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Slow Ride. . . .Take it Easy. . . . .

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County and state fairs are a wonderful place to catch classic songs played by acts who may not have had the staying power of their greatest hits.


In fairs past I have caught Loverboy’s "Working for the Weekend", America’s "Horse with No Name", Dr. Hook’s "On the Cover of The Rolling Stone", Hermans Hermits’ "I’m into Something Good", Flock of Seagulls’ "I Ran So Far Away" and, to a far lesser extent, Nelson’s "After the Rain".


Friday, I added another one to the list.


I am no Foghathead, (Foghorn? HatHead? Foggy Bottom?) but when I saw British blues rockers Foghat on the fair lineup, I jumped at the chance to cover the show.




"Slow Ride," that’s why.


"Slow Ride," Foghat’s biggest hit, reached No. 20 on the U.S. charts when it was released in 1975. For what it’s worth, last year VH1 ranked it the 45th best hard rock song of all time.


It has withstood the test of time, being featured in dozens of movies and television shows, most notably in the classic "Dazed and Confused." It plays when Mitch Kramer puts on his headphones when he gets home from the party at the Moon Tower, and while Pink and his "loser friends" head to Houston to get Aerosmith tickets.


Top priority of the summer.


My 30 odd viewings of the high school stoner classic probably had a lot to do with my overwhelming urge to attend the show.


I arrived early to get my credential and survey the scene. I took a seat toward the back and surveyed the crowd.  There were certainly a few wild haired old rockers, but the concert attendees didn’t seem all that different from the fair attendees as a whole.


Well, maybe a little older, and whiter, and drunker.


But other than that, pretty much the same.


After some fluffing by the River Cats emcee ("Who wants a T-shirt? I can’t HEAR you!") who apparently holds the same position at the fair, the crowd was eager for the band to take the stage.


They took the stage to moderately raucous applause at 8 o’clock on the dot. They opened with "Road Fever," a fairly generic rocker that features the lyrics "Gonna roll ’til I’m old, gonna rock ’til I drop."


Mission accomplished.


After a little banter with the crowd ("Hello, SACRAMENTO!!!!!!!!!") they went into "Take Me to the River."


Unfortunately, they chose to play their own fair to middling version and not the Talking Heads classic.


Next up was the bluesy love song "My Babe." ("Nothing could be better than to see her in a sweater and a tight skirt that don’t fit.")


Robert Hunter, eat your heart out.


They picked it up with "Driving Wheel,", a rollicking jam that really showcased lead guitarist Bryan Bassett. His slide solo was borderline epic and brought the crowd to its feet.


They continued to gain momentum with their next song "Stone Blue," the title track off their seventh album. Lead singer Charlie Huhn, formerly of Ted Nugent’s band, introduced the song by asking if anybody remembered the ’70s. Many in the audience did.


"Does anybody still think it’s the ’70s?" he asked, to possibly the most raucous applause of the night, up to that point. "This one’s for you!" Apparently, quite a few people still think it’s the ’70s.


Coincidently, or maybe not, it was at this point in the show that I got my first big whiff of bammer weed.


I had already come to the conclusion that the lead singer was clearly not an original member of the band. Foghat formed in London in 1971. It took about 15 seconds to ascertain that the lead singer was not British.


After "Stone Blue," Huhn introduced the band. It turns out their original drummer, Roger Earle, was recovering from minor back surgery, and the skins were being played by Mitch Ryder’s drummer.


He then introduced the bassist, Craig MacGregor. He was decidedly not English.


Lastly, he introduced the guitarist, Bryan Bassett, formerly of Wild Cherry and Molly Hatchett.


On this night, at least, the British blues rock band from England consisted of two guys from Detroit, and two guys from Pennsylvania.


America, f*%k yeah.


They played strong versions of "Fool for the City," the title track from the 1975 album that featured "Slow Ride," and "Terraplane Blues" a Robert Johnson track that they covered on the same album.


They really hit their stride on an extended blues jam, for which they brought out a harmonica player. They are really a blues band at heart, and they showed it during the bass-fueled, heavy, driving jam which evolved seamlessly into their 1972 hit "I Just Want to Make Love to You".


The crowd was on its feet for the closing song, which was originally recorded by blues great Muddy Waters but reached its height of popularity with Foghat’s version.


The band didn’t even feign leaving the stage after their "closing song." There has never been a more obvious encore in the history of live music. I had actually written down "Slow Ride Encore" in my notebook three hours before the show started.


Huhn milked it for all it was worth. "What song do you want to hear?" he inquired of the crowd.


My cry of "Dark Star!" was drowned out by a sea of drunkenly warbled "SLOW RIDE!!!!!!!!!!"’s.

Then they played it. As the signature opening chords rang out the crowd went bananas. It was everything I hoped it would be. Bow neh, bow neh, bow neh, bow ne now nahh.


In my mind, I was on my way to Houston to pick up Aerosmith tickets after an epic evening at the Moon Tower.


Top priority of the summer.

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