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Beerfest/Bluesapalooza a smash hit

August 10, 2012

It’s hard to imagine anything can beat a four-day, blues-and-beer combination beneath the pines at high altitude in August.

But add some thunderous applause from Mother Nature herself, and thunderbolts thrown by Zeus from the mountaintops, what concertgoers had was an unmatched set list that literally shook concertgoers right out of Sam’s Woodsite last weekend.

The whole thing was delightful, of course, with veteran Blooza attendees saying it was Joyce and Sean Turner’s best production yet.

The big question on Sunday evening, though, was how the Turners got the weather to play such a big part.

It all began Saturday afternoon, following a free Thursday evening show at the venue and a Friday night that featured Edgar Winter and Johnny Winter onstage.

During the Robben Ford set, big, dark clouds came in from the south-southeast (an abnormal pattern to say the least) and unleashed a few peals of thunder and some distant lightning.

It was actually possible to see many smart-phones lighting up with National Weather Service storm warnings for Mammoth, and whoever was putting out the warnings wasn’t kidding.

With soul singer Bettye Lavette on stage—the headliner covered an amazing range of songs, from John Prine to Lucinda Williams, George Jones to Ringo Starr—the storm came in fast and hit hard.

Bolt lightning lit the mountains while an increasing wind picked off the dead pine needles from the trees, creating a kind of blizzard of long, brown needles.

When the rain came, it came down as it had earlier in the afternoon: in buckets.

That’s when concert producers Harvest Moon pulled the plug on the heavily electrified stage, and no one was faster to safety than Ms. Lavette, who at 66 still has a sprinter’s body and, obviously, a sprinter’s speed.

Some of the attendees, those very much into the beer aspect of the spectacle, weren’t nearly as quick or spry, staggering in various stages of toasted onto Minaret Boulevard.

Police Chief Dan Watson said on Sunday that his officers did a solid job of getting the alcohol-induced stumblers home, or at least to a trolley stop. He said “nothing unusual” happened—not like when he worked the beat at the LA. Coliseum during football games, for instance.

“These people aren’t going to start a fight with you because of the color of shirt you might be wearing,” he said.

The trolley service seemed to work at a top-drawer standard, too, with incoming and outgoing trolleys and ESTA buses filled up.

Onstage Leon Russell brought the (dry) house down with a set of medleys and standalone songs that have become standards in the blues/rock/rockabilly universe.

Joe Louis Walker closed down the headliner portion of the show on Sunday, with local bands taking the stage for free music until late afternoon.

It was a great time.

But it was Ma Nature who stole the thunder, so to speak.

Literally, she stopped the show.

Robben Ford at Bluesapalooza Aug. 4. Photo/Jesse Barlet
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