Saturday, August 2, 2014

Gin Blossoms - Kevin Costner & Modern West - America's River Fest, June 14th, 2014

The year 1989 was one of tumult for me and with that opened more than just one chapter of the book of my life.  Musically we were in the midst of the "era of hair metal", so many bands formed nationally and locally that appeared to sound manufactured while in the shadows lay "college music" and its subset culture.  During that year the world was confronted by a movie about baseball and a band from the southwest released its debut album "Dusted" which in a way is a bit ironic.  Why?

The summer of 1989 was a nightmare for those living in the Midwest.  It was so hot and so dry honestly it looked like it would never rain again.  I celebrated a milestone birthday that year, I started college and I learned how to set a dislocated knuckle (don't ask).  The same year a movie called "Field of Dreams" was released, it had been filmed in the immediate area where I lived and in fact the town in which I lived was the backdrop for the town "Chisolm, Minnesota (and the vast majority of the movie was filmed in this area, including Dubuque, Iowa)."

During that year a band from Tempe, Arizona released its first album called "Dusted," the band that released  it was the "Gin Blossoms."  Although the band had limited success with Dusted, four songs from the album "Found Out About You," "Hey Jealousy", "Cajun Song" and "Lost Horizons" were re-recorded and re-released with the 1992 release of the album "New Miserable Experience."

If I were a person that loved irony and I loved to try to fit things together in an ironic fashion I just might to draw the parallel starting with the movie "Field of Dreams" and how its star, Kevin Costner was also in the movie "Wyatt Earp."  I might then mention that the second movie (Wyatt Earp) featured relentless amounts of dust and then the name "Chisolm" was the name of the town in which a portion of "Field of Dreams" came from and then I might mention that the very real "Chisolm Trail" was dusty and from the same time period as Earp lived.  I then might mention that Wyatt Earp was born in Arizona, the same State that the Gin Blossoms were from Arizona.  So it makes sense that I would say that Costner played Earp, an Arizonan like the Gin Blossoms, plus both performed live at America's River Fest in Dubuque, Iowa and I attended that show from my hometown of Galena, Illinois.  What that tells me is that Chisholm, Minnesota, I mean Galena, Illinois is the center of nothing less than a pure coincidence.

Now that was a bunch of babble but in all honesty the Gin Blossoms and Kevin Costner & Modern West did perform at America's River Fest on June 14th, 2014.  The day featured three acts, the previously named acts and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (article to follow) and the backdrop couldn't have been better.  The day was spectacular.    It was bright and sunny, very comfortable temperature wise and by the time the Gin Blossoms took the stage the entire crowd was ready for live music.
Gin Blossoms Setlist - June 14, 2014

The Gin Blossoms have always been an "in the shadows" kind of band for me.  I really liked their music, in fact I own a cassette of "New Miserable Experience" but couldn't call myself a fan.  Two of their songs always stood out for me, "Hey Jealousy" and "Allison Road" but that was about where I called it.  Please don't misunderstand, I didn't go out of my way to hate the band but I did enjoy some of their music.

When they began to perform it was really like meeting that old friend once again, it was comforting and really great to see them.  As one can imagine, the stage show of the band isn't really conducive to rockets, lasers and explosions but instead the band did something that too many bands try not to do: They just played music.  Exceptionally well too I might add.  I really enjoyed their performance and it may have re-kindled a little bit of that fan from within.

Kevin Costner
America's River Fest
© - 2014

When I first heard that Kevin Costner & Modern West was also performing at America's River Fest after the Gin Blossoms and before Joan Jett I was a bit apprehensive.  I have enjoyed many of Costner's movies, during the filming of "Field of Dreams" he was a staple in the area and he had returned many times following the movie for an All-Star baseball game that takes place in the very field where those now famous scenes were filmed.  My apprehension had little to do with Costner and more to do with those actors that have preceded him into the annals of music history.  Think for a moment if you will of those actors that have decided to become singers and relate that into their successes in music.  Names like Jack Wagner (from General Hospital), David Soul (Starsky & Hutch), Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis and countless others attempted their foray into music but with few exceptions (such as Rick Springfield) the attempts were merely futile.

While I do enjoy some older country music, Johnny Cash for example, I am not a country music guy so armed with a brief amount of research I quickly found that Costner is a country act.  Its not difficult for me to attend a country show but I have discounted many acts because of that moniker.  I did decide to give Costner the benefit of the doubt but my skepticism was indeed present.  Until he performed his first song, then it all changed.

Kevin Costner & Modern West
America's River Fest
Costner and Modern West are brilliant.  I loved the fact that he did give what seemed to be genuine feelings for the area in which "Field of Dreams" was filmed.  His heartfelt gratitude for the people in attendance as well as the surrounding areas seemed to register with those at America's River Fest.  Modern West is full of excellent musicians as well as Costner himself who performed their original music, yes I said original music, like any proper band would.  The simple fact of the matter is that this is a band that doesn't feel "country."  Rather this band is the type of band you would consider to be a simple, fun band that makes seeing, or hearing them worth every minute of it.  This year has been a watershed year for me seeing live music and I can say without a doubt this band is as good as any act I have seen.  I would wholeheartedly recommend that you acquire their music and most definitely I would recommend seeing them live.

When I look back at the first two bands at America's River Fest I see two bands that are as dissimilar as they are similar.  Each of them have success in their past, one for music and the other for acting, yet their attention to their craft is exceedingly similar.  Tied tightly in the make up of the Gin Blossoms is a steady success that has made much of their music familiar and fun while inside the success of Kevin Costner through acting is a musician that has amassed a band that will see further success.

The day of June 14th, 2014 saw two bands appear on stage that had their work cut out for them.  Each band, the Gin Blossoms and Kevin Costner & Modern West, were opening for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts but despite the three distinctly different of genres of music appearing that night they were masterful.

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