Somewhere along the way the true spirit of Woodstock almost got lost in the corporate shuffle and the passing of 50 years. But on a magical day in deepest Dordogne in South West France, the Des Fées Sur Mon Toit Festival (The Fairies On My Roof Festival) in Le Puridier (Rouffignac), rekindled the spirit of an age when the power of music could still move your soul.
And while there weren’t half a million people here, fans arrived from up to 2 hours away to an event that will stay in the memory for years to come.
The rustic Le Puridier provided the perfect backdrop for Papa Groove, a great jam band made up of the best musicians in the Dordogne, here to pay homage to an era defining festival.
And there’s even a tenuous Woodstock connection today with vocalist and harp player Ken Barrett who was actually a Joe Cocker percussionist back in the early 70’s. As well as Barrett, the band also boasts a remarkable collective pedigree with Tahitian groove master Mato Rai on bass and vocals, alongside top jazz drummer, former Berklee College of music and Paris’s Agostini drum school alumni Emilio Fabrice Le Roy, who is a rhythmically propulsive drummer with a lightness of touch.
Guitarist and event organiser Erick Drevot blends mellifluous licks into interwoven solos, while his fellow guitarist Jean Fred knows the value of space and time.
The net result is that they give both vocalists Ken Barrett and Magali plenty of room to soar and harmonize eloquently.
Being in France the festival is a mixture of music lovers, gourmets and a busy bar, but once the band starts, everyone gravitates towards the music.
Today’s gathering is a much a celebration 50 years of the Woodstock vibe as it is the festival. The band includes a latter career Santana number and a brace of Hendrix numbers as well as a humorous flashback to the days of ‘Easy Rider’ with a gloriously ragged version of The Holy Modal Rounders ‘Don’t Bogart That Joint’ – complete with relevant props.
Later still, they round things off with ‘Knocking On Heavens Door’, and while Bob Dylan may have been indisposed at the time of Woodstock, today the Franco/Dylan connection is serving the memory of Woodstock very well.
Papa Groove open in a bluesy vein with B.B. King’s ‘The Thrill is Gone’, as Ken Barrett’s expressive phrasing and smoky timbre perfectly evokes the feel of the blues classic.
He’s equally good on Lennon & McCartney’s ‘Come Together’, as the band confirm the “Groove” part of their moniker.
‘‘Take A Walk On The Wild Side’ follows and is a highlight of the first set. Drummer Le Roy’s subtle brush strokes levers the band into another cool groove, punctuated by Rai’s fluid bass solo as the crowd sways in unison with the trees.
And if Woodstock was all about sharing the moment and the vibe, then Papa Groove are doing a great job recreating the past.
Guitarist Erick Drevot picks up the tempo on SRV’s ‘Pride & Joy’ before they slip into two contrasting highlights that emphasize the band’s versatility.
There’s a sumptuous Magali and Ken Barrett duet on the smouldering funk of Queens Of The Stone Age’s ‘Make It Wit Chu’. Then the two singers draw the crowd into the beautiful nuanced ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, as Barrett evokes the song’s lyrical despair over Rai’s resonant notes.
It leaves the band with the quandary of where to go next. Guitarist Drevot provides the answer with the first of two Hendrix outings, of which the Dylan penned ‘All Along The Watchtower’ surpasses a surprisingly understated ‘Red House’.
Set One finishes with a celebratory version of The Doors ‘LA Woman’ on which the rhythm section push the band to the limit and a field full of two generations of people dance as if Sly Stone was on the stand.
It’s back to the Woodstock connection for a wah-wah led, as Mato Rai moves to the mic to complete 3 part harmonies on Santana’s soulful ‘Make Somebody Happy’, before another bass solo full of treacle thick notes.
His vocal chops match his bass playing, especially when he really gets inside John Mayer’s ‘Gravity’. He’s even better when delivering a tremulous vocal on ‘Tahitian Blues’, alongside Ken Barrett country blues harp, which leads to an animated response from the crowd.
Magali takes her turn on lead vocal and harmonizing with Rai on REM’s ‘Losing My Religion’ and the funky Hall & Oats classic ‘I Can’t Go For That’. The two songs initially seem like strange choices, but everybody’s up dancing, and the band maintains the momentum with the good time blues of ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ and ‘Key To The Highway’.
Papa Groove is still a project in its infancy, hence the many covers. However, they have the chops, the grooves and three vocalists who have the range and soulful phrasing to make the songs all their own.
One lasting irony remains, as Ken Barrett doesn’t have time to sing a Cocker song. No matter, today in a glorious sun kissed field in France the spirit and vibe of Woodstock resonates loud and clear 50 years on.
Review by Pete Feenstra & Photos: 1/2/5/7/10
Photos Anne Pioton: 3/4/6, 8 &9
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BLOCK BUSTER Losing Gravity (Frontiers)
WATCH ME BREATHE Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It (The Label Group/INGrooves)
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BLACK STAR RIDERS Underneath The Afterglow (Nuclear Blast)
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09:00-12:00 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 CORELEONI II (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TONY McLOUGHLIN True Native (Fuego)
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BAD COMPANY Company Of Strangers (1995)
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