Classic Rock Sends Off Great South Bay Music Festival Patchogue, NY 7-19-15 w/ New Riders of the Purple Sage, Jefferson Starship, Lou Gramm, & Hot Tuna

Classic Rock Sends Off Great South Bay Music Festival Patchogue, NY 7-19-15 w/ New Riders of the Purple Sage, Jefferson Starship, Lou Gramm, & Hot Tuna

The Great South Bay Music Festival 2015 edition opened up on Thursday July 16th with some of Pop Rock’s biggest stars in Christina Perri and Colbie Caillat. Following the next evening, Friday July 17th, it kept the Funk coming with 311 and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Then on Saturday July 18th, a broad range of Rock went into the evening, led by Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Lotus. On the fourth and final day, Sunday July 19th, the festival brought on some of the best in good old Classic Rock to the stage. With twenty-one total artists scheduled to perform on the three stages, including local talents such as Lauire Berkner, Kerry Kearney, Zen Tricksters, The Lawn Boys, A Band Called Sam, Ionia, Montauk Project, Funknasty, Noah’s Arc, J Randy, Funkin’ A, Inside Sons, Count To Ten, Two Cent Sam, Dub Steady, Quarter Horse, and Katie Pearlman, there was plenty of music to hear. On top of it all, the Blue Point Brews Stage had big names like New Riders of the Purple Sage, Jefferson Starship, original Foreigner vocalist Lou Gramm, and Hot Tuna to wrap up another successful year for a send off no one would forget.

With four full hours of music in the books, at 4 PM, Country Rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage were ready to go. Emerging back in 1969 during the San Francisco, CA Psychedelic Rock scene, New Riders of the Purple Sage have attained quite a history. Originally featuring members of Grateful Dead, the lineup has changed some through the years, but co-founding Guitarist David Nelson has kept the band going with long-time Pedal Steel Guitarist Buddy Cage, Guitarist Michael Falzarano, Bassist Ronnie Penque, and Drummer Johnny Markowski. Releasing a long list of studio and live albums, 2012 saw the band offer 17 Pine Avenue, and they continue to tour about the USA regularly. Coming out and performing a set that included “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy,” “Louisiana Lady,” “Higher,” and “Wookie Kids,” the band sounded tight and full of life, having the audience dancing and cheering for more during the jam session. Those who missed them at Great South Bay Music Festival can catch the individual members playing solo gigs for the next few weeks before they pick up as a full band again for the rest of September.

Next up, at 5:50 PM, was the one and only Jefferson Starship. Another San Francisco scene band from the ’70s, Jefferson Starship has sustained a varied of changes through the years and is going strong behind co-founding Guitarist Paul Kantner, long-time Vocalist/Guitarist David Freiberg, long-time Drummer Donny Baldwin, Keyboardist Chris Smith, Vocalist/Guitarist Cathy Richardson, and Lead Guitarist Jude Gold. While to the average fan the name Jefferson Starship is often associated with the Mickey Thomas’ more Pop Rock spin-off Starship, the two bands have been separate entities since Thomas branched off to found his respected band in 1985. Confusion aside for the casual listener, Jefferson Starship remains more along the lines of its origins, which dates back to 1965 with legendary band Jefferson Airplane. With such a vast history behind them, Jefferson Starship continues to tour and play to large crowds.

Keeping the party going, the band came out with a musical energy that brought back the feel of a festival of yesteryear where everyone was lost in the songs. Playing classic Jefferson Airplane tunes like “She Has Funny Cars” along with fan-favorites “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” Richardson’s voice soured with passion and intensity everyone could dig into. Moving about the stage, Richardson interacted with her bandmates and made eye contact with audience members, proving to be a fitting show-woman. Mixing in Quicksilver Messenger Service hit “Fresh Air” and another welcomed Jefferson Airplane tune among their set, “Volunteers,” Jefferson Starship received a roar of cheers in appreciation. On November 5th, the band will be at NYCB Theatre at Westbury celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead, so do not miss it.

