Concert Review Butterfly Country Festival Sportpark De Meerdijk, Emmen, The Netherlands Sunday July 10th 2005
Written by Johanna J. Bodde
Photos copyright by Peter Pricken

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Butterfly Country Festival
Sportpark De Meerdijk, Emmen, The Netherlands
Sunday July 10th 2005

It's almost like in the early 80s, the old days with the big country festivals taking place at Sportspalace Ahoy in Rotterdam! Some music loving people have the courage to book a few big names and hope to fill a soccerstadium in Emmen, close to the Dutch/German border. Our radio-show Alt. Country Cooking paid a lot of attention to the efforts, with a prize-contest even and the organization is generous enough to offer us free tickets in return. Emmen, never been there before. As my neighbor with car bails out at the last moment, I have to rely for two-and-a-half hours on the bus... Three different ones to get there and then in the evening another route with also three buses making the last connection. The smart little day-ticket costs only 6 Euri, that's a good start along with the sunny weather. During the trip a fellow passenger tells me his whole life story and I consider again to start writing scripts for a soap. The third bus is just a van with eight seats, but it brings me to the outskirts of Emmen and then I have to walk another fifteen minutes to the stadium. It turns out that the ticket-sales wasn't going so well, no concerts in the stadium with the artists looking down into quite a bit of emptiness, but at another -much smaller- set-up a little further, good move. There are still fans traveling from as far as the Scandinavian countries, Hungary and Letvia! A Western market is situated in front of the entrance, country music sounds everywhere and I see a lot of cowboyhats and other attire, the variety of t-shirts that people wear is also worth studying! Good to pass time, as it takes forever to get through security... Up to 45 minutes in the hot midday sun with a quite strong wind causes several people a bad burn. All is forgotten at exactly 2 pm, when the MC Ruud Hermans (well-known as the host of American Connection on Radio 2) starts his rehearsed word of welcome!
My ticket allows me to hang out in the area with standing room only. There's a little shade in front of the galleries, the ground is covered with wooden pallets, not too bad to sit on, so I think I'll stay here! One of my friends has a seat in front of the stage, it must be so bloody hot there... I also see my favorite photographer Peter and his wife, it's a pity they don't allow him to take his pictures closer to the stage than here, no pleading with the security-guards or waving E-mail prints helps.

In the meantime RUUD HERMANS starts his set! It's been a long time since I've seen him with a band: drummer, bassplayer and leadguitarist, Ruud himself plays acoustic guitar and goes through his latest three albums for songs. He wrote "Blue Horizon" together with Hugh Moffatt, "One Love Ago" and "Waitin' For You" are collaborations with Dick van Altena, good choice of songs for this 45 minutes set. Thirty years ago Ruud sang with The Tumbleweeds and their big hit "Somewhere Between" has to be featured. The original was written by Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens, while guitarist Cor Mutsaers switches from acoustic to electric guitar for the last three songs, Merle's "If I Can Only Fly" is also played. Ruud, wearing black pants and t-shirt with funky red-and-white sneakers, is obviously very nervous! He pulls off the singing very well, but his announcements end every now and then in mumbling or an uneasy giggle, while he tries so hard to be a good entertainer! He should be used to it by now, the very first time I saw him live he was opening at one of those big countryshows at Sportspalace Ahoy!

It takes half an hour to get everything on the big stage ready for the second act. The sound is good, the same goes for the view from all points. Time to go exploring. There are enough relatively clean restrooms, but funny enough there's no drinking water anywhere... While Ruud urges us from the stage to drink plenty of water, this water isn't good for drinking, right here in The Netherlands! Do we have other options? There's no tea or coffee, to the annoyment of many, just beer and various softdrinks, one coin a glass, five Euri for three coins, we get the picture! Ruud runs by while German band SLOW HORSES is already waiting on stage. Quite a few musicians up there: a lady-singer with appealing voice and acoustic guitar, a leadguitarist wearing a cowskin jacket and playing three different electric guitars, there's bass, drums, steelguitar and also keyboards, played by a bearded man with a black piece of cloth wrapped around his head. The pretty blond singer starts talking to us in Dutch and switches then to English. The cowskin-guy even jokes about soccer, risky, given the history of games between the Dutch and German teams! They play all original songs, I recognize the second one "I Can't Look At That" as a single we received for our radio-show. Not bad at all, catchy country, a few good hooklines, like "stop barking at the wrong tree", an a-capella piece. Their excitement shows, they give all they've got to deserve this chance. Good players, the bassist switches to mandolin and the steelguitar makes way for a baritone guitar in the course of the songs. They end with some rock&roll, Slow Horses, on the scene for five years now, only time will tell if they'll ever outgrow opening at festivals!

