Left: Sonny Landreth plays a custom Fender Strat equipped with a Tele bridge through Dumble Overdrive Special and Fender Twin amps for his Ernie Ball Stage clinic. Second from left:
César Rosas (left) and David Hidalgo (right) step in with the Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band to fill in for the previously scheduled Allman Brothers Band. The duo had played the House
of Blues V.I.P. party the previous night. Middle: Fingerstylist Stefan Grossman (right) shows Eric Clapton his 1920 Grand Concert Stella acoustic in the air-conditioned Fender Artists Tent backstage. Photo by Jo Ayres Second from right: Derek Trucks with his Maestro-equipped SG and Warren Haynes with his trusty Les Paul. Right: Steve Winwood played a sunburst Fender Strat
when he sat in for most of Clapton’s set.
One Big Family
Talking with the performers, a common
theme kept appearing: As Derek Trucks
put it, “It feels like a really surreal family
reunion.” The fun, celebratory vibe woven
through each set had its roots backstage,
where old friends were catching up and new
friends were being made.
“It was great. You walk 10 feet, see someone
you haven’t seen in a while, and give them a
big hug,” explains Warren Haynes, who shared
his set with Trucks. “Then you walk 20 more
feet and introduce yourself to someone you’ve
never met but that you’ve wanted to meet for a
long time. It was kind of like that all day long.”
Jonny Lang, whose set with Guy and Wood
set the gold standard for the vibe, agrees.
“It was a no-pressure situation for everybody
that performed that day. Even for the guys
that were on tour, it was like a day off to
hang with their buddies, have some fun, and
make some music.”
The relaxed atmosphere can be attributed
to the man behind the festival, the man
a generation of guitar freaks used to call
“God”: Eric Clapton. Slowhand kicked off
the day jamming with emcee Bill Murray on
the Buddy Holly track “Not Fade Away” for a
small crowd of early arrivers. It was clear that
Clapton keeps it casual, appearing onstage
in white shorts and orange sneakers for a
surprise sit-in with Doyle Bramhall II, Sheryl
Crow, and Gary Clark Jr. Clapton’s attitude
also extended to the diverse set of artists he
brought together for the show.
Trucks sums it up: “It’s one of the few places
where everybody shows up and just checks
their ego and all of the baggage at the door.
There are not too many people who could pull
that off. Eric is in a really unique spot where
his elders respect him and the younger generation respects him—it’s a really great thing.”
A Gathering of Generations
All day long, the cross-generational nature
of the show was at the forefront: Onstage,
you had pairings like Citizen Cope and Eric
Clapton or Keb’ Mo’ and Albert Lee, and in
the audience there were many families with
their children and teenagers. The presence
of legends like Sumlin, Honeyboy Edwards,
King, Winter, and Guy was appreciated both
onstage (where, for some, their presence was
more important than their playing) and off.
backing track he won the contest with.
11: 10 a.m.
2009 Guitar Center King of the Blues
winner Kirby Kelley kicks off the main-stage music by playing over the same
11: 50 a.m.
Sonny Landreth rocks the main stage
with a red Strat and his mind-bending
slide work. Three songs into his set,
he’s joined by Clapton for a rendition of
Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land.”
Gates Open at
11: 25 a.m.
Eric Clapton makes
an early appearance,
jamming with emcee
Bill Murray on the
Buddy Holly classic
“Not Fade Away.”
The Robert Cray Band owns the
main stage with Texas blues legend Jimmie Vaughan performing
his tribute “Six Strings Down”
for his late brother Stevie Ray.
Hubert Sumlin joins them to
lead the way on the Mississippi
Sheiks’ “Sitting on Top of the
World” and Howlin’ Wolf’s
12: 20 p.m.
Robert Randolph and the Family
Band delivers an energetic set,
enlisting Joe Bonamassa’s help
on “Further on up the Road”
and “Going Down,” which also
features Italian guitarist Pino
delights early birds
with a clinic at the
Ernie Ball Stage.
10: 15 a.m.
Bert Jansch plays the
first note of the festival during his clinic at
the Ernie Ball Stage.
11: 45 a.m.
Fingerstylist Pete Huttlinger
demonstrates his incredible
ability to play the same song
in different styles with a variety of right-hand techniques
on the Ernie Ball Stage.
12: 30 p.m.
Albert Lee fields questions and wows the crowd
with his chicken-pickin’
talents during his clinic on
the Ernie Ball Stage.
1: 15 p.m.
Sonny Landreth plugs into his
Dumble Overdrive Special to demonstrate his behind-the-slide technique at an Ernie Ball Stage clinic.