I’d heard good things about Kitchener’s free Blues Festival, but had never attended. This year, a free weekend combined with an appearance by Ray Manzarek, best known as the keyboardist for The Doors, prompted me to go.
A few weeks earlier I’d seen Holly Cole at Waterloo’s free Jazz Festival. I couldn’t help comparing the Bluesfest experience to that. Holly Cole was the marquee event of the Jazz Fest, but although we didn’t arrive much ahead of time, entry was smooth and quick, and we had no trouble setting up with good sight lines of the stage.
By contrast, we had to line up and wait for entry to the Manzarek show (they gave everyone a wrist band), and it was basically impossible to get a good view. We had to rely on the big screen, just getting occasional peaks at the people on stage. Per a letter in The Record, this was a change from previous years, with “VIP” people (who paid, I assume?) getting access to all the good seats. At any rate, as a festival itself, it did leave me more impressed with the Jazz one.
But back to Mr. Manzarek. He wasn’t there to do a Doors nostalgia performance; he was there to perform music from his new album with partner Roy Rogers, a guitarist, forming the Manzarek-Rogers Band. They were joined on-stage by a drummer, bassist, and saxophonist.
I knew this in advance, and wasn’t sure how I’d like it, but despite not being familiar with any of the blues numbers, they were mostly enjoyable. Blues, after all, isn’t really that different from rock, and a lot of these were pretty rockin’ blues numbers. And he did throw us a couple of bones: an instrumental version of “The Crystal Ship” and encore performance of “Riders on the Storm” (both originally by The Doors, of course). Those ones naturally received the most enthusiastic reception.
Physically, Ray pretty much looks his age, I guess. He has a lot of hair, but it’s all gray, and his face is lined. But he’s certainly lost no manual dexterity, and he has a strong singing voice—actually a bit Morrison-like. (Should mention that partner Rogers was no slouch, either, on vocals and guitar.) And Manzarek is still such a hippie in the way he speaks, though, with his “hey man’s” and his basing songs on the poetry of Jack Kerouac. As the evening was winding down, he said, “But that means you get to go and get drunk, get stoned, and get laid. Now it doesn’t seem so bad that it’s ending, right?”