We have to wait until half past five for HEATHER MYLES. According to the rumors, she must be a feisty lady and I'm curious to see her for real. One story in particular stuck with me, where she cancelled her Dutch concerts because her guitarplayer had been in an accident and she didn't want to play with ANYBODY else, none of the good players the poor promoter suggested! I get the picture when Miss Myles struts on stage, wearing tight black with gold pants, a belt with huge silver coins and a black jacket over a see-through top! Blond hair, shiny sunglasses, she reminds me of Carlene Carter in one way or another... She swings to her first song: "Who did you call darling too last night" and picks up her acoustic guitar half-way. "It's time to go honky-tonkin'!" she announces and sings "I'm playing every honky-tonk in town" followed by "I'm your one-man woman again" before greeting familiar faces and thanking us for supporting country music. She's quite a good singer, at least she knows how to entertain a crowd and her songwriting is fantastic, with the upbeat melodies and smart hooklines. "Nashville's Gone Hollywood" is a fabulous song: "You don't need a pedal steel in your watered down rock&roll, if you're young and sexy you will be rollin' in the dough." Right on the money, Heather! Although I'm not too familiar with her repertoire, I recognize "Short Term Lovers" before she slows down for a few ballad-type songs. Bob Ryan, the guitarplayer of her Cadillac Cowboys (drums, bass, electric guitar and pedal steel) teases her: "Take off your jacket!" and she replies without blinking: "They're REAL!!" More witty lines: "I found a rock at the end of my rainbow, while searching for my pot of gold" and "Mr. Lonesome, cheer up somebody else, I can do better by myself", which has wonderful guitar-riffs as an intro. "Love me just a little bit longer", I know that one. Heather plays for almost an hour, including two encores. Before starting the first one, some instrument makes a terrible ear-piercing sound and the Cadillic Cowboys just look at each other: "Who's doing that?" Heather comes back without guitar for the classic "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and moves her hips on "Sweet Little Dangerous". She asks for requests, to fill the second encore and decides to sing an early recording: "Rum And Rodeo", a true story, followed by "You Got To Kiss An Angel Good Morning" and another fast one: "If the truth hurts, tell me a lie". This is country music how it's supposed to sound!
Many music lovers at the festival get hungry by this time, but... It wasn't allowed to take any food inside and the security has been very strict, lots of food like sandwiches and raisinrolls was thrown out and put behind the tables at the entrance. Now everybody has to try and get something for two or three festival-coins from the one and only foodstand, run by two people. Of course that turns out to be a complete disaster! At half past five there are only breadrolls with quickly cooked hamburgers available, then they run out of breadrolls and then everything is gone... The Western market has only some candy for sale and we're in the middle of nowhere, far from any restaurant or shop. Hello, Butterfly-honchos, you can't do this to people who have been traveling for hours and paid at least 45 Euros for a ticket!! A little respect and common sense isn't too much to ask for, is it? Jeez, even if I were a carnivore, I wouldn't eat such a hamburger... Back to the music, that's safer!

BR5-49 appears on stage and I see, what one of my friends already told me about: a new line-up. Only singer/guitarist Chuck Mead and drummer Shaw Wilson are still there. The very talented second singer/guitarist Chris Scruggs (grandson of Earl Scruggs) and Geoff Firebaugh, the tattood giant on bass are gone, even multi-instrumentalist Don Herron, always the favorite of audiences isn't playing in BR5-49 anymore! This is almost another band, with a new fiddler, pedal steel-player and another guy on the doghouse bass. O.K., let's give them the benefit of the doubt! "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" is the first song and Chuck welcomes us for the "hillbilly beat show", he has to work twice as hard now but he's energetic as always, wearing a black cowboy suit, a red bandana round his neck and even a straw hat! The fiddleplayer, Jimmy Clark, turns out to be another multi-instrumentalist, he plays also electric guitar, mandolin and... trumpet, like in "My Window Faces The South". The band plays various songs from their latest album, "I'm All Right (For The Shape I'm In)", "When I Come Home (From Honky Tonkin')" and that wonderful "No Train To Memphis"! The pedal steel player was supposed to blow a wooden whistle to start that one off, forgets it and Chuck laughs more than he sings during the first verse, afterwards he explains and we get to hear that "train-whistle". The classic song "Crazy Arms" is still on the set-list, Chuck says thank-you in Dutch, joking: "Hey, I'm not a first timer anymore!" A lot of up-tempo songs with well-played solos, still a mix of honky-tonk, western swing and rockabilly, it's different but definitely still BR5-49! "You're all too hot!' Chuck declares, taking off his hat after another of his leg-twists and wiping his face with a towel. Slow one: "Tangled In The Pines", followed by their trademark "Cherokee Boogie", then Chuck insists on doing some George Jones. He's really in the mood: "Lateron Asleep At The Wheel will be playing and Dwight, then it's getting real nutty... Get drunk for our sake, screw the other guys!!" Well, they're nutty themselves, what to think of a line like: "She's showing her tattoos one at a time"? "Eighteen Wheels And A Crowbar" closes off the set, still with the funny effects on Shaw's cymbals. Encore? Yes, "Way Too Late (To Go Home Early Now", with the trumpet and Chuck showing off on guitar. I still love that band!!

