Red Butte Wheels of Soul: A Spirited Performance
The sun beat down the treeless lawn of Red Butte Gardens more forcefully than the incoherent drums over the speaker. Patrons quickly ate their grapes and cheese—trying to savor the last bit of moisture left over from the tupperware. Wine and beer flowed unhindered as any possible respite from the sun was explored. Differently colored blankets carpeted the ground with the same fecundity as the weeds they covered.
Doyle Bramhall II slowly sauntered onstage and greeted the sold-out audience. People in their mid 50s shifted with unsure curiosity in their low camping chairs, embroidered with sayings such as “easy rider” and “max relaxer.” Bramhall’s sound blasted over the speakers with a rush of energy. His guitar playing was tight and accompanied the drums with an even beat. His singing, afro and overall aura was reminiscent of late Jimi Hendrix–but where Hendrix exuded a crisp acid vibe, Bramhall had a light, airy pot disposition. A few people stood and began to sway with the vivacious drumming—haphazardly moving their body to the unusual meter. Doyle Bramhall finished his set and received a grateful applause—he’d, for the most part, won over the cautious spectators.
As the intermission began, the heat became apparent. Couples followed some of Red Butte’s endless paths through the gardens while others darted into the low hanging shrubs lining a small creek. A few calmly laid out and attempted to even their tans.
As Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings began to play, a large exodus took place. People happily wafted toward the stage as if the melodic and harmonious jazz instruments called to them. Sharon Jones’ voice was a mix between Aretha Franklin and Lorraine Crosby and added a crisp element to the soft jazz / blues music. Halfway through the set, Jones began bringing audience members onstage. She would ask them their names and, accompanied with the band, would ask them to dance their hearts out. Each dance was different as selected instruments played. Their dancing, full of self-conscious but unbridled energy, allowed for a few unorthodox dance moves to be displayed—all met by overwhelmingly positive cheers. Sharon Jones wore a yellow reflective dress which rivaled the now low-hanging sun in intensity.
As the band finished, the sun was beginning to set. The blankets, which were recently abandoned for shaded solace were now used as cocoon-esque heaters. The previously entranced gathering dejectedly walked back to their loved ones. Their expressions were reminiscent of a small child returning empty handed from an ice cream truck—still filled with hope of a frozen custard opportunity.
The majority of the crowd rose to their feet the moment Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks touched their guitar picks to the strings. The large group of people moved, jammed, boogied and grooved to the electric guitar. Dave Chappelle once made a skit on his show about the powers of the electric guitar on white people and due to the sporadic and individualized dancing—this gathering definitely lent some credence to his hypothesis. However, the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s tight instruments and the strong, yet comforting voice of Susan Tedeschi showed why they are Grammy winners.
Danced out and consciously aware, the sore-limbed and mentally exhausted patrons made their way back home from the Wheels of Soul tour stop. Recycling bins were filled with empty beer cans and wine bottles. Cool air welcomed all and allowed for a comfortable walk as they left the venue. Fingers tingled and ears adjusted to the night’s silence. Still, even with the exhausted and quiet atmosphere, the soul concert still raged on deep inside the spine, slowly creeping and insulating each disk as it traveled.