Thursday, May 26, 2016

Doheny Blues Festival - Day 2 concert review: Dana Point, Calif.

During Doheny Blues Festival, various people raved about their memorable experiences at the beachside event, which hosted 21 acts in Dana Point over the weekend.

Unlike other big concerts around Southern California, this one tends to have more civilized patrons, a relaxed vibe, fantastic view and mild weather. That’s why top tier performers keep coming back and newcomers admit to always wanting to play there. 

Day 2 headliner Brian Setzer capped the 19th edition with a vibrant 100-minute show at dusk that defined good time rock ‘n’ roll. It was like a master class in showmanship and guitar prowess (all hail the whammy bar, reverb and Santo & Johnny instrumental “Sleepwalk”). 

Starting with Carl Perkins’ “Put Your Cat Clothes On,” Setzer and his tight three-piece backing band definitely lived up to their name and title of latest album “Rockabilly Riot!” 

Fans immediately went wild for Stray Cats’ “Rumble in Brighton” and additional tunes from Setzer’s popular Eighties band (the racing “Fishnet Stockings,” “Stray Cat Strut,” “Runaway Boys,” rip roaring main set closer “Rock This Town”). 

Elsewhere, they impressed with exciting covers (“Great Balls of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” Moon Mullican’s “Seven Nights to Rock” as the final encore), the surf guitar-driven “Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder)” and more recent selection like the fun ode to "Vinyl Records," "Nothing is a Sure Thing" and “Let’s Shake,” where Setzer kneeled while peeling off yet another riveting solo. 

Immediately preceding Setzer on the Doheny Stage, Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band – featuring co-lead vocalist Noah Hunt and ace sidemen Chris Layton and Tony Franklin (known for their stints in Double Trouble and The Firm respectively) - got right down to business with a sizzling “Never Lookin’ Back”  and no nonsense loping rock groove of "King's Highway." 

From there, the blues guitarslinger steamrolled through “I’m a King Bee,” the brawny "True Lies" and his engaging album rock staples (“Blue on Black,” “Born with a Broken Heart”).

Hunt came across like a young Paul Rodgers at times. Shepherd mentioned his current side project The Rides and did Elmore James' "Talk to Me Baby," which that band covered on their debut album. Then he paid tribute to idols Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn (“Voodoo Chile,” “House is Rockin’”) with shredding intensity. 

The Record Company was a revelation. Hailing from LA, the young blues rock trio first came to my attention last year while listening to Sirius XM’s The Spectrum. Tearing it up midday on the Back Porch Stage to a large audience, they didn’t disappoint with songs from riveting new album “Give it Back to You.” 

Kicking off with a spooky “On the Move,” singer/guitarist Chris Vos wailed his vocals and harmonica through a handheld bullet microphone.

He provided background on several tunes, thanked the local blues community ("true music fans that believe in integrity") and Setzer ("the first to take us on a world tour last year"). 

Standouts included "Baby I'm Broken," an earthy “Rita Mae Young,” the ominous "Hard Day Coming Down" (which Vos noted was about "getting through bad situations" and used recently breaking his finger and still playing guitar as an example). The slinky slide bass groove of “Off The Ground” and a fierce, sensual “I’m in the Mood For You,” earned the guys a standing ovation from the attentive, dancing crowd.

All photos by Bob Steshetz.
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A version of my review originally appeared at    

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