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL, I should have seen them years ago. They opened for Bob Dylan in Bakersfield, California but we were too late, driving from Camarillo my friend had to take his old car apart in order to continue our journey and then we waited for friends from the San Francisco-area who ran into even more trouble: the fire department had to free one of them from their broken down car! But if you wait patiently enough, the band comes conveniently to The Netherlands! Ray Benson has reached an almost legendary status with his authentic Western swing: "Don't look now, folks, but you're all asleep at the wheel!" This is a real big band: Ray himself plays an electric guitar, the upright bass is also the electric type, keyboards, fiddle, Hawaiian pedal steel and... nice surprise: ELIZABETH MCQUEEN joined a few months ago as a singer, playing the acoustic rhythm guitar. Her husband Dave Sanger is also in the band, that explains a lot! We hear a lot of old classics like "Route 66" and "Don't Fence Me In". The fiddler sings leadvocals on "A Six-Pack To Go" and Elizabeth does that on "But I Wonder" and "I'm An Old Cowhand From The Rio Grande", she sounds good now, in the earlier harmonies she forced her voice too much. She looks cool, I've said it many times before: I like performers who wear their eyeglasses on stage! There's nothing wrong with us, four-eyes... An instrumental, "Under The Double Eagle" and a catchy Bob Wills-song: "Take Me Back To Tulsa". Jason Robard, the fiddler, gets into the role of Bob Wills, that he plays in theatres in Texas, for "Breakdown". Followed by "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Big Balls In Cowtown" that Ray recorded with George Strait. Right in the middle he asks: "Is everybody happy?" So many old-fashioned cliches, that it's getting funny again. The pedal steel player turns out to be pretty good on the saxophone too. Something about a "Hot Rod Lincoln", then "The House Of Blue Light" while Ray introduces the band, guitar on his back, juggling with a few small balls... Yes, really. He claps his hands, the fiddle starts playing and that ends in a bit too noisy "Cotton-Eyed Joe". When the crew is ready to attack and clean the stage, Ray decides he wants to do an encore. He says: "We thought it would be cooler here..." Elizabeth stays positive: "Are you kidding? In Texas it's now 110 degrees! It's nice here!" They sing "The Letter Johnny Walker Read" as a duet and end with "Miles And Miles Of Texas". Yes, I've finally seen them live, Asleep At The Wheel! I think they fit better here than as the opening-act for Bob Dylan though...

It's a quarter to nine already, the festival was supposed to end at ten and I have to leave for my last connection at a quarter to ten at the latest. This was to be expected, festivals almost always run behind schedule... Well, with a little bit of luck I still get to see DWIGHT YOAKAM for half an hour! As one of my best friends always says: "You can't have everything all the time" and many music lovers never get the chance to see Dwight at all. The temperature is bearable now, the people with seats in front of the stage return there and get as close as possible, much to the annoyment of the security-guards. Ruud Hermans has to announce that Dwight and his band won't start playing until the area in front of the stage is cleared. I know, Dwight is a cautious man, he even cancelled his European tour in 1991 after the first Gulf War broke out. But what can happen here? We've all been turned inside out by the security, they walk around constantly in their black suits with their little "ears" for contact, even checking the emergency exits every half hour for possible break-ins... Finally, there he is and the applause gets real loud! Wow, he looks very handsome in his trademark super-tight jeans and beige hat, his shirt is really something too: blue with embroidered roses and glitters and long white fringes along the sleeves! He plays an acoustic guitar and starts off with two of the new songs, "She'll Remember" and "Blame The Vain". Again uproar in the front, there are so many wannabe photographers that the people in the first two rows start to throw empty plastic cups at them! The security apparently gets sick of it all, sends everybody back and forms a human wall in front of the stage, that finally does the trick. Dwight thanks us for coming out, his bassplayer switches to the upright bass and on it goes: "I Want You To Want Me", "Please Please Baby", "Turn It Up, Turn It Loose". I can't believe my eyes: Mr. Yoakam has sheetmusic on a stand next to him! In the songs that have a twist of rock&roll he moves his hips like Elvis and holds up his guitar. Is all of it routine? He seems to be in a good mood though: "I haven't been here since a long time, that was in the club Paradiso.." Yes, that was the legendary concert of 1994, which was even broadcasted by Radio Veronica! It's a well-oiled machine for sure, the leadguitarist plays a mandolin-solo and the instrument is handed to him by a guitar-tech, ready to play. "A Long Way Home" and then he explains something about "Dwight's Used Records" before he sings "Stop The World And Let Me Off". Too bad, it's a quarter to ten now and I have to be fast in order to catch that last bus making a connection... The music accompanies me for a while when I walk away.
A day full of hard-core country. I used to play this all the time, also in my first series of radio-shows. Maybe my taste shifted a bit more towards alternative, a couple of friends told me the same today, another friend moved more towards bluegrass. Anyway, it was a great trip down memory lane!!

Written by Johanna J. Bodde, Jule 15th 2005, for Insurgent Country, Germany.

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