Nora Jane Struthers, Che Apalache, JD McPherson and more deliver an afternoon of blues and bluegrass for a few thousand festival-goers who braved the elements at Whirlpool Centennial Park.
For the first time in recent memory the weather gods shone down on the St. Joseph Today Annual BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass festival as attendees were treated to temps in the low 80s on the sunny shores of Lake Michigan.
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At least for the first half of Saturday’s festivities that is.
Things then took a familiar turn to years past as a vicious spring storm blew in across the lake, dropping temperatures nearly 30 degrees, shortening and delaying the day’s final two sets and sending fans running for the cover of the beer tent or an early exit.
Those that remained were entertained by a soulful, rain-soaked set from Austin vocalist Tameca Jones, whose voice carried across a relatively empty Whirlpool Centennial Park lawn and into the jam-packed tent where the steadfast spectators could still feel her pulsating energy from afar.
The rains then lifted for headlining act JD McPherson, whose edgy rockabilly — after a delay to clear the stage of standing water — drove the resilient revelers out of the tent and back to the lawn for the final set of the night.
A TOTALLY DIFFERENT FEEL
The first few hours felt like a completely different day at the seventh annual fest as children ran about, and lawn chairs — filled with people enjoying local BBQ and craft beer from close to two dozen area vendors — dotted the Whirlpool grounds.
The festival, though not sold out, drew a solid crowd of roughly a few thousand that filled the park up about 60 percent of the way, and also drew many to the “other side of the fence” who took in some of the music for free and played in the fountains.
Following a feel-good opening set from Grammy-nominated bluegrass act Special Consensus, Nora Jane Struthers and The Party Line turned up the tempo with a rockin’ early afternoon set highlighted by Struthers’ voice, her husband Joe Overton’s pedal steel and a handful of cuts off the band’s latest release “Champion.”
The New Jersey-bred, Nashville-based singer songstress wasn’t the only act turning heads though, as the third band of the day, Argentinian bluegrass act Che Apalache did it with its Latin flair and outright refusal to shy away from politics.
Lighthearted and likable, the four-piece bass-less band delivered a personal set that featured many serious moments as well, including a handful of songs about immigration such as original cut “The Wall,” and conversation which addressed many issues facing America today.
The “Mexican-Argentinian-North Carolinian” act, which also got down to a cover of Flatt & Scruggs’ “Head Over Heels” and humorously riffed on “the longest train they had ever seen,” (that rolled through during its set) is currently wrapping up its second album, which is being produced by Bela Fleck.
PHOTO GALLERY: JD McPherson, Tameca Jones, Nora Jane Struthers, Che Apalache at St. Joe BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass Festival
Photos by Derek Ketchum