The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Wavy Gravy — those are hippie bands. The Rascals, Grand Funk Railroad and Traffic were not (maybe some of the psychedelic Traffic). Nevertheless, Hippiefest 2011 at The Palace on Thursday night featured music from the front men of the latter groups.
The music ranged widely in style and covered a slew of hits during the four acts. But the lack of any common thread made it a hodgepodge of a show, like food groups wrongly thrown together. Because a song is from the ’60s doesn’t mean it’s shared music. Still, there were good moments in the show, but they came in isolated spots and never allowed momentum to build.
Felix Cavaliere, the voice of the Young Rascals, opened the show, climaxing with his megahit “Good Lovin’ ” (at least hippie bands covered this tune). His other highlights were “Groovin’ (on a Sunday Afternoon),” another near-universally-known tune, and “People Got to Be Free.”
Off went Cavaliere and his Hammond B3 and out came Rick Derringer and his heavy electric guitar. Derringer’s biggest moment was “Hang On Sloopy.” But not until he played some weak guitar solos, went off on patriotic messages, played a weaker guitar solo through the “Star Spangled Banner” and then, ironically, started talking about the Summer of Love before launching into “Sloopy.” He told us that the producers edited out the second verse back in 1965, so he played it, though it didn’t sound new or old. He ended his 30-minute set with his signature hit, “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo.”
Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad came out with a strong rock jam, the first of the night, and then moved into “The Loco-Motion,” which he led with his ’60s guitar sound. He was a showman like the first two acts, but his playing came first.
He sang us his 1975 pop hit “Bad Time” and then “Some Kind of Wonderful.” He was working hard, and things were going well at this point for Farner. Then he hit “I’m Your Captain,” probably his best song, and the night elevated. He was great, the band was great and together they made the best moment of the night.
“Nice to be here, nice to be anywhere,” said Dave Mason, opening up with the prettiest tune of the night, “We Just Disagree.” He followed with “Let it Go, Let if Flow” from the same album. Mason had the richest and deepest songbook of the Thursday night cast, had the coolest stage presence, was by far the most relaxed, and for this, his music was the loosest, hippest and most unforced.
He played an early Traffic tune, “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” a true hippie tune, and my favorite of the night. Then came “Only You Know and I Know,” his standard but hot “All Along the Watchtower” tribute (he’s on the Hendrix original). The whole cast came on to sing with Mason “Feelin’ Alright.”
With Mason on the end, you left the show smiling.
Because the four-man band stayed the same for each 30-minute set — kudos to these guys for playing everything demanded of them — the show moved fast (I timed a record three minutes between the first two acts). But that wasn’t enough to call the night great, or even successful. The bands, and the fans, didn’t really belong together. The show tried to be too much, and came out too little — particularly lacking, of all things, the hippie factor.
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