The Unfettered Critic – May 2017

Halfway through last winter, we began to feel antsy. We’d hike the Woodlands trail above the Britt Festival grounds—and pause to look longingly through the fence. We’d drive up Oregon Street—and inexplicably detour past the Britt Pavilion just to… just to…

Like we said: antsy.

Patience, it’s been noted, is not simply the ability to wait; it’s the way one behaves while waiting. We admit to behaving… poorly.

Now it’s happened. The Britt staff has announced the names of the artists that will perform behind that fence, in that Pavilion, soon. Aye, there’s the rub. That dreaded word: Soon.

Well, if we can’t yet consummate our desire to invade the Britt, we can at least talk about some of the acts we anticipate enjoying to the max. Such as:

Lake Street Dive—This quartet first came to our attention while we were sitting at home, in separate rooms, with JPR’s Rhythm and News station resonating throughout. Suddenly we found ourselves standing in a center hallway, staring at one another, and saying in unison: “Are you hearing this?” The song was “You Go Down Smooth” (Google it!); the band, we learned, was Lake Street Dive. We’ll be at the front of the line to see them on August 24.

UB40 Legends Ali, Astro and Mickey—When these core members of the British reggae group formed in 1979, they named themselves after Britain’s Unemployment Benefit Form 40, which they’d all filled out for survival. Today, with hits like “Red Red Wine” and “Kingston Town,” they’re surviving quite well, having sold over seventy million albums. We predict they’ll fill the Britt grounds on July 14.

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals—Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Ben Harper probably had little career choice. His grandparents owned a music store north of Los Angeles, where he learned to play the inventory. Most of the inventory. He won his first Grammy Award, for Best Traditional Gospel Album, in 2005. He won his second Grammy, for Best Instrumental Performance, on that same stage just a few minutes later. And he won his third Grammy, for Best Blues Album, in 2014. Rolling Stone magazine has accused his five-piece band, The Innocent Criminals, of being “able to blow the roof off a house.” Luckily, we’ll see them at our open-air venue, July 22.

Huey Lewis and the News—We suspect no one reading this needs reminding that the heart of rock ‘n’ roll is the beat—and few straight-ahead rock bands hit that beat harder than these guys from San Francisco. The band became a household name when “The Power of Love” and “Back in Time” were highlighted in the soundtrack of Back to the Future. Not far into our future, we’ll feel their power on the hill: August 22.

Judy Collins and Stephen Stills—Judy Collins’ voice stands among the most beautiful we’ve ever heard. She won our hearts years ago, in our former lives. When we were reincarnated to our present lives in Jacksonville, hers was the first concert we attended at the Britt. Ms. Collins is a storyteller, and the stories she weaves between soaring songs will win your hearts.

In the 1980s, brilliant guitarist, songwriter, and singer Stephen Stills wrote the classic song “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” about Ms. Collins. You can hear it on his first album with the group Crosby, Stills, and Nash. For a short time Collins and Stills were together. Then they weren’t. Now, decades later, they’re touring. With both of them onstage, maybe we’ll hear their story from Both Sides Now: September 8.

For What It’s Worth.