It only gets better with age
From playing with a trio on Friday night, to a guest appearance with Marcus King the next day, Elvin Bishop with his full band finally emerged Saturday evening at the Field of Heaven. Elvin and his band of eight old timers aren’t the most skilled players of the fest, but they may be the most authentic and have the most experience exciting a crowd.
For those unfamiliar, band leader Elvin Bishop is a blues guitarist that’s been around since the 60s. While his guitar skills are good, it’s his self assured singing and banter make him something special. The roughly hour long set gave each of the eight in the band room to play and introduce themselves. Elvin even welcomed fellow southern boy Marcus King on stage for a tune to display his guitar technique.
The young Marcus King may be the better guitar player but Elvin has the experience in front of a crowd. He lives and breathes a style and confidence playing before a crowd, genuinely appearing to be enjoying every minute of his performance despite playing to crowds for almost 50 years now. One of the highlights of the set was Elvin attempting successfully to communicate to the audience in broken Japanese that he was happy to be back. His last time playing Fuji Rock was five years ago on this very stage. He remarked he’ll always find a way to sneak back into Fuji Rock, one way or another. It resulted in a few laughs and some happy fans below.
Another memorable moment was when Elvin’s percussionist Willy Jordan leapt up and shocked the crowd with his soulful rendition of Elvin’s 70’s hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love”, a track that’s made a bit of resurgence since being featured in 2014’s summer blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy. All together, The Elvin Bishop band is a crew of mostly old dudes and an older lady bassist. On the surface you might think this gang is well past their prime. But, as the old expression goes, and is true with this group, the older the berry, the sweeter the juice (or something like that).
Bishop and company don’t attempt anything new or revolutionary, but what they do is succeed in performing with a confidant simplicity. This crew has lived and breathed blues, soul and southern Americana for longer than most in the crowd have been alive. There’s a special feeling about witnessing a sound that has survived, been nurtured and progressed for 40 or 50 years. It’s these musical traditions of the past that need to survive in order to understand where we’re headed in the future.