The rains came yet again, but the Blues Festival faithful weren’t going anywhere on Sunday. At least not until Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers were done delivering a slightly delayed, hit-laden set.
The threat of lightning forced guitarist Pavlo from the stage earlier in the day and another downpour a few hours later set things back about half an hour, but in the end, no one really cared.
And it was worth the wait.
The newly constructed Wallflowers, a band Dylan abandoned for several years, launched their 80-minute set with Three Marlenas, a favourite from their 1996 smash Bringing Down the Horse.
The crowd ate it up, cheering wildly – and loudly – each time the quartet rolled out another hit.
Dylan took the time to acknowledge the crowd and what they’d been through.
“All right Thunder Bay, how are you? It got nice out. The weather got nice,” he said.
“You guys are great,” he added a little later on. “How nice is this festival? How nice is this town? It’s a really cool town.”
Dylan, son of the legendary, landscape changing rock and folk legend Bob Dylan, channelled his father’s wit while explaining the Wallflowers’ presence closing out a blues festival, looking for any tie to the genre.
He found one in arguably the band’s biggest hit.
“I’m going to put a little bird in your ear,” he said. “I won’t ask. I won’t beg. It’s been a pretty great festival. If you ask me, this song does have a little bit of the blues. It comes from a lot of places. I think this song screams the blues.”
The crowd, already on its feet, roared in approval, singing along as one to One Headlight, which led into a two-song encore that included the Wallflowers’ take on David Bowie’s Heroes, a song they did for the 1998 film Godzilla.
Any of the final three acts of the day could have laid claim to headliner status.
Ontario’s own Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Serena Ryder blasted through an energetic hour of songs, including her hits What I Wouldn’t Do and Stompa, wowing the crowd at one point playing guitar, drums and singing at the same.
Nineties favourites the Spin Doctors, best known for hits like Jimmy Olsen’s Blues and Two Princes, educated the audience to their blues roots.
Lead singer Chris Barron, who backstage said he was in a weird mood on Sunday, proved it in a hurry.
“The name of this town, Thunder Bay, I sound like a pirate when I say it,” he screamed.
“We’re the original Spin Doctors. We have a new record out and it’s a blues record. And the reason we made a blues record is because when we started out, we were a blues band; more on that later.”
Trevor Hurtig, the manager of marketing and development for the Blues Festival said the rain was frustrating, but forgettable on a day that started with local blues woman Tracy K, followed by Annie Mack, Ken Valdez, Pavlo and Erja Lyytinen.
“It really doesn’t seem to have stopped anything. We paused for a few minutes during Pavlo’s set, just for safety reasons. The lightning was getting a little close. But he picked it back up and just carried on like a professional. It was just a great day all in all.”
The weather also didn’t seem to scare away the crowds, who poured into Marina Park once the sun finally made its first appearance of the afternoon.
However, final attendance numbers weren’t yet available at press time.
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