by Nilabjo Banerjee


Within few moments of entering the festival grounds, there was a communal vibe to it all. Families, which included newborns to grandparents, set up their chairs and cozied up with their loved ones. It didn’t seem like anyone was there because of the next buzz band. They were there for, you know,the music!

Music on Day 1 was all on the Main Stage, giving a consolidated audience the acts, that were put together around the theme of second-generation musicians.

The Bros Landreth didn’t let the nerves of a hometown show deter their flawless performance of mid-tempo blues-rock compositions from their debut Let it Lie. The brilliant blues and alt-rock solos, crooning vocals and overall impeccable musicality made sense, given the brothers Joey and Dave have previous experience touring with established acts like Doc Walker, Dallas Smith, Imaginary Cities, etc. The set turned more endearing as the fellas brought out their legendary dad, Wally Landreth, for help on “Runaway Train”. “You just made our year”, said the thankful band, to a deserving standing ovation.


While the other half of the stage was setting up for the next act,Guy Forsyth commanded your attention from note one. The Texan songwriter, whose songs are mostly blues rock, began with impactful cover of an ol’ time prisoner’s work song. If the crowd wasn’t in awe of the man’s authoritative voice, then the harmonica solos and blues guitar play might have done the trick. Even Amy Helm on the side couldn’t help jamming out to Forsyth’s soulful tunes.


Amy Helm impressed with her rootsy vocals that are sultry and abrasive in the foot-stomping numbers, and tender in the ballads. Helm, with musical lineage of The Band drummer Leovn Helm and singer Libby Titus, excelled in both originals like “Rescue Me” and covers of luminaries like Brooks & Dunn, Sam Cooke and slowed down ballad rendition of The Night they Drove old Dixie Down”. While Helm expectedly wowed the audience with her vocal prowess, the backing band warrants a mention for the exceptional instrumentation. Guitarist Dan Littleton melted faces with shredding solos yet also nudged your eardrums with delicate licks. What a skillful Handsome Stranger!


The husband-wife duo of Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion entertained with breezy mix of folk and country-rock tunes. The duo’s tender styling seemed like an odd precursor to the bluesy legend Raitt. Regardless, the crowd obliged in clapping along, and even pitched in the sing along of Hurricane Katrina inspired “Hurricane Window” off their last release Wassaic Way.

The blues queen Bonnie Raitt came out to roars from an audience that had been waiting for the songstress to make her return since ’88. With an accomplished catalogue like hers, the multiple Grammy award winner strutted her stuff from all over. There was the sultry 1979 R&B rendition of “Your Good Thing (Is about to End)”,the tender “Not Cause I Wanted To” from her last release Slipstream and then shaking things up with “Something to Talk about”. An accomplished backing band in tact, Raitt effortlessly matched her vocal virtuosity with slide guitar play. Saving the best for the last, the flame-haired legend returned for a 3 song encore, that included the iconic “I Can’t Make you Love Me” and funky set closer “Love Letter”. Good things come to those who wait, and Winnipeg’s patience was rewarded manifold.