After traveling through the rest of the country for two years, the third annual Horde (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) festival finally made its way to the Los Angeles area. The all-day festival featured two stages, with tour-emphasis bands playing intermittently so attendees could hear as much music as possible.
As far as festivals go, the all-day music event presented an unpretentious, retro charm, much more relaxed and laid back than, say, Lollapalooza. Still, some element was missing, since the event felt more like a few outdoor concerts in the park than a full-fledged music fest.
Horde attracted a young, twentysomething, post-hippie peace-rocker crowd that filtered in slowly early in the day, filling the venue by the Allmans’ 7:30 p.m. showtime.
The non-music attractions around the concourse were a disappointment, certainly not nearly as elaborate as promised.
Musically, the festival was certainly not for those with short attention spans, as three or four of the mainstage bands — the Allman Brothers, Blues Traveler and Big Head Todd and the Monsters — are guitar-oriented jam-session bands.
Although the Allman Brothers’ Southern blues rock set started out slowly and a bit lifelessly, the band picked up through the middle of the set, particularly at “Midnight Rider,” awakening the sleepy audience and keeping it afoot with “Jessica.” The band’s magic and flair remains, though not as energetically as young, thirsty high-energy bands. Still the Allmans came back to climax in the last few songs, “One Way Out” and “Whipping Post.”
Blues Traveler, touring behind “Save His Soul,” obviously love touring, not just from their endless life on the road, but from their conviction to the music and the trance-like connection they create in their fans.
Lead singer/harmonica player John Popper, credited for founding the Horde fest for the sake of touring with a group of friends with a similar philosophy, produced poignant lyrics and showed a sly sense of humor, such as when he inserted bits of Beck’s “Loser” into the song “Save His Soul” and created a blues feel with elements of reggae to it.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters, who have just gone gold with their Giant record “Sister Sweetly” thanks to endless touring with little or no airplay, saw sparse crowds, and, despite high energy and a tight set, didn’t win over the majority.
Sheryl Crow, supporting her A&M debut “Tuesday Night Music Club” after years of session singing, finally had the opportunity to shine. Unfortunately, her voice strained in songs such as alternative single “Leaving Las Vegas” and cracked in others. Still, Crow maintained a girlish, country-flavored charm.
On the smaller stage, highlights were the tight-grooving Ugly Americans, who captivated audience members with their liveliness, and April’s Motel Room, which created an alternative edge atop the blues-based groove, and spiced it with minor keys.