The third annual Waynestock is history and the event delivered great music, great fun and feel-good vibes all around. The event started two years ago as a way to honor local music critic Wayne Bledsoe in the wake of the tragic loss of his son, Andrew, who was a local musician. The following year a planned follow-up took a sad turn when beloved local musician Phil Pollard died and the money raised went to his family. This year offered the first opportunity to simply celebrate the local music community and the manner in which its members support one another.
This year’s event also signaled a substantial shift in the lineup, which I appreciated given that since the first two I’ve taken many opportunities to see the previously spotlighted bands numerous times in various venues. Some familiar faces remained and I enjoyed these old friends, but I love being introduced to new music and this year’s festival certainly served that purpose.
Black Atticus got the event rolling with a spoken-word performance. It is a thing of beauty to watch him work an audience. In this case, it turns out many, many were older white people (which I’ll explain later) and, as usual, he pulled them in. I always marvel at his writing, but even more so at his memory. He uses more words in three minutes of performance than most of us use in a day and he has to remember it. Taking on topics humorous and serious, he bounces through a performance spraying the audience with a verbal barrage both provocative and entertaining.
From one kind of writing to another, next up was Kevin Abernathy performing songs from his “Some Stories” which are sometimes stories and other times small vignettes or slices of life. Known for his rocking guitar prowess, Kevin has laid back a bit for an acoustic stint as he performs these new songs. As a bonus, friends joined him on stage offering an all-star lineup that served only to enhance the star of the show: the songs themselves. The friends included Playboy Man Baby, Steph Gunnoe and Sean McC0llough from the Lonetones, Greg Horne and Cecilia Miller who dubbed the outfit the “Kevin Abernathy Orchestra.”
Mic Harrison and the high score came on to perform “The Colonel is Dead” from their most recent CD and then were joined on stage by Con Hunley. I was told this pairing represented the brainchild of Steve Wildsmith, music critic for the Maryville Times. The presence of Hunley explained the demographics of the early audience. They were there to see their man and many of them left when he finished, allowing a second shift interested in the younger acts to comfortably enter the theater.
Excited to hear Mr. Hunley perform, I quickly became ecstatic when I heard the hard-edged sounds of the High Score backing up this versatile veteran. They ran through a number of his hits without missing a beat. The combination seemed seamless, as if they were intended to play together. His vocals remained strong throughout the night, making it clear he can still bring it. Highlights included “What’d I Say” and “Oh Girl,” the old Chilites song.
I want these guys to go into a studio together. I can’t help but wonder if this energy might refocus a listless country music radio scene on a talented gem whose biggest hits lie years in the past. One other note, in a house full of amazing guitarists, Robbie Trosper virtually exploded on stage.
The Rockwells followed and, honestly, I wasn’t sure if would have wanted that slot. They did a fine job, however, with a sound that seemed infused with a nineties sensibility with some elements of grunge, which I like very well. If I understood correctly, they haven’t played together in several years, though there was little evidence of that on stage. Constantly high energy, the songs didn’t linger a moment past when the point was made. Hard rocking at its best, I felt if I was going to buy a CD by someone from the first night, which I didn’t already own, it would be theirs.
It’s hard to describe the next band. The Mutations took the stage and the house lights went down, meaning I couldn’t identify one of them on the street if my life depended on it. Maybe that’s what they want, but I’m not sure why. The music is fascinating, but they played in the dark while the 1967 movie, “The Trip” featuring Peter Fonda and written by Jack Nicholson played on the wall behind them. Their music flowed well with the various facets of Peter Fonda’s hallucinations. The set started with an instrumental that would easily fit into a surf music collection from the early sixties and flowed from there into melodic rock and roll.
Wayne Bledsoe introduced the final act which includes his son, Rylan, on drums and Chris Newman on lead guitar. He noted that he gets to listen to them practice in his home. I wonder if that’s always been pleasurable as I’m certain it isn’t a quiet activity. Wayne also contributed a little sampling from a computer on the side adding a little James Brown funk to the show.
Very loud, very metal and very fascinating. While most of the music doesn’t readily fit my normal listening M.O., I couldn’t take my eyes off the guys. Pounding drums and technical, extended guitar riffs flowed from one song to the next. when Chris mentioned that a couple of songs were recent additions to the repertoire I noticed, I think, a more melodic emphasis with a bit of slower tempo. For me, it suggested they may be going in a more readily accessible direction for an old rock and roller like myself.
I’ll leave you with a small sample of Yak Strangler: