TINLEY PARK, Ill. -- From the stage of the World Music Theatre,
Barenaked Ladies vocalist Steven Page surveyed the crowd that had convened
for the Chicago-area stop of the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing
"Are there any hippies in the house?" Page yelled. And, of course, there were.
Hippies are as much a part of H.O.R.D.E. tours as tanktop tan-lines and navel
So what else is new?
Well, this year, plenty.
The seventh edition of the annual H.O.R.D.E. festival has slimmed down,
jam-wise, and added an eclectic array of bands that expand the tour's
roots-driven tradition. Yes, tour staple Blues Traveler are in the bluesy, jamming
mode and Ben Harper and Gov't Mule have their rock-ier aspects.
But this year's H.O.R.D.E. lineup includes a wide range of other acts, from the
unbridled ska sounds of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones to the quirky crowd
routines of the Barenaked Ladies to the softer shadings of Alana Davis and
Paula Cole. On some dates the H.O.R.D.E. will also include such modern-rock
stars as Fastball and the Smashing Pumpkins.
While the new lineup had its musical points, the lack of a defining stylistic theme
contributed to the feeling that a lot of concert-goers were merely killing time
waiting for specific acts. As Lisa Telling of Chicago said, "Blues Traveler are the
only reason to be here. The rest of the bands suck." She paused, then added,
"except for Ben Harper."
The shifting focus, however, was good news to some. "H.O.R.D.E. will be good
as long as John Popper doesn't do any 30-minute harmonica solos," Scott
Crooks, a three-year H.O.R.D.E. veteran from Chicago, said.
As is the case with most tours, the bottom line on the new H.O.R.D.E. slant will
be decided by the bottom line. Thus far, it hasn't been encouraging. Without
such crowd-pleasers of the past as jam-rock favorites Dave Matthews Band and
blues-rock vets the Black Crowes, this year's H.O.R.D.E. has had to contend
with venues that have been less than full. The opening date of the tour last
week in Minneapolis was even scrapped due to slow ticket sales.
But the show -- and the tour -- is slogging on. Davis opened with a brief set of
four songs, and Cole followed with an hour of songs that set the mostly mellow
tone of the day. Many concert-goers chose to spend the afternoon sunning
themselves on the lawn, playing cards and napping under the perfect, cloudless
Later in the afternoon, Harper warmed up the crowd, emotionally and
physically. His set artfully swung through various moods, starting as slow and
languid as the day itself and building with more guitar and percussion. Now and
then, there were acoustic lulls, but these soon gave way to swelling sonic
crests. At the end, Harper stood at center stage -- no mic and no guitar --
swaying while the music swirled around him.
The Barenaked Ladies then abruptly changed the pace, with a crowd-winning
set that was witty and uproarious. They peppered their act with well-known fan
cues (when to throw Kraft dinners, or wave their shirts), and then improvised in
response to what was going on around them at the time. At this show, the
Ladies took their inspiration from a festival organization that was giving out
condoms. Midway through their set they launched into the "female condom
The refrain, "Who needs sex when you've got female condoms," galvanized the
Before the group's set, singer Page said that the interactive parts of their shows
go over well with crowds. "It's not as much of an inside joke as people think," he
said, adding that as the tour progresses, the Ladies will be playing more songs
from their new disc, Stunt. "By the end of summer people will have gotten
to know [the album] better," Page said.
The Ladies' set was also enhanced by the unusual seating policy at this year's
H.O.R.D.E. shows. According to the tour's program, the pavilion seats are open
to anyone until the last two sets -- unless the ticket-holder of the seat shows up.
So, during the Barenaked Ladies' third-to-last slot, the pavilion was filled with
fans who had turned out to see them specifically. The effect was electrifying. On
the sing-along to "Brian Wilson," 10,000 voices carried the hit word-for-word in a
display that sent chills.
"I have one of their albums, but I think I'll go out and pick up some more,"
Headlining the second stage, Gov't Mule seemed intent on defining themselves
as an entity separate from the Allman Brothers, from whom they have now fully
split. "Everything else was just foreplay," drummer Matt Abts explained. "This
year we're really fuckin'."
Will they win over fans of say, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones?
"If you're a music fan, why not?" singer/guitarist Warren Haynes said. Abts
agreed. "If we had horns, we'd probably be a ska band."
The Bosstones put on a fairly traditional set, mixing up old classics such as
"Where Did You Go" with their better-known recent hits "Royal Oil" and
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excerpt). They were joined onstage by Popper for two songs, including a
Bosstones fave, Bob Marley's "Simmer Down."
Lead growler Dickey Barrett was proud to have Popper's harmonica join the
Bosstones' already-rich lineup. "What a life!" he told the crowd. "Theoretically I
should be tending bar or working on your roof, but I get to play with John
Headliners Blues Traveler have the easiest musical task at this year's
H.O.R.D.E. Basically all they have to do is trot out their usual blues-based
jamming style to keep their fans happy, which they did during their closing set.
Chris Cormier, a Blues Traveler fan from Chicago, is following H.O.R.D.E. for
the first part of the tour through the Midwest. He said he couldn't have been
happier with the set the group played at the festival's opening at Alpine Valley.
While waiting for Blues Traveler to take the stage at this stop, he showed off the
tattoo on his arm of the late Beatles leader John Lennon and said, "They closed
with 'Imagine.' I cried."