Almost Heaven? West Virginia...
In keeping with the state slogan, The Heritage Music Blues Fest in Wheeling, WV, was quite a wild and wonderful experience. When we were a mere 30 miles from the fest, happily rolling southward on route 7 along the Ohio River Scenic Byway, there was a really loud and abrupt noise that sounded just like a blown tire...which made sense, because that was exactly what it was! So we limped along another 13 miles to a tire shop to get the spare put on, then onward to the fest. Because of that considerable delay, we approached the beautiful Heritage Port riverfront amphitheater close to the end of Davy Knowles' absolutely rockin' set but it was good to at least hear a couple songs. I parked it up front along with the rest of the crowd, happily anticipating Carolyn Wonderland's set, when the wind kicked up, the waves got rough, the clouds became ominous, the leaves on the trees curled skyward and an announcement was made that the festival was on hold and everyone should take cover because a whopper of a thunderstorm was on its way.
It was Friday the 13th, now that I think about it.
After a few hours of bright lightening and booming thunder, the storm passed, the equipment was uncovered, the crowd reconvened, and an announcement was made that the remaining three acts would go on but play abbreviated sets. Soon after, Carolyn Wonderland took the stage and brought her Alligator Records-worthy Texas blues sound to a wildly enthusiastic, albeit soggy, crowd. The stage was quickly cleared and the next artist's gear was set up at a frenzied pace. That artist was none other than Ronnie Baker Brooks and from the moment he took the stage, he emanated sheer joy that reached right into crowd and brought the south side of Chicago blues to downtown Wheeling. Coco Montoya took the stage after RBB and we all rode the wave of his California cool blues to the highly anticipated final set, which was Coco and Ronnie sharing the stage for an Albert Collins tribute. The Ice Man himself would have been honored, impressed, and--like the audience--unable to remain still or stop smiling. From the looks of it, Ronnie and Coco were having every bit as much fun as the rest of us and even earned a look or two from the event manager for playing a few minutes past midnight; they weren't in anymore of a hurry to get to the end of this hard-won and highly-anticipated set than we cheering fans were.