Willie Phoenix will play this Saturday, June 27th, at 5:05 pm on the Bozo (Main) Stage at the 2015 edition of Comfest. As summer and warm weather bring out the most presumptuous aspects of Colin's & Ricki's personalities, they have seen fit to choose Willie's set-list for him. They did not confer on their choices and certainly didn't consult Willie.
Colin G. - Having played and attended countless Comfest shows, I will share my personal philosophy on what kind of set-list works best at the Capital City's biggest festival. Comfest is NOT the show to break out a bunch of new songs or take your crowd on a new direction or a jazz odyssey. Comfest is a show where the crowd consists of: A) people who haven't seen you in a long time; and B) people who are seeing you for the first time.
So, in my opinion, a Comfest set should be a good representation of your entire career so people get the proper idea of what your band can do best. It's a career-spanning greatest hits list. I'm not saying you can't mix in some new tunes, but don't forget to trot out that old warhorse that your die-hard fans love hearing. Oh, are you are tired of playing that one? Too bad. Just play the damn song and stop being so selfish. Do you think Cheap Trick loves playing "I Want You to Want Me" every single night for 35 years? They play it because the fans love it. It's a two-way street.
Having said that, this is the set-list I would draw up for Willie Phoenix for his Bozo Stage appearance Saturday, June 27th at 5pm. Ricki is the true Willie expert at Pencilstorm, but here is my two cents.
Fight / My Apartment / Heart Goes Boom / Willie's choice of a new song / She's So Powerful / Hey Little Girl / Willie's choice of a new song / New York Is Burning / Stick with Me / Gasoline
Take it Ricki......
Ricki C. - Willie Phoenix’s Comfest 2015 set begins with rhythm guitarist Kim Jacobs knockin’ out the riff to My Apartment on her trusty Fender Tele. Bassist Myke Rock and drummer Jim Johnson fall flawlessly into the pocket and the band riffs away that way for maybe a full minute before Willie throws in the lead guitar figure while still offstage. Willie saunters onstage from stage left, knockin’ out the riff, gets to the stage-center mic, throws up his left hand, the band stops on a dime, Willie informs us, “This is my apartment, you can’t tell me what to do, love” and the band is off to the races. By three minutes later, when Willie is yellin’ “This is my apartment / This is my ROCK & ROLL” the boys & girl have got the Comfest crowd in the palm of their hands, and Willie has once again laid claim to the legacy of Columbus r&r that is rightfully his.
An unseen roadie tosses Willie a harmonica rack from offstage, Willie drops it over his head in one fluid motion and – holy shit! – the band races into Electric Folk Dreamin’ Man from 1990 or so. They tear through three minutes of prime folk-rock/power-pop, and then – without missin’ a beat – Jim starts poundin’ out a slab of beatdown-boogie and the band snarls into the Z.Z.Top-inspired fever of Heart Goes Boom for ten minutes or so, effortless and rockin’.
Willie gives the somewhat stunned & reeling Comfest crowd a little breather after the opening onslaught with that new tune of his that namechecks The Velvet Underground, knocking out taut little lead breaks on his Strat between the verses. A roadie walks out and switches Willie’s electric for an acoustic and – holy shit, again! – Willie starts singing, “New York is burning, she won’t write / My heart is skipping lunch tonight.” The Soul Underground falls into line and the four of them bash through an absolutely majestic version of New York Is Burning. At some point in the song that unnamed roadie sets Willie’s electric out on the stage, on a stand back by Willie’s amp.
After raving vocally about New York burning, at the end of the tune Willie throws the acoustic to the offstage roadie, picks up his electric and rips into a pyro solo that illustrates & illuminates the title of the tune just like Hendrix did after Dylan’s line “And the wind begins to HOWL” in Jimi’s cover of “All Along The Watchtower.” Willie solos for three or four minutes; Kim, Myke & Jim bash the song to a close and without any break Willie is off into the inescapable, unstoppable riff to Gloria, and even I have to give him his due and that indulgence after the set he’s pulled off to this point.
Willie keeps Gloria to a taut ten minutes, the band waves goodbye and leaves the stage to a raving response from the Comfest crowd, then Willie walks back onstage alone with a beat-to-shit Ovation acoustic I haven’t seen him use since sometime in the 1970’s. He launches solo acoustic into a ten-verse autobiographical tune about the decades of his life he’s devoted to rock & roll. The chorus of the song is “All the places I’ve seen / All the people I’ve been” and it distills all the music Willie has played since the late 1960’s: from The Boppers to Little Eric to Romantic Noise to The Buttons to the A&M Big Band to The Shadowlords to The True Soul Rockers to the unnamed blues bands of the 2000’s right up to and through Blues Hippy & The Soul Underground.
I can’t believe my eyes or ears. The song is killer. It’s like one of those Rick Rubin productions of Johnny Cash in the American Recordings years. Willie punctuates the verses with wild harmonica solos from the rack around his neck, and you can’t even keep up with the words & images spilling off of the stage. There’s no pyrotechnics, no performance, no playin’-behind-his-back, no divin’-into-the-crowd; there’s just a man, his words, his guitar & harp. It’s mesmerizing. Willie finishes with a final harmonica solo and the crowd is almost too stunned to respond. Willie deploys one of his patented grins, flashes a peace sign and walks offstage to rapturous applause. All the places he’s seen. All the people he’s been. I wouldn’t wanna be the act that has to try to follow Willie Phoenix at Comfest. – Ricki C. / June 20th, 2015.
My Apartment / Electric Folk Dreamin' Man / Heart Goes Boom / Out Of Your Mind / New York Is Burning / Gloria / All The People I've Been
Below: Willie performing "Heart Go Boom" from the This One's For Andy DVD. And "Gloria" from Cleveland 2014.