On Thursday night, July 7, 2016, at Monteith River Park, in Albany, Oregon, where they’ve been having free summer concerts for the past 30 years, Samantha Fish was the headliner. I made plans to attend the concert, since Albany is less than 20 miles by the Interstate 5 freeway. It wasn’t supposed to rain, but this is Oregon and we live in a valley surrounded by rain forests, so you never know when some precipitation might form. Fortunately it was the fine mist type of rain rather than the torrential deluge brand.
It seems that the rainy weather kept a huge crowd away, so when I arrived with my friend Joe, who has accompanied me to many a concert, it was fifteen minutes before the show began and there was a sparse crowd. The seating was first come first serve, but there were places available in every location, including right in front of the stage. Since I didn’t know for sure whether the crowd would augment or not I set up my blanket on a place directly in front of the stage, left of center, as I faced it. I almost always chose this location if I was limited in movement, since most guitarists are right handed, this gives you the best angle for photographs without the microphone stand obstructing the view. At first I shot judiciously, but as others began to take photos even using flash, it became apparent that nobody cared what I did. I began to shoot nonstop, especially since it doesn’t cost any more to shoot 1000 images as it does 10, with a digital camera. Of course you have to edit everything, but with an excessive amount to go through, you can just pick the ones that jump out at you, to reduce your inventory.
Samantha Fish is in her early twenties and hails from the city that Leiber & Stoller immortalized in their 1950’s R&B hit, Kansas City; “They got some crazy little women there…” The Samantha Fish Band, took the stage by storm as a power trio consisting of Samantha Fish on lead guitar and lead vocals, along with drummer Go-Go Ray and Chris Alexander playing bass guitar. They performed a 2 hour set that covered songs from all 3 of her albums, released on the Ruf Records label. Runaway and Black Wind Howlin‘, came out in 2011 and 2013 respectively and were produced by blues producer and musician Mike Zito. Her most recent release is Wild Heart, which came out in 2015 and was produced by Luther Dickenson, lead guitarist and singer of the “North Mississippi All Stars. His father, the late Jim Dickenson was a legendary record producer and musician, that worked with everyone from Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones.
Fish has shared the stage with blues and rock artists ranging from Tab Benoit and Jonny Lang, to Buddy Guy and Tom Petty. Even though she’s only in her mid 20s she’s done her homework by listening to primary source legends like Son House and Skip James for musical direction. As the band belted out songs like “Wildheart” and “Bitch On The Run,” it became apparent that I was once again witnessing the seminal period of an amazing musical talent. The energy that the trio expended dishing out the tunes was transmitted to the crowd that had by this time grown and began to press forward towards the stage, as the rain completely stopped.
The crowd was on its feet dancing and at one point an excited fan, dressed in biker leathers ran up to the stage and handed Samantha a rose that she accepted as he danced in front of the stage. Her guitar playing was phenomenal, as she continually switched instruments for each song. She alternated between 2 fender electric guitars with a fish decorating the top and what looked like a red banjo sized instrument, which looked like a one gallon metal paint thinner can with strings and a fret board, along with occasionally using an acoustic guitar. Her voice was as polished as her guitar playing as it soared into the stratosphere. There was supposed to be a fireworks display immediately after the concert ended, so after the encore Fish was asked to perform one more song, before the fireworks show began. She willingly obliged and asked the crowd if they were ready to have some fun and then the band began the intro to “Black Sabbath’s” anti war song “War Pigs,” as Fish began to sing:
“Generals gathered in their masses,just like witches at black masses…” By the time that the band concluded their sonic pyrotechnics, the sky lit up with the visual counterpart.
Review/photos by Bob Gersztyn