[SLIDESHOW] HullabaLOU: Rev. for the Roses



Column by Donald Mason

If you could hear rumbles coming from the River City this past weekend, it wasn’t Thunder Over Louisville, but the HullabaLOU Music Festival at Churchill Downs in Louisville. An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 music lovers gathered for the weekend and populated the five stages. Like Forecastle, HullabaLOU spanned three days, which could be broken down into days or even individual show tickets. The weekend was packed with acts spanning across generations, bringing crowds young and old.

As I entered the Downs, I was greeted by Michael McDonald singing “I Keep Forgettin’,” a favorite of the extensive catalog. He played individual hits, mixing in Motown and Doobie Brothers tunes seamlessly. During “She,” he muscled through falsetto tones, matching the studio quality, yet adding an edge only available live in effect. Before Michael left the stage, he reached out to the crowd: “We love you, Louisville. Stay with peace and maybe next time I see you, it will be in a peaceful world.”

The show I most wanted to see was Rev. Al Green, making him the second bucket list artist I have seen this year (Stevie Wonder being the first at Bonnaroo). There was a 20 minute delay during sound check, driving some fans to see Govt. Mule. Others wouldn’t have traded their spot for the world, myself included. The crowd that remained started a “We want Al” chant, coaxing the legend out of the shadows. In a style most fitting to the Downs, the Rev. was loaded with roses to be flung toward adoring fans, mainly of the female persuasion. That riled up the crowd all the way through the show. The Rev. spotted a “Happy Birthday” sign and blessed the birthday girl from the stage. At one point he said, “I bet there are some people that wonder if he still got it. The preacher still got it.” Truth be told, he hit those high registers like he ran the Express line.

Other highlights captured on the scene:

     On my way to check out Steppenwolf and Joan Osborne, I heard Sara Evans covering “I Want You To Want Me” by Cheap Trick.

     Avett Brothers crowd started sparse due to the Black Crowes stealing about 85 percent of the festival crowd. It built right after the Crowes went off, perfect timing for their intense string-plucking close.

     Steve Miller had a tribute to a fallen band member, Norton Buffalo, with the song “Wild Mountain Cherry.” He mentioned that he played the song with Norton over 3,000 times and never got tired of it. “Say hi to Les Paul for me,” he said to Norton.

     The Chill Zone provided 20,000 square feet of misted covered space through the grounds.

     Michael Johnathan tuned his banjo while talking to a newly married couple from Jasper, Ind.

     Al Green’s covers included: “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” (Four Tops), “My Girl” (Temptations), “Bring It On Home to Me” (Sam Cooke), “Dock of the Bay” (Otis Redding) and “Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison)

     Hog Operation, my surprise of the festival, covered The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” to close their set on the Bluegrass stage.

Top 5 Shows Witnessed

1. Al Green

2. Steve Miller Band

3. Taj Mahal

4. Michael McDonald

5. Avett Brothers

Top 5 Shows Missed

1. Gladys Knight

2. Doobie Brothers

3. War

4. Ben Folds

5. Colbie Caillat