The Spitz Festival of Blues 2007 was declared open on April 4 in an orgy of marinated chicken wings and pork ribs, to the dubious Brit-blues of Jooks Of Kent and one Scott H Biram.
The former act, Stooges-like Detroit blues-punk, and the latter, steeped in the raw delta style, were accomplished enough but were certainly no reliable indicator of the some of the splendid music on show over the festival, which concludes on April 28.
Yes, industry bigwigs were everywhere one looked at the launch party, taking advantage of the free food and liquor. A group of particularly craggy hairies were entrenched in one corner. It seems that even the Mojo crew were let out for the night.
Seasick Steve has recently received the media attention he must never have dreamed of as he drifted in and out of jail in his early life. He learnt his craft at the feet of Son House, John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins, and after a life of hoboing around the US, he now resides in Norway.
Not to sound too much like a pretentious berk, but Seasick Steve is an ‘authentic’ blues man, and should be seen in the humble setting of The Spitz on April 20. Current album Doghouse is every bit as good as you’d think coming from a man who toured with RL Burnside and Jon Spencer, and perhaps of interest for all the young dudes, he produced Modest Mouse in their younger days.
Fans of The White Stripes‘ Elephant will be familiar with Holly Golightly. Her credentials include work with Billy Childish, Mudhoney and The Greenhornes as well as the Stripes, and has developed a sound closer to rootsy blues and folk than those rock bands. She takes to the stage on April 19.
– T-Model Ford.
Sadly deceased figures like the aforementioned RL Burnside loom large over this festival, and indeed one of Burnside’s most potent musical folds shows up on April 21. Kenny Brown is such a monolithic blues figure than he goes without a support act. Alongside Burnside, he preached the drone-like style of guitar playing, straight from the Mississippi Hills. Without stalwarts like Brown we would have no White Stripes, nor probably Jon Spencer. His lack of stardom should deter no one from going down to see him.
Many of these acts released records on the maverick record label Fat Possum, and the festival concludes with two of label’s most illustrious artists. Robert ‘Wolfman’ Belfour ventures away from his beloved Mississippi to bring his hillbilly country blues style to The Spitz. A genre that has suffered over the years as punk infiltrated blues ranks, Belfour plugs away still, reinvigorating blues with his touching simplicity and subtle power. He plays on April 27, the penultimate night of the festival.
It all comes to a climax with the gnarled but spectacular T-Model Ford on April 28. Another of Fat Possum’s favourite sons, this warhorse is pretty much the inventor of blues-punk that bands like The Stooges and MC5 took to a mainstream, white audience. Phrases like ‘bone-crunching’ or ‘dirty’ or ‘raw’ are frequently invoked to described Mr Ford, and London should bow down to his depravity as he signs off the festival. As the man himself says: “T-Model Ford is going to remember you sorry fuckers how it’s done.”