The Dope attended the River Roots Live extravaganza in LeClaire park this past weekend and was mighty impressed. Put on under the auspices of Davenport's River Music Experience, it was extremely well run, with an ecclectic mix of top-notch bands and a computerized sound and lights system the likes of which this area has never seen.
Friday's acts included Greg Brown (with a special appearance by local legend Bo Ramsey), Edgar Winters, (with the expected amazing rendition of "Frankenstein"), Rick Derringer (who of course did "Rock n Roll Hootchie Koo), and a sizzling set by the BoDeans, (Fadeaway, Everybody Wants to Be Closer To Free, etc.) who were booked in just days before the show after Johnny Winters cancelled his appearance reportedly due to carpal tunnel problems. They were augmented by drummer Kenny Aronoff, a top studio drummer perhaps best known for his work with John Cougar Mellancamp.
The night was even highlighted by a spectacular backdrop of fireworks after the Swing game which many said appeared to be perfectly choreographed with Edgar Winter's peformance.
Saturday saw the Soul Rebels Brass Band, a very cool outfit ala The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Split-lip Rayfield, an indescribable group of technically superb musicians with a Zappa-esque sense of humor, guitar virtuoso Junior Brown, the jam band Umphree's McGhee, which seemed to be a big fave of the Dead/Phish types, and the legendary and yet to be surpassed Little Feat, who blew The Dope away by playing one of my favorite tunes of all time, "All That You Dream", as the first number, followed by another Feat fave, the menacing "Spanish Moon."
The Feat put on their sailing shoes while the LeClaire Park bandshell appears downright psychedelic.
The sound system was simply amazing, from a technical standpoint as well as aural. It consisted of two very slim columns perhaps 2-3 ft wide and 25 ft long suspended from the trussing, and was able to project a seemingly limitless depth of bass despite it's relatively tiny size.
It was run by a computerized state-of-art system which has the ability to "read" objects in the evironment such as trees, structures, and even the varying size of the crowd, and adjust the throw and projection of various portions of the speaker columns to ensure consistent sound quality in all locations.
The light production was first rate and very creative, in that the stage was erected BEHIND the permanent seating area just in front of the LeClaire Park Bandshell and facing away from it towards the east. This meant that there was no backdrop for the stage, which may have made for a rather lackluster presentation.
But someone was extremely creative and talented and decided to utilize the entire bandshell structure as a lighting backdrop, even though it was several hundred feet behind the stage. They did a masterful job of lighting it in three elements, within the arch, upward facing lights hidden behind the two columns on either side of the stage which cast the columns themselves in relief to great effect, and upon the face of the bandshell itself.
The effects were unbelievable, as the entire bandshell came alive with soft, undulating color combinations in the distance.
While turnout seemed to be quite a bit less than I'd expected, the entire event was well planned and enjoyable. There was never a wait for cold beverages, plenty of the ubiquitous port-o-potties and hand washing and drinking water, good food available, again with short or no lines, and plenty of room to spread out a blanket or sit in chairs and enjoy the show without being trampled.
The brain-dead contingent was represented as well, those who feel that a concert just isn't complete if you remain conscious the entire time, and feel it's the perfect reason to dump more substances than are found in an average medicine cabinet into their systems. But they were efficiently taken care of by police and weren't a large nuisance, though it's always a mood killer to see someone whose system has finally said, "Screw this! I quit!" bodily carried away passed out cold.
Could someone enlighten me as to how all these supposed "hippies" in their anti-materialistic lifestyles manage to always have a spare $100 or more to spend on all these often very expensive concerts? (The Dope was comped, otherwise, I most likely would have missed it. Though in hindsight, it would have been worth every penny of the very fair $20/night ticket price, or the even more reasonable $35 two day pass.)
They also allowed camping for the first time for an event on the riverfront, though the field west of the Centennial Bridge isn't exactly a garden spot, and they forbid fires of any kind.
Though the Dope grabbed an overlooked and out of the way spot only a stones throw from the entrance, there was plenty of near-by parking and traffic was a breeze.
Kudos to those involved with this production, and I certainly hope this becomes an annual event. If you didn't make it, be sure to next year.