WestFest 2002

30 June 2002

Pikes Peak Center, Colorado Springs, CO


I saw WestFest in 1998, and returned this time primarily because WestFest stopped in my home town this year.

For my second WestFest in a row, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band signed onto the billing. The Dirt Band has, through the years, contained members such as Bernie Leadon (formerly of the Eagles), former Poco member Al Garth, and Jackson Browne. This version of the Dirt Band now includes, for the first time in 15 years, long-time banjo player John McEuen. The only songs I recognized were Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles", Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere", their smash 1980 hit "American Dream", and their encore title track to their 1972 album, Will The Circle Be Unbroken.

But, the real reason for my attendance was POCO, who performed an 10-song stock set, including "Legend", their 1989 #1 Adult Contemporary hit "Call It Love", their tribute to Roy Rogers called "Rose of Cimmaron", and a brand new bluesy, country number by Rusty Young called "If Your Heart Needs A Hand". Later came a song [that appeared on a Playboy film soundtrack] called "Spellbound", Rusty's "Rough Edges", a rough version of Richie Furay's "Good Feelin' To Know", "Crazy Love", "Heart Of The Night", and an encore of "Boomerang".

Poco recently completed their first studio album in 13 years, set for a September release, tentatively titled Running Horse.

Michael Martin Murphey brought out an all-acoustic band this time around--no drummer, no keyboard player. Thus, "Wildfire" sounded different, interesting. He opened his set with "America The Beautiful", the National Anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance. He yelled the words, "Under God" three times, in obvious response to a recent court decision declaring the words, "Under God" unconstituional.

Okay, time for a huge tangent of commentary. When I attended 12th grade, my high school asked everyone to stand for the pledge of allegiance on a daily basis. A couple teachers even attempted to coerce me into standing. After speaking with the vice principal, and pointing out State law, both teachers retreated their attempted orders. Personally, I don't see how one can prove that a student stating the pledge of allegiance five times a week from September - June in public forum, and yet not stating the pledge for 2 1/2 months in the summer, will, with any scientific certainty, improve our national security posture. Though I believe in the United States, and the republic for which it stands, and the goal of liberty and justice for all, I think each student has (and should have) the right to use or not use the words, "Under God". The pledge should be voluntary, nationwide.

A tangent, sure, kinda like Mr. Murphey's lyrical repetition. Personally, I would have been happier with him singing three different versions of "Wildfire". That way he could say that three of the songs on his setlist were actually hits. But, I respect his opinion.

In between acts, some dude recited a long poem called "Cowboy Up", about encouraging people to stand up for what they believe in.

Despite the smokey skies, my friend Jack and I enjoyed a nice patio dinner, and a pleasant musical festival.

[***1/2] - Steven T.


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