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Doctor Music Festival
by Phil Demetrion
Relix Magazine, National
Oct 1st, 1997

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.