Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

I'm setting the wayback machine for June, 1994 and a day at the Capitol Jazz Festival.

At the time, I was an avid listener of DC's Smooth Jazz station. One day, there was a commercial for the Capital Jazz Festival, a weekend affair in Manassas, a couple of hours away in Virginia. The Saturday lineup was enough to have me hyperventilating:
Craig T Cooper
Nelson Rangell
Pieces of a Dream
Yellowjackets
Ramsey Lewis
The Rippingtons

I owned three of the Rippington's CDs and one of the Yellowjackets. This event was right up my alley, since the rest of the lineup were in regular rotation on the station's playlist.

At work, we had a Ticketmaster outlet, so I went into Customer Service to see how much the tickets were. When I asked, I was handed the Events book, which had a flyer announcing the event. It would be held at Bull Run park, parking was 10 bucks, lawn seats were 35 bucks and reserved seats were 50 bucks each. Not bad for an all day event.

Then, the piece de resistance: A limited number of VIP tickets were available for 100 bucks. Free parking, unlimited backstage access, an event shirt or poster and food and beverage all day. Did I mention unlimited backstage access?

When you figure that 10 bucks for parking, the 30 or 40 bucks that would be spent on t shirts and the 30 or 40 bucks that would have been spent on food during a 10 hour day, that VIP pass sounded like a great deal. Sign me up.

The car loaded up with cabana chairs, sunscreen and a couple of books for the times when no one was playing, the drive down went quickly-until we got to Bull Run. I showed my receipt for the VIP tickets (that could only be picked up at Will Call), we were ushered to VIP parking right by the entrance. Sweet.

Inside the gate, we went to pick out the freebies. I picked out a shirt (and it's on the table next to me right now), ex picked out a poster and off we went to the VIP area.

The VIP area was right in front of the stage, just before the reserved folding chairs. We set up the cabana chairs and already, I was happy with the VIP decision, because my butt would have fallen asleep within a half hour in those chairs.

While waiting for Craig T. Cooper to take the stage, some event staff came around with take out boxes of cut up fresh fruit, cheese and crackers and bottled water. Oh, we were going to get pampered for the day? The first act hadn't even begun to play!

The show began and it was great to hear live jazz while enjoying the gorgeous weather. The whole day, even if I didn't own the artists CDs, many of the songs were familiar.

Behind a chain link fence that had a barricade in front of it (a mere 25 feet from our chairs), were hospitality tents. Fans were blowing, food was set up and most of the artists scheduled to perform were mixing and mingling with those of us who appreciated the music.

I'm not sure who I met first, but it was either Jeff Kashiwa or Steve Reid of the Ripps. All of the members of the band were very friendly and available to mingle, but these two really stood out as wanting to talk to the fans.

I recall having a long conversation with Jeff in which he told me a lot about the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) that features prominently in their albums with him. Very cool. Steve was definitely all drummer personality-the guy who is friend to everyone and passionate about the music. It was also cool to talk to Russ, but the man was pulled every which way all day for interviews. It kind of made me appreciate those interviews you hear on your favorite station, because your favorite artist usually does a dozen of them when they're in your town.

The Yellowjackets were equally approachable. Over the course of the day, I got to meet or talk with Russell Ferrante (also pulled away for interviewing), Jimmy Haslip and Bob Mintzer. Somewhere among all my pictures of the era, I've got pictures with all of these guys, as well as some great ones of them all performing.

Hearing the artists play after rubbing elbows all day was just mind blowing. You see all the preparations that go into putting on a huge show, from setting the stage, to warming up, to clothing changes, mics, etc. Then, hearing the songs you know from countless listens of the discs (and in some cases, stories about those songs from the artists themselves) is just mind boggling. It was a great day, and it was an event that I would gladly attend again.

The only buzz kill to the day was that the organizers said it would end at 8pm. There were delays in stage setups all day long that pushed the Rippingtons set back from the original start of 7pm to almost 7:30. At 8pm, the power was cut-mid song. They kept playing as if there wasn't an interruption. Bravo, guys. It wasn't your fault the set started late.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a music festival with VIP access, DO IT. You'll have unbelievable memories of the day.

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