Hippiefest 2011 was a misnomer for the five-act oldies concert Sunday at the Minnesota Zoo. The only hippie thing all night was Dave Mason’s granny glasses.
And how "hippie" is a gig when four of the performers give verbal shout-outs to U.S. troops fighting abroad? So much for make love, not war.(Not that there's anything wrong with supporting the troops who fight for our freedoms.)
But this was about old-time rock ‘n’ roll, not politics. Each act had about 30 minutes, with a mere five minutes between sets. Mason brought his own band while the other stars shared sidemen.
Here’s a look at the sets, in order of appearance:
Felix Cavaliere. He was spirited and soulful but a bit too loungey. In the middle of the Rascals' "Groovin’," he snuck in snippets of "Apple Peaches Pumpkin Pie," "My Girl" and "Just My Imagination." "People Gotta Be Free" was stuffed with filler from "Everyday People," "Nowhere to Run" and "Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin.’"
Rick Derringer. He’s a better guitarist than a singer. He talked so much that he had time for only four songs, including the McCoys’ spirited "Hang On Sloopy" and his solo signature "Rock ‘n’ Roll Hoochie Koo."
Gary Wright. To prove he belonged with these ‘60s holdovers, the New Jersey native offered two turgid tunes from his days with England’s Spooky Tooth. On his 1976 solo hits "Dream Weaver" and "Love Is Alive," it was obvious that he has lost considerable vocal range. In fact, his voice was pretty ragged.
Mark Farner. At 63, he looked 20 years younger than the other ‘60s stars. Buff with a ponytail, the ex-Grand Funk Railroad frontman/guitarist came on like a pro wrestler-turned-preacher. Musically, he had more force, volume and energy than his predecessors. The band sounded so tight that I’m guessing these are Farner’s longtime sidemen. "Bad Time" sounded good, "Some Kind of Wonderful" was transformed into soulful Detroit rock and "I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)" felt less than epic. At the end of his set (which didn't include "We're an American Band"), Farner declared: "God bless what’s left of America."
Dave Mason. Seemingly cramped for time (the zoo has a 10:30 curfew), Mason showed off his fluid, expressive guitar and strong, soulful-with-a-growl vocals on a versatile batch of tunes including the jazz-soul workout "Dear Mr. Fantasy" (he was a member of Traffic for its first album), the acoustic-driven "We Just Disagree," the FM classic "Only You Know and I Know," a Hendrix-inspired "All Along the Watchtower" (he played acoustic on Jimi's recording) and a joyous "Feelin’ Alright" (with Farner on vocals and Derringer on guitar). The taste of Mason — who speaks without a trace of an English accent — was enough to make one yearn for an evening of his music live.