As the sun began to go down around 8 PM, the original and distinctive Foreigner vocalist Lou Gramm was set to begin. One of the most successful Rock vocalists of the late ’70s and ’80s, Gramm helped lead Foreigner to six multi-platinum records, and fourteen Top 20 singles.  Releasing his solo debut album Ready or Not in 1987, Gramm proved he could hold his own as a creator, topping charts with a number one single. While it has been over a decade since Gramm has been a part of Foreigner, after some health issues, he is strong as well as rocking and rolling once again with his own band consisting of Ben Gramm (drums), Andy Knoll (keyboards), AD Zimmer (bass guitar), and Michael Staertow (lead guitar).

Benefiting from a band of accomplished musicians behind him, Lou came out inspired as they lifted off into Foreigner classics like “Double Vision” and “Feels Like the First Time.” Possessing a voice that sounded as full and potent as ever, it was heartwarming to see Gramm performing at such a level in light of all he has endured. Going into his 1989 single “Just Between You and Me,” Lou came to the crowd shaking a tambourine and singing the cool Foreigner hits “Cold as Ice,” “Head Games,” and “That Was Yesterday.” Taking things down a notch, the beautiful “I Want to Know What Love Is” filled the air with its unmistakable synth backdrop as Lou reached down deep and belted out the notes of the chorus that had fans singing along.

Continuing on with a set full of hits, “Urgent” came before a killer drum solo of Ben and Lou’s first solo hit “Midnight Blue” and closer “Juke Box Hero,” which featured a massive inflatable Juke Box on stage. Exiting for a brief moment as the crowd soaked it all in, moments later, an intro of Free’s “All Right Now” began to play before the band rattled off “Hot Blooded.” Gramm will be playing select dates around the country through the Fall, and anyone who loves Classic Rock and Foreigner would be remiss to not see him live in action.

With the night darkness set in, the headlining act of Hot Tuna came to the stage at 8:50 PM. Put together by former Jefferson Airplane Bassist Jack Casady and Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, Hot Tuna began their journey back in 1969. Offering fans of Blues Rock seven studio albums and seven live albums, Hot Tuna’s discography runs deep with impassioned music that must be witnessed live. Known to perform full acoustic and full electric sets through the years, their second appearance at Great South Bay Music Festival since 2011 would be as Electric Hot Tuna, and fans were ready as they wore tye-dye t-shirts with “Hot F*cking Tuna” printed on the back.

Configured as a trio for the evening, Casady and Kaukonen were joined by Justin Guip on drums as they began with 1972’s “True Religion.” Immediately going into “I See the Light,” opening cut off their 1974 album The Phosphorescent Rat, the finger-picking guitar notes of Kaukonen had everyone bopping their heads and tapping their foot. Following up with a traditional cover of “Hestitation Blues,” the set flowed smoothly into their own “Ode for Billy Dean,” and Bobby Rush’s “Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man” where Cassady provided plenty of boom on bass. Then with the tingling cymbal hits of Guip while Kaukonen delicately plunked the guitar strings, they took the audience to their Jefferson Airplane days with “Trial by Fire,” which had many fans whistling in excitement.

Keeping the jam-like performance going, they went into Walter Davis’ “Come Back Baby” and closed out with the atmospheric tones of “Funky #7.” Giving Guip even more of a chance to shine with the perfect drumming, the track had everyone riding high and screaming for more as the three-piece exited the stage. Not disappointing the crowd’s praise, Hot Tuna returned with smiles on their faces and gave everyone one last song with “Hit Single # 1.”  Thankfully for fans, Hot Tuna have plenty of shows lined up in a varied of configurations ranging from acoustic duo, to electric trio, to Kaukonen solo. Perhaps the biggest event of the year will come during the two-night stand November 20th and 21st when Hot Tuna and friends celebrate Kaukonen’s birthday with a concert bash.

While Great South Bay Festival took a chance to grow in 2015, expanding to four days, they did so with procession, and it resulted in success. The festival manages to retain their mainstays like Hot Tuna while acquiring new acts to visit the grounds each year. Who knows what 2016 will have in story, but chances are it will be big.

Photo credit: Joe Parisi

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