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Blues Heaven

Performances outshine soggy Saturday, sunny Sunday at 18th annual Blues Fest:

Jagged bolts of lightning sparkled in the night sky like a surreal fireworks show as Savoy Brown plugged in on the Budweiser Main Stage at the New York State Blues Fest Saturday night in Clinton Square.

Electricity also surged from the stage ignited by Kim Simmonds' fiery Flying V guitar.

After an enthusiastic introduction by blues impresario and actor Dan Aykroyd, Savoy Brown tore into Saturday's climactic set with "Long as I Got You" which Simmonds capped off by alternating low-string riffs with screaming high-note runs.

As Aykroyd bounced to the tunes backstage, Simmonds was ably backed by bassist Gerry Sorrentino and drummer Mario Staiano.

The 61-year-old Welsh-born guitarist displayed complete mastery of the instrument on "Goin' to Louisiana" which he deftly textured with toggle-switch manipulations.

Though he's been playing blues-rock for four decades, Simmonds only recently took over vocal chores, but his performance here Saturday showed him in strong voice well-suited to his decidedly declarative music. Still, it's his guitar work that gave the background lightning a run for its money.

He replaced the V with a red Les Paul for "I Feel All Right" and picked up an acoustic six-string for "Out of the Blue" (the title tune of his recent solo Blue Wave disc). In between, he played a traditional blues on an old hollow-body Gibson that he called, "My blues guitar. Why? Because it's held together with tape and strings."

After incendiary versions of Savoy Brown's Seventies' hits "Hellbound Train" and "Needle and Spoon," thunder gave way to torrents of rain, negating an encore as the 6,000 or so in the crowd rushed for cover.

It had rained mid-day as well while Popa Chubby chugged out his Big Apple blues. The big man from the Bronx jawed with hundreds of fans who braved the heavy showers with panchos and umbrellas. "You don't care, do you?" He asked about the weather. "All you want to do is have a good time."

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