From April to September WFPK (91.9), one of the three public radio stations in Louisville, sponsors a free live concert on the last Wednesday of the month at Waterfront Park. The concert is listed as being from “5:00pm til dark,” but April’s concert, headlined by Los Straitjackets and May’s concert, headlined by Johnatha Brooks, both bumped up against the 11pm hour.
Waterfront Wednesdays typically features three bands with a good chunk of time to socialize between them. Vendors sell somewhat pricey, but better than your standard Bud/Miller fare, beer and cocktails as well as moderately priced yummy food. It’s cheap fun, but not cheap eats or drinks.
As a New Orleans Jazz Fest devotee, the April Waterfront Wednesday came just in time (the day before Jazz Fest 2007 opened) to slake a bit of my thirst for music al fresco. The turnout—so I discovered in May—was a bit smaller than usual, but it seemed that a large percentage of my neighborhood acquaintances were in attendance. It made it easy for me, in May, to decide to go alone when my roommate was out of town. I was sure to bump into people I knew.
I’d heard some of Los Straitjackets music before, but was tickled pink and purple to find out that they were touring with Big Sandy of the fantastic Los Angeles rockabilly band Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, one of those bands you feel like no one but you has heard of and you’re kind of happy to have that secret. I was introduced to them, personally, by a friend in LA back in the very early 90’s. And every time I visited my friend, we’d hunt down a Big Sandy show. Since then, I don’t think I’ve missed Big Sandy if he’s come to town. I’ve seen him in Tampa, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and now Louisville.
Anyway, I’m gushing. It’s easy to do that about Big Sandy. Early in the evening, at Waterfront Wednesday, I walked past him and he smiled and waved. Later, when a friend forced me to go over and tell Sandy what a big fan I was, Sandy said, “I waved at you because you look so familiar. I know I’ve seen you before.” And my heart thumped. Dreamy. And what a nice guy.
The Sandy/Los Straitjackets show was like going to a wedding with the coolest band ever. Supporting their Rock en Espanol, Volume One album, the band played sing-a-long-recognizable tunes from the 50’s and 60’s, except that you couldn’t sing along because the words were in Spanish. I can’t do justice. From the hilariously choreographed moves of the band to their trademark Mexican Wrestling masks to Big Sandy’s on-stage theatrics, it was just what this Jazz Fest homesick girl needed.
May’s Waterfront Wednesday was on an equally beautiful day and far better attended, but the music was relatively generic and not at all the feel-good joyfest that April’s was. In this Lou’s opinion, the organizers of the event should focus on booking FUN bands. I’m thinking folks like They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies. Or—sigh—Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys?
Regardless, I’ll keep going. It’s free and fun and there’s something special about being outside and listening to music with the Ohio River as a backdrop.
Coming June 27, 2007 to Waterfront Wednesdays: Mark Olson and His Band, Willy Porter, and Ultratone. Check it out at www.fpk.org.