By the second-to-last act on the first of two nights, the first annual Mighty Mississippi Music Festival, part of Bridging The Blues, was wet. Very wet. But as the North Mississippi Allstars, Friday’s headliners who’s force-filled live show was rained out, are fond of singing, “Mississippi knows how to party”.
People danced in the pouring rain and under trees and tents, care free and enjoying a twisted change of pace. Crowd favorite and local legend Steve Azar stood on the stage during gushing winds and sideways rain to play some favorites. Dozens ignored the rain and lightning, snatching ponchos off of the ground to run out and dance in the mud. Other fans were still buying tickets to enjoy the show.
Usually, a torrential rain would dampen the second day as well, but this was no ordinary blues festival. This was a Greenville, Mississippi music festival, beautifully set right on the Mississippi River and surrounded by farmland. Farmers brought out their equipment and giant tractors; usually reserved for tilling the nearby cotton and cornfields. They effortlessly pulled cars out of the sticky mud, pumped standing water back into the river, and prepped the fest for a blowout second day. After coordinators and volunteers tirelessly worked through the night, the crowds began filing in for Sunday’s all-star lineup.
The Mighty Mississippi fest was a new concept — merging with Highway 61 Blues Festival and bringing a wider swath of music. Edwin McCain, Cedric Burnside, Drive-By Truckers, Lightning Malcom, delta blues legend L.C. Ulmer, and more played on two stages on a beautiful, sun-drenched day in the delta as the Bridging The Blues flags hung high on the main stage.
The smells of BBQ, beer, and traditional New Orleans cuisine courtesy of the amazing nearby restaurant Posecai’s filled the air. Children played in the grass fields. Next door camp sites smelled of cooked hot dogs and burgers. The festival, compete with ample shade, a five story lookout overlooking the river and the festival, camp sites, and shuttles for parking, was in the perfect location — only two short miles outside of Greenville.
“We like to take a journey with our show”, says Edwin McCain’s energetic drummer Big Tez. Indeed, even in the rare muddy spot left in front of the stage, people danced and grooved to some of his biggest hits. “We’re ‘singer songwriter soul blues'” said Edwin. Cedric Burnside, grandson of Hill Country legend R.L. Burnside, beat on the drums and wailed out a healthy mix of originals and hill country classics. The owner of the Highway 61 Blues Museum in Leland was caught dancing on the stage. Lightning Malcom, backed by T-Model Ford grandson Spud, rounded out the blues stage, playing crowd favorites and inciting screaming, dancing, and juke joint carrying on with his unique delta style.
Drive-By Truckers, the acclaimed alternate country/southern rock band, played southern rock as it should be — with three guitars, rollicking keyboards, and hard driving drums. People packed in front of the stage, dancing, laughing and having fun — some even stood on top of the massive red tractors that dotted the event as only a Mississippi festival could pull off.
By the end of Sunday night, one thing was clear: Mississippi knows how to throw a festival, and Mississippi’s guests and residents know how to make it fun. the Mighty Mississippi Music Fest in coming years will only grow.