The festival moved to a new location a few years ago. It was originally held in a vacant field by HEB Hospital and the freeway. The hospital owned the land and decided to develop it. The new location is between Bedford Rd. and the freeway. It is behind the central fire station and straddles L. Don Dodson. This new location is much better. It has a natural slope which makes viewing easier plus it has some trees for shade in the August heat.
This year they changed the layout of the grounds. The main stage is in the same place but they moved the secondary stage straight across the main field instead of around the corner. This is a much better setup since now all you have to do is turn around to see each stage instead of moving. The old secondary stage location is now used for food vendors.
Another change, not for the better, is that more area around the main stage has been designated for the various reserve, aka extra cost, areas. None of those premium areas was overly crowded. The seating directly in front of the main stage was never more than a quarter full. In fact about a third of it didn't even have chairs. A huge waste of space. I was in the front of the non-premium area which was still far from the stage. The folks up the hill were really far away. They have a big screen next to the stage which would help if they used it correctly. It was a static view of the groups with no closeups and poor lighting. Thankfully the sound system is pretty good.
Before I get to the music, let me say that the food variety seemed better this year. I chose to try a stand called Tu Bones since the sign said it was Georgia BBQ. I lived in Georgia for many years and was raised in North Florida. I was hoping that it would be Low Country BBQ, the kind along the coast in South Carolina, Savannah and into North Florida. It wasn't but it was very good. I had a pulled pork sandwich that came with excellent baked/BBQ beans. Turns out this is a local D/FW outfit that does catering and events. No restaurant. I talked briefly, they were busy, with the main Mama in charge. She is from Tifton, Georgia and lived in Valdosta, my once hometown. Seemed like good folks. Did I mention that the beans were excellent? When I went by later in the evening, there was a huge line at Tu Bones and hardly any lines at the nearby stands. Guess word got around that they had good stuff.
On to the music. I got to the festival around 5:00 and Joe Lewis Walker was playing. Not bad, but nothing memorable. Just generic blues stuff. Next was Miss Marcy & Her Texas Sugardaddy's on the second stage. Miss Marcy is a big woman, bigger now than the pictures on her website. She wore a very tight diagonally striped dress and a cowboy hat. She has a decent voice but it seemed all her songs were about bad relationships, always the man's fault, cheating, other women stealing her man, how she would get even, having weapons, etc. I don't blame the guys for leaving her. Very redundant set.
Finally, it was time for what I came to hear. It was the Royal Southern Brotherhood. I wanted to see these guys because it is a band fronted by Cyril Neville and Devon Allman. That is great musical pedigree. Cyril is one of the legendary Neville Brothers. Devon is Gregg Allman's son and nephew to the great guitarist Duane Allman. For those who know me, they know I am a huge Neville Brothers fan. I have over 20 albums by the family. While many are familiar with the angelic voice of Aaron Neville, Cyril sings lead on many of the Brothers' songs. He is the soulful, harder edged voice of the group. I am also a fan of Southern Rock and the Allmans are at the top of that genre. As it turns out, this is a wonderful combination. I expected it would be good, but they exceeded my expectations. Cyril sang the lead on most songs but Devon more than held his own when he took the mic. Devon also can play the hell out of a guitar. Every song was good. Near the end of the set, Charlie Wooton on bass and Yonrico Scott on drums played solos. Charlie played the bass like a lead guitar and it was amazing. I was in the front of the general admission viewing area. I turned around and looked up the hill a couple of time during the Royal Southern Brotherhood performance. Nobody was standing or sitting still. Everyone was moving to the music. It was impossible not to.
After their set I went over to the tent where they were selling CD's and other stuff from the performers. I bought the heartsoulblood album by Royal Southern Brotherhood. While standing there, Devon Allman came by. We had a brief conversation and he signed my CD. He's a pretty cool guy. I highly recommend that you check these guys out, especially if you are a fan of Southern Rock &/or New Orleans music. Turns out it is a perfect blend when done by the masters.
There are several songs on YouTube like this one, Moonlight Over The Mississippi, a perfect blend of Cyril's vocals and Devon's guitar work.
I stuck around and listened to a very mediocre act on the 2nd stage before the headliner, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, took the main stage. Robert plays the pedal steel guitar and he is very good at it. My problem with him is that his vocals are not that strong and many of his numbers are mostly instrumental. The songs tend to run together and become redundant. Good music, but the first song sounded much like the last song. For at least the last three years, I have found the 7:00 act to be better than the headliner, sometimes much better.
It was an enjoyable night. Every Bedford hippy and their herbs were there. Several bad wardrobe decisions along with several excellent choices. Everybody was there for a good time. If you are ever in or around Bedford on Labor Day weekend, be sure to stop by for good music, food and plenty of cold beverages.