Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Blackfoot - Halfway Jam

The history of rock is one that has far more bands that have failed, vanished, ran away screaming or just went 'POOF'.  All too often the aftermath can be so tumultuous that the whirlwind that spawns can be as Dorothy-not-in-Kansas any more.  The divisions can separate families, divide countries and set foreign policy (okay those might be just a TAD over the top).  What can happen is that the cause and effect has the ability to generate something that can be just as good or even better that the original iteration.  What on earth can I be talking about?

Halfway Jam has this inane ability to take a group of acts, put them in a sack, rustle it about and pour out gold (figuratively unfortunately).  Last year my attendance was isolated to the final day (Saturday) and I was able to see only three bands but that nugget of gold was Kix and this year the potential for more than one nugget was staggering.  As I perused the series of acts I saw the potential for quite a few.

The great thing about a venue like Halfway is that acts you may haven't been able to see for any variety of reasons, can make an appearance.  In the past year and a half I have had so many bands cross my path that I wasn't able to see for so many reasons back in the day.  As Halfway Jam neared I took some time to acquaint myself with many acts that I really didn't know that well.  The dog days of summer unfortunately afford one many possible shows to see thus delaying any research and many a good intention.  By the time Halfway started I hadn't researched some of the bands that I really wanted too.

I went into Halfway Jam knowing some of the acts quite well and some barely at all so I was excited what was going to come out of that bag.  That bag was pretty full but one really interesting nugget dropped out that really shined.  The nugget was Blackfoot.

Blackfoot is a very interesting band and the possible upside was astronomical.  To get to the name Blackfoot the band had a couple of iterations (Fresh Garbage and Hammer) before reaching the powerful name it finally decided upon.  The name "Fresh Garbage" has such a great punk-like ring to it (I'll expand on that in a little bit) but "Blackfoot", now that's a powerful name.  With a name based under such a powerful American Indian tribe the band had to be tough and it had to be able to withstand trials like no other.

Blackfoot has a musical history that placed it solidly in the realm of Southern Rock and can be really included as if not royalty then at least Prime Minister.  If you really don't think that is true, then consider the fact that at one time two of the original band members had actually joined Lynyrd Skynyrd (Rickie Medlocke and Greg T. Walker).  The band also recorded their first album "No Reservations" at Muscle Shoals Studio in Sheffield, Alabama oh and there would also be the fact that everything about the band's "sound" and attitude SCREAM Southern Rock.

With a penchant for writing excellent songs and musical prowess, Blackfoot added to their Southern Rock resume'.  Songs like "Train, Train", "Highway Song" and one of my favorites "Gimme Gimme Gimme", dance through their catalog and those songs alone make you want to hear more.  What's fascinating about the song "Train, Train" is how recognizable that beginning harmonica is, its immediately distinguishable and I have proof!  I was talking to someone about the music of Blackfoot and they mentioned they knew nothing by the band to which I said "Poppycock" (I rarely utter that word, okay not at all) and then I hummed the beginning harmonica (there was no way on God's green earth I was going to sing the song) and "wallah" they knew the song.

On Friday July 27th, 2012 my wife and I had the privilege to attend Halfway Jam in Royalton, MN and that really warm day (not warm, not by a long shot it was HOT) we saw Blackfoot perform live.  With the little bit of knowledge I did have about the band I was really excited for the opportunity.  Blackfoot came out on stage ready to do some damage and wow the crowd.  Seconds (and I do mean SECONDS) into their performance I became a huge fan of the band, I was literally blown away.  Four guys came out on stage and I immediately told my wife that this was going to get good fast and I wasn't wrong.   Not one iota.

First impressions of a band can tell you exactly what you are about to hear, for me its similar when people say you "eat with your eyes first".  That being said I saw a prototypical "Southern Rock" frontman, replete with cowboy hat and jeans, then I saw a long, dark haired rocker looking bass player, followed by a drummer that reminded me of a guy I would see at a "Suicidal Tendencies" concert (tattoos, head band, tank top) and then I saw a lead guitar player that just screamed "Southern Rock".  What I saw was a taller man, wearing a t-shirt, parachute pants and a mohawk (like I "just screamed 'Southern Rock'").  As I watched the show fire up I saw a band with fire in their bellies, and musical skills that really were incredible.

As I watched the lead guitar player flying around stage, bouncing and having a great time doing it, the bass player slapping the crap out of the bass, the drummer pretending the skins on his drums were rented mules as he beat the crap out of them and the lead singer belting out the lyrics with an incredible style and force I knew that this band was mislabeled.  This was not a "Southern Rock band", no it was a "metal band with Southern rock chops", or perhaps a "punk band with Southern "flavor" then it hit me.  The original lineup was exactly the same as this iteration, it truly is genius.

I think that this is a formula that fits music today probably better than it did in the '70's but its successful and it will remain as such.  After the evening ended and I went back to the hotel room I began digging through the bands website and YouTube for any and all music and information that I could find relating to the band.  I think the lack of preparation (procrastination if I'm being honest) was a Godsend because I really don't know if I would have been as open to the band live.  That's really not a bad thing and I am confident that had I listened to their music beforehand I would have loved it but I would have had preconceived notions and expectations therefore I think I enjoyed their music live that much more.

Following the show, we made our way to the bands merchandise booth and I actually bought a hat and waited excitedly to meet the band.  As I got the band to autograph the hat (which is going into my new memorabilia collection, donations ARE accepted by the way) I met with the members of the band and they were kind enough to snap a picture with us.  My "Ramones" t-shirt inspired the band to break into "I Wanna Be Sedated" which actually got me to smile (no really, look at the picture).

As I mentioned earlier I wasn't able to research the band properly before the show and the reason why was because my wife and I (and two friends) attended the "Great Jones County Fair" in Monticello, Iowa and that evening I planned on doing a little "digging" on some of the bands that were to be at Halfway Jam but that quickly went on the back burner when we went to see a concert instead.  We made the short trek to see "Heart" and "Lynyrd Skynyrd" that evening and the show was amazing (I have written about the "Heart" portion already, "Skynyrd" to follow shortly).  On the way home my wife and I were discussing "Skynyrd" and she asked me who some of the people in the band were, I tried my best to identify the band members but failed miserably.  The next day I did some digging and I got some answers for who was who, but it wasn't until later (whilst researching "Blackfoot") that some revelations brought it full circle.

One of the members of Skynyrd was a tall, blonde guitar player with "Indian" tattooed on his right forearm (the Indian Motorcycles logo) and we both wondered who he was.  His name is "Rickey Medlocke"... one of the founders of "Blackfoot".  Medlocke selected each member of this iteration of Blackfoot and what a phenomenal job in doing so (I'll have some other parallels between Halfway Jam, Medlocke and the "Great Jones County Fair" in other articles in this blog).

In the three days that was Halfway Jam each and everyone that attended had a great opportunity to see acts that we all loved.  Interestingly I believe that if anyone that attended Halfway Jam didn't find a band that raised their eyebrows and entertained them to the point of making them a new fan, well those people were either asleep, well "lubricated" or both at the same time.  When I look back at the acts that I poured out of that sack, many, many gold nuggets poured out.  The nugget that is Blackfoot is perhaps greater than most.  Way to go my friends!!!


  1. You hit the nail on the head. You can't listen to BLACKFOOT and not became a fan.

  2. Awesome story The lead singer is one of my best friends!!! They Rock!! TJ