This year, Spirit Fest trades in its traditional Labor Day slot for a date near Memorial Day, making extra work for itself in an attempt to create a weekend to remember. Lost in the shuffle was the ability to inform would-be festivalgoers about event headliners well in advance; Spirit Fest's musical lineup remained a mystery well into May.
"We would've liked for it to come together sooner," publicist Jeff Campbell says, "but the home-run acts hold out until the amphitheaters announce their schedules."
Choking up on the bat, Spirit Fest scored a double (Double Trouble, who also appeared at last year's Blues and Jazz Festival) but struck out when it came to locally tied general-interest acts such as Melissa Etheridge (who, having shared Red, White and Boom duty with Bon Jovi, Pink and Enrique Iglesias two summers ago, likely blanches at the thought of playing another area festival) and Sheryl Crow (who, like Etheridge, opted for a solo headlining tour). Recycling last year's talent from City Market and Beaumont parking-lot shows, Spirit Fest found Sister Hazel and Better Than Ezra. Blues whippersnapper Jonny Lang, who makes pained faces while delivering his solos despite being decades away from dealing with the arthritic fingers that doubtlessly plagued some of Spirit Fest's headliners in recent years, tops Saturday's lineup, and .38 Special shoots its Southern-fried blanks at the close of Sunday's ceremonies.
Last year's hope-for-the-future act, Snapdragon, saw its debut disc disappear, perhaps because singer Summer Rose dared to mock Eddie "The Root of All Evil" Money in this column. (Money appears again this year; apparently Spirit Fest organizers were receptive to his "I Wanna Go Back" demands.) Steering clear of the curse, Chris Evenson, guitarist for this year's token still-active act, Sense Field, discusses the other artists on the bill only in general, nonderogatory terms.
"This will definitely be the strangest lineup we've ever been on, although we just played with Earth, Wind & Fire in Florida," Evenson says. Even stranger is its slot; Sense Field plays Saturday afternoon at 4:15, opening for a seven-plus-hour blues block that includes Fast Johnny Ricker, Brody Buster, Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, Double Trouble and Lang. An emotionally engaging hardcore-lite outfit with a wispy radio hit in "Save Yourself," Sense Field lacks any trace of blues derivation. "We are more of an orchestral influenced band, if anything," Evenson says.
Having played a slew of Warped Tour dates, Sense Field is at least familiar with playing its anguished material outdoors, where its lyrical tears evaporate in the potent heat. "The overall tone of the music has a pretty positive and sunny feel to it," Evenson reasons. "We like the whole drinking-beer-in-the-sun kind of thing. It's fun!"