jim Rose Circus. Perhaps, due to lagging ticket sales - the final head
count would come in at just under 27,000, only a few more than last year's
total - a fourth day (Thursday) was added, with Rage Against the Machine
as the headliners. For Blues Traveler, though, as well as for its jam band
compatriots, Phish, this event was a watershed - its first-ever live
performance before a Spanish audience. Their names appeared in small print
on the official poster, below those of Alice Cooper, David Byrne, Echo
& the Bunnymen, Hawkwind, Megadeth, Midnight Oil, Sheryl Crow, Simple
Minds, Sinead O'Connor, Steve Winwood, the Stranglers, Texas and Ziggy
Marley, among others.
Blues Traveler hit the stage running with "Carolina Blues" the
lead song off its excellent new CD, Straight On Till Morning.
Popper, Kinchla, Hill and bass player Bob Sheehan rocked the mountaintops.
The set continued with "Last Night I Dreamed," also from the new
album. Popper went off, grabbing feedback from his amp, while Kinchla
scorched the place with fiery lead runs. Just as on Friday night with
Phish, the Great Unwashed streamed in to check out this band they'd never
heard of. Todd Wolfe, from Sheryl Crow's band, came up to trade guitar
solos with Kinchla on "Make My Way," the closing song on the new
CD. Next was a blistering cover of Steve Miller's "The Joker"
with everyone in the audience singing and bopping along. Then the group
was into Sweet Talking Hippie," which evolved into a monster jam.
And then it was over. Blues Traveler's set lasted a mere hour. Apparently
that's all you get when you're the new kids on the block.
Spanish, Canadian and American fans alike were heard making plans to
"Go into town for some real Spanish dinner." And why not? The
festival had ended, but the party had not.