Floydfest this year reminds me of the movie Saving Private Ryan. It’s a strange connection to make, but Saving Private Ryan is the only movie that had me crying with emotion within the first two minutes of the film, and Floydfest started (Thursday night) on such an emotional high note with Jackson Browne’s stellar performance that I wasn’t sure anything in the next three days could top it.
But it wasn’t just Browne. To assure that I’d have some good standing-room-only ground to watch him from, I showed up for the band before his set, Dawes, and was so pleasantly surprised by their real-deal soulful authenticity that I think it’s safe to say they could be my festival favorite this year. Like Jackson, Dawes (pictured in the first photo) is from L.A. and the band members (the lead singer and drummer are brothers) also played with Jackson on stage, along with some other high quality talent that included fiddle player Sarah Watkins from Nickel Creek fame.
Browne isn’t the same cocky young guy standin’ on a corner in Winslow Arizona with seven women on his mind and girls in cars slowing down to check him out. I was happy to see that he was natural and gracious. I had seen him on Charlie Rose talking about Occupy Wall Street a month or so before the festival. His hair seemed dyed black and it looked like he had plastic surgery. Must have been the make-up because, although Browne has always had a youthful appearance, at Floydfest I discovered that he looked good and looked his age. It meant a lot to me that, as far as I could tell, he hadn’t sold out to the Hollywood perversion that ruined Micky Rourke’s looks (and so many others).
I held my spot near the front row throughout the hour long set-up between bands and still can’t understand how anyone knows where all those plugs go. I bonded with a few other Jackson Browne fans. We couldn’t understand why he had 15 guitars lined up ready to use and we kept taking pictures of his guitars while waiting to take pictures of him when he showed up on stage.
I was impressed with the California sense of community that the band members had together. At one point Browne called Susan Cowsill on stage to sing a song in tribute to their friend Warren Zevon, who died in 2003. Browne introduced Cowsill as a “member of the family.” She joked that they first met when she was 14 and Browne was 24, but he was acting 14 and she was acting 24.
They played some rockin’ numbers with as many as five fantastic guitar players, along with some sweet sit-down nostalgic songs performed Browne. My only regret is that I didn’t get a video clip of Browne singing “These Days.” It’s my sister Sherry’s and my favorite Browne song. I actually held my camera up during the song till my arms hurt, thinking I was recording it (This one’s for you, Sherry, I said), but I hadn’t pressed the right button.