The Wall to Wall Guitar Festival, Take Two held at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts on the University of Illinois campus September 13-15 proved that guitar music, in its many forms, is alive and well in the legends and up and comers alike. From Kaki King and Natalia Zukerman to Buddy Guy and John McLaughlin, the various theaters, corridors, lobbies and patios of the Krannert Center exploded with the sounds of guitar: acoustic, electric, lap steel and oud. Toubab Krewe kicked off the weekend Thursday night with their American-rock-meets-West-African-rhythm sounds, and master slide guitar player Cindy Cashdollar joined bluesman Sonny Landreth for an unforgettable lesson in blues music. Also on Thursday evening, The Yohimbe Brothers featuring Vernon Reid and turntablist DJ Logic rocked the house. All the while, globe-trotting guitar anthropologist Bob Brozman and Grammy winner Ledward Kaapana played beautiful Hawaiian music under the stars. By late Thursday night, it was clear that the weekend would be full of unforgettable collaborations from a wide range of virtuoso musicians.
Festival highlights included the percussive sounds of young Kaki King who performed in the Wood, Steel, & Beyond concert with veteran strings-men Tony McManus and Alex de Grassi. A strong showing by Shawn Colvin and Natalia Zukerman assured the crowd that guitar music is not lost on young women, as their skillful playing highlighted their outstanding vocal performances. On Friday evening, the festival's range was undeniable as the Global Guitar concert, which featured international players Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Rahim AlHaj and Pierre Bensusan , came to a close, and the audience moved from the Great Hall to the Tryon Festival Theatre to enjoy the Latin sounds of multi-Grammy winners Los Lobos. The hill country, blues-infused rock 'n' roll of the North Mississippi Allstars offered what can only be called a romping throw down. And when they brought in good friend and Chicago's own Jake Cinninger (guitarist for Umphrey's McGee) to play a handful of tunes, the crowd couldn't have asked for more. The festival culminated Saturday evening as John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension took the stage in the Colwell Playhouse, playing to a sold out audience on the edge of their seats. A true master of his art, McLaughlin did not disappoint and received rave reviews across the board. Few performances could follow such a crowd pleasing show, but the Evening Blues concert with Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure & Banning Eyre, Jorma Kaukonen, Buddy Guy and Cindy Cashdollar was the perfect billing and the artists delivered a stellar performance.
Now in its second year, the first Wall to Wall Guitar Festival took place in 2005 and was a huge success. Building on the momentum of that inaugural year, The Wall to Wall Guitar Festival, Take Two offered more than 20 performances by more than 30 artists from all over the world. The state-of-the-art facilities at the Krannert Center, paired with a handpicked line-up by Artistic Advisor David Spelman, provide Wall to Wall with top-of-the-line acoustic rooms to showcase the outstanding talent of some of the world's finest guitar players. Truly a festival with something for everyone, Wall to Wall sent this year's crowd home more than satisfied, and already asking about the 2009 event. With all that music, it's no wonder the festival takes a year off to gear up for the next one.
For an inside listen on all things Wall to Wall, be sure to check out www.walltowallguitar.com and Tim Brookes' podcast series and a handful of featured performances available on iTunes .