You could tell before the music began that the audience of the Deep Roots Blossom Blues Festival was in for a treat. On Saturday May 28, Convocation Hall buzzed with warm summer air, a few June bugs dancing front of the spotlights, friends, families, community members and visitors to the Valley for the 79th Apple Blossom Festival.
After an introduction by 2010’s Queen Annapolisa, Jens Jeppesen took the stage for a powerful first set. Jeppesen, Matt Andersen’s cousin, hails from New Denmark in Northwestern New Brunswick and is at the forefront of the province’s “New Grass” movement. His songs have a country, bluegrass feel but are also infused with youth and energy. Jens’ lyrics tell stories of simple tradition, love, life, work and hardship. If you want to get a taste of Jeppesen’s sound, check out “No Aces,” “Time Alone” and “Time to Go.” Jens mentioned that he usually has a band to accompany him. Nevertheless, he more than held his own as an acoustic solo performer. Although he has not been able to form a niche in Nova Scotia yet, his outstanding performance at the Blossom Blues concert will hopefully bring him back to the Valley in the fall for Deep Roots.
Jeppesen has worked with the Hupman Brothers, recording a few songs on his most recent album with Scott Hupman, so it was most appropriate for Jeppesen to introduce the Humpman Brothers (as well as Ariana Nasr and Ian Sherwood on saxophone, Mike Caroll, Caleb Myles, Bob Federer), as the second act of the night. “The Hups” as some call them, have made the Valley their base, making regular appearances at Paddy’s Pub in Kentville on Thursdays. I have enjoyed their music in a more casual setting (at a barn dance at the Old Orchard Inn and at the Wolfville Farmers Market) but was blown away by their performance on stage at Convocation Hall. The group had everybody in the audience tapping their feet and dancing along in their seats. The Hupman Brothers never fail to impress, their original beats and seamless collaboration with one another provides for a great show. Their love of music and performing is contagious – I was able to feel their energy through their songs and onstage presence. The Hupman Brothers and their band played songs from both of their most recent albums Loveseat Volumes 1 and 2, as well as some old favourites. Unfortunately, it was difficult to here the saxophone players unless they were playing talented solos.
After the intermission (which lacked much needed water or snacks), Liam Potter, a 12 year old guitar player from Kingsport, took the stage. Despite some troubles with the amp, Liam wowed the audience with his performance, earning a standing ovation and an encore. His confidence and excellent “guitarmanship” will take him far in the future.
When Matt Andersen took the stage, he mentioned that Liam was a difficult act to follow. Of course, Andersen put on a wonderful show without trouble. His songs were intertwined with humorous anecdotes about his recent move to Cape Breton and his new puppy. Matt’s voice resonated perfectly in Convocation Hall where he played with unparalleled energy and power, never seeming exhausted even with sweat dripping down his guitar. Whipping his long locks around to the beat, Matt played a long, but very enjoyable set. He played mellower songs such as “So Gone Now” as well as a cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” but also stuck to the heart pounding, intense beats he is most treasured for. I enjoyed “Canadian Winter Blues,” and “Devil’s Bride.” Cousins Jens and Matt came out and played together near the end, sporting similar sideburns, plaid shirts, and a love of music.
The theme of this year’s apple blossom was “Our Families Our Blossoms” and as MC Blaine Morrison mentioned throughout the night, the sounds and atmosphere radiating through University hall brought the audience and the musicians together as family and community. Arguably one the best part of the night was when all 9 performers jammed together on stage. Liam Potter, the Humpman Brothers, Jens Jeppesen and Matt Anderson covered The Band’s “The Weight” and “I Will Be Released” – a perfect end to a great night of good company and good music.
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