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Rainy day blues at the Mountain Winery

on September 17, 2009 No comments
By John Orr | Bay Area News Group

RAINY DAY BLUES DEPT.: There we were at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, enjoying Taj Mahal and his excellent Phantom Blues Band (one of four different bands he tours with regularly) when a very light, misty rain began.

We could hardly feel it; but we could see it in the colored stage lights hanging from the grid above the stage.

A little rain didn’t bother the audience — everybody was too busy waving their arms and their glow sticks in the air, swaying to the music — but before too long the drops of water got bigger, and all those instruments on stage started getting wet.

Electrically amplified instruments, such as Mike Finnigan’s beautiful Hammond B3, Johnny Lee Schell’s Fender ThinLine and Larry Fulcher’s five-string bass. Not to mention the skins on Tony Braunagel’s drums and Mahal’s five-string banjo. Even Joe Sublett’s sax and Darrell Leonard’s horns were electrically amplified.

Somebody came out on stage and whispered in Mahal’s ear, and then Mahal announced they would get off stage to hurry things along. Everybody was hoping the rest of the show, which was to include a set by Bonnie Raitt and her band, then a set with Mahal and Raitt, would be able to take place if the rain abated.

The roadies laid blue tarps out over all the instruments, the musicians went backstage, then the rain hit in earnest. The audience mostly stayed for 20 minutes or more. Some umbrellas and lots of hoods came out, and some just sat, hulked over, getting soaked.

Bonnie Raitt's 'Slipstream': A Barnstorming Good Time

Finally, the announcement came: For safety’s sake, the show was cancelled, to be resumed on Monday night. Tickets would be honored.

All I can say is, I hope the salmon are happy. I’d read earlier in the day about how the salmon run was in danger because of the drought.

The 40 minutes Mahal played were great. He got in nine songs, ranging from Bo Diddley’s “Diddy Wah Diddy” to the beautiful ballad “Farther On Down the Road,” by Mahal and Jesse Davis. The audience loved him, especially when he danced a bit for them. He’s a great singer and a treasure of American music. He keeps the old stuff alive and relevant, and produces new material that is likely to stand the test of time.

My wife Maria and stepdaughter Yasemin went to the Monday night make-up show (I was sweating over a hot computer in the office) and had a great time.

“She’s so tiny!” both of them said of Bonnie Raitt. Raitt, of course, is one of the greatest guitar players alive today, a fabulous singer and a treasure of music. I am so sorry I had to miss her show. I saw her once before, at a benefit (she plays lots of those) and have to say that while she may be petite physically, she is a monster of an entertainer, with a great big heart.

E-mail John Orr at

Source: © Copyright San Jose Mercury News

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