Live Review: Adams Avenue Unplugged, April 22, 2012

Adams Avenue Unplugged

Nearly two decades ago, the Adams Avenue Business Association (AABA) launched the Roots Festival. Designed to promote local businesses, showcase neighborhood communities, and provide funding for events and programs offered by the Adams Avenue Business Association, the event has been steadily losing money in recent years. Cue Adams Avenue Unplugged, rising from the ashes.

With 24 venues, the range of music offered at Unplugged was diverse and often surprising. Sunday’s line-up included actor and musician John C. Reilly, local blues diva Mercedes Moore, Texas country-blues man Tomcat Courtney, and local blues player Fred Heath, among others.

Mercedes Moore and her band put on a good set at Lestat’s, covering a few classic blues tunes and sharing some original material as well. The crowd favorite was her close-out piece, “Soulful Dress,” a fun romp into post-breakup feminine empowerment.

Tomcat Courtney was a busy stop on our route that day, with standing room only at DeMille’s back patio. You definitely got the feel of an old-school bluesman from his show. He covered some blues standards, and launched into a few original pieces, but he took them a little too far here and there. However, you have to forgive someone who’s dedicated more than sixty years of his life to music.

Getting in to see John C. Reilly was more challenging then we expected, so we grabbed a spot by the front door and took a listen. What came out of the door was some well crafted bluegrass and a strong sense of sincerity from this veteran comedian. I’d go see him again.

Our last stop on the Unplugged circuit was Antique Row Café, on 30th and Adams, to see Fred Heath and company. It was getting cold, but the music that rolled out from the sidewalk patio was well worth enduring a little chill. Mr. Heath and his players were engaging, entertaining, skilled and, most importantly, fun to spend time with. At no other point in my wanderings around the festival did I see an audience so engaged and delighted. If you can find him at a show in the area, Fred Heath is absolutely worth the effort.

All in all, the changes made in the transition from Roots Festival to Adams Avenue Unplugged were successful. More business was brought to retailers. More exposure was given to local musicians. And the community, near and far, was given the chance to see the “blue-collar cool” of the area. I expect great things from next year’s event as well.

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