When I first moved to Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, in 1980 and went on an annual Memorial Day picnic, I asked, “what if it rains?” “Bring an umbrella” was the reply. They weren’t joking, because it rained all day and the picnic proceeded, with a band playing under a canopy with people sitting around under umbrellas as children splashed in river. Nearly forty years later on Memorial Day weekend, 2019 history repeated itself, only this time it was an out door concert featuring the “Tedeschi and Trucks Band” with “Los Lobos,” in Salem, Oregon, at L. B. Day amphitheater, an open air venue. The weather was predicted as one-hundred percent rain all day and there were some hawkers outside the venue trying to sell their tickets.
I arrived at the venue with a hardcore Oregonian friend that rode his bike to the concert in the pouring rain. I drove my car and brought an umbrella to protect my camera gear, however, all umbellas were confiscated at the venue entrance to prevent obstructed vision. Some people took advantage of the TTB rain ponchos for sale at the merchadise table for a mere $5.00. It was a godsend for many. Once entering the nine-thousand seat venue we found our seats center stage and ten rows back. The metal benches were covered with a layer of water that we wiped dry and I put a plastic garbage bag over my camera bag. It was 5:30 PM and the show started promptly at 6:00 PM with “Los Lobos” taking the stage.
Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano, Louie Perez and David Hidalgo walked out onto the drenched stage and picked up their amplified acoustic guitars and stood on the dry side of the demarcation line where the rain stopped. After playing “Más y más” Cesar Rosas looked out at the rain drenched crowd and remarked, “You’re used to this stuff.” After three Mariachi songs the quartet picked up their electric guitars as saxophone player Steve Berlin came out along with drummer Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez. They proceeded to perform one of their most incendiary electric guitar driven hard rockin’ shows that I’ve witnessed them perform over the past 25 years. Their set was comprised of cuts like, “Dream in Blue” and “Kiko and the Lavender Moon” from their 1993 landmark album Kiko, to medley’s of covers ranging from “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and “Crossroads” to “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Mr. Fantasy.” The song that I was waiting for was “Wicked Rain,” which we were all experiencing and finally happened with an existential zeal under the circumstances.
During a half hour break to set up equipment and mop the stage I realized that I was shivering since the hooded windbreaker that I was wearing wasn’t waterproof and was soaking wet. So I took it off and punched three holes in one of my extra black plastic garbage bags and pulled it over my head to hold the heat in. Promptly at 7:30 PM the twelve member “Tedeschi Trucks Band” sloshed onto the stage, comprised of band leader and guitarist Derek Trucks and his wife since 2001, guitarist and vocalist Susan Tedeschi. The rest of the band was comprised of Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson – Drums & Percussion; Tim Lefebvre – Bass Guitar; Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers & Alecia Chakour – Harmony Vocals; Kebbi Williams – Saxophone; Elizabeth Lea – Trombone and Ephraim Owens – Trumpet. The show began with the title song off their most recent album release Signs, a rip snortin’ guitar raging introduction. The rain continued to drench the audience, but by the time that the band was doing “Gilded Splinters” a Dr. John composition, the audience attendance was at nearly at full capacity, with only some of the top seats vacant, in spite of the unremitting late spring rain. Trucks and Tedeschi played off each other with the rhythm section driving the beat, while the vocalists repeatly sang, “Kon kon, the kiddy kon kon; Walk on gilded splinters.” The audience was nearly completely on their feet the entire show, since to sit meant that you got wetter than standing. At the same time almost everyone in the audience was dancing, because it generated heat and kept them warm.
As the band witnessed the capacity audience dancing in the rain in multi-colored water repellent rain gear they must have been inspired to pull out all the stops as they proceeded to deliver a stellar two hour concert. Since Los Lobos opened it was obvious that some of its members would join the band at some point, and so it was when David Hidalgo walked on stage. “Anyday” was a “Derek & the Dominos” song written by Eric Clapton and Bobby Whitlock that they turned into a fourteen minute guitar driven jam, reminiscent of the days when Clapton was inspired by Duane Allman. “Don’t Know What It Means” album followed with Tedeschi pouring out her soulful vocals until it climaxed with a raging sax solo by Kebbi Williams.
Steve Berlin of “Los Lobos” joined the brass section with his baritone sax as Tedeschi’s voice before Trucks began his part and dove into an extended solo. All this was sandwiched by Tedeschi’s soaring voice reminiscent of Aretha Franklin, vocalizing during the band’s extended jam, while the standing audience augmented their dancing intensity a notch. Johnny Moore’s 1949 composition “How Blue Can You Get” was an opportunity for both Tedeschi and Trucks to demonstrate their love of the blues, as they played guitar together and Susan sang, “Well I bought you a country mansion that you said was just a shack.” The final number was “I Want More” from 2016’s Let Me Get By, which reminded me of my days growing up in Detroit when “Motown” first started, because of Tedeschi’s incredible vocals. The tandem drummers drove the beat like air hammer’s demolishing concrete with the bass providing the Coups de grace.
The rain slowed down and nearly stopped around 8:30 PM, so the last hour of the show saw the clouds dissipating and the wind picking up with a temperature around fifty degrees. When the band said goodbye and left the stage the crowd didn’t leave, but clapped, stomped and shouted until the band returned and did an encore. David Hidalgo joined the band for “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin”, an “Allman Brothers Band” cover with a great guitar jam between Derek, David and Susan. After nearly four hours in the rain as the wind began to pick up the crowd continued to enthusiastically dance with the same rapturous abandon as they had all night. The final concluding number was “Made Up Mind” from the 2013 album of the same name, as Tedeschi soulfully sang “But it’s just like I told you: I’m in a higher place, I got a made up mind,” in a voice reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt. Backup vocalists then alternated between choruses and Trucks wailing on his axe and Tedeschi thanked the crowd for enduring the rain. Between the adverse conditions that the show took place during and the loyal enthusiasm of the crowd of over eight-thousand people that not only endured, but enjoyed the entire show, this had to be one of the most memorable concerts of the past fifty years, after Jim Morrison inciting the crowd to riot in Detroit back in 1970. On the way out I picked up my umbrella.
Review by Bob Gersztyn