Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Pure Imagination Festival brings a myriad of sights and sounds to Prescott

Pure Imagination Festival

Who: Ziggy Marley, Los Lobos, Lucinda Williams, Allison Russell, Capital Cities, more

Where: Watson Lake Park in Prescott, Arizona

When: Saturday, May 20, 2023

For more Information: pureimaginationfestival.com

Review by Robert Kinsler

Photography by Daryl Weisser

Leading up to the arrival of the Pure Imagination Festival in Prescott, AZ on Saturday (May 20), almost every day earlier in the week saw the arrival of strong afternoon showers identified with the so-called "Monsoon Season" (which typically doesn't arrive in the area until June 15).

A view of The Brummies performing on the Bucky's Stage against the
Granite Dells backdrop at the Pure Imagination Music Festival in Prescott, Arizona.

Indeed, around the time the gates opened at 11 a.m. at Watson Lake Park, showers loomed and then fell not long after (400 or so miles away in Pasadena, CA, the Cruel World Festival came to an abrupt end when a severe weather alert halted Iggy Pop's performance with an announcement for fans to immediately evacuate the Rose Bowl. Sadly, headliner Siouxsie of Siouxsie and the Banshees' first scheduled U.S. performance in 15 years never materialized).

Singer-guitarist Johan Glidden performing with his band at Pure Imagination.

Just as magical as the heavenly setting that includes Watson Woods and dramatic boulders of the Granite Dells that greeted eager concertgoers, the skies over Watson Lake cleared before Prescott-based singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Johan Glidden took the stage at 12:30 p.m. And despite ominous forecasts on my smartphone, no more rain fell during the festival and sunshine was a welcome hallmark during much of the event.

Johan Glidden at the piano.

Glidden attracted a good-sized crowd to the Subaru Stage with his inviting and melodic style of folk rock centered on exceptional songcraft. Backed by a terrific three-member band, Glidden proved himself to be an engaging frontman armed with a great voice and solid skills on guitar and piano.

Glory Arellano performing with Johan
Glidden at the festival.

Among the memorable songs showcased during his 30-minute set was a poignant new track "Dust To Dust" enhanced by the sublime singing and violin work of his sister Glory Arellano, as well as a beautiful new track "Double Yellow Lines" anchored by his lovely falsetto-adorned lead vocals and the beautifully-rendered original "Flying Over Neverland," the latter a compelling look at the move into adulthood. 

Musical diversity was a key part of the magic of Pure Imagination. Additionally, a wide range of vendors offered everything from great food and drinks to festival merchandise, jewelry, and eye-catching tie-dye shirts.

Members of the Hopi Tribe performing at
Pure Imagination.

After Glidden's set, members of the Hopi Tribe (a sovereign nation located in northeastern Arizona) performed two musical pieces bolstered by dancers dressed in traditional attire. With the powerful rhythms of a beating drum and exuberant chants of several men from the tribe, dancers 
 both young adults and children  moved together artfully on the Subaru Stage.

Rachael Plays Guitar performing on Bucky's Stage.

Rachael Plays Guitar was the first artist to perform on Bucky's Stage. The ensemble's sound tapped into several styles including reggae, jazz and folk, with Rachael's strong soprano vocals and guitar skills as well as the virtuoso chops of her band mates (including trumpet player Stephy Leigh Griffin ) elevating the songs played at the festival. Note: Rachael Plays Guitar is scheduled to headline at their album release party at The Elks Theatre in Prescott on Saturday, Aug 26. Learn more via the artist's Facebook page HERE

Jared James Nichols is a powerful singer and
lead guitarist.

Singer-songwriter/guitarist Jared James Nichols provided the most hard rocking set of the festival, bringing his signature blues-rock brew in what he acknowledged was his "first time in Prescott." A masterful showman whose fret work is especially impressive since he plays without a pick, Nichols would frequently play flashy solos while his drummer and bassist created a driving rhythm to propel the songs. Standouts included "Honey, Forgive Me," "Threw Me to the Wolves" and a genuinely ferocious cover of Mountain's 1970 hit "Mississippi Queen."

From left, John Davidson and Jacob Bryant of The Brummies.

The Brummies
drove 25 hours to get from their hometown of Nashville, Tennessee to perform at Pure Imagination and didn't waste a second of their 43-minute set as they showcased a myriad of indie rock superpowers. The quartet's winning sound combined rock and pop stylings stretching from the 1960s to the '00s, with the crowd really enjoying the band's energetic approach too. 

Jacob Bryant enjoying the moment.

Singer-guitarists John Davidson and Jacob Bryant, as well as drummer Trevor Davis and a touring member on bass guitar impressed on the melodic reggae-tinged "Sunshine," fast indie rockers "After Midnight" and "Wrong Idea" (where the band's rapid-fire approach drew favorable comparisons with Two Door Cinema Club), and aptly-titled new song "Cosmic Space Girl." The band's final selection, the procrastination-themed "Do It Tomorrow," was a free-for-all with almost a dozen dazzlingly-dressed dancers joining the Brummies on the stage to elevate the fun quotient. 

Dirtwire features the talents of Evan Fraser, left, and David Satori.

Dirtwire's David Satori on the Subaru Stage at Watson Lake Park.

Evan Fraser at festival.

 was the most groundbreaking artist that performed at the fest this year. The duo comprised of David Satori and Evan Fraser 
 who met in 2012 while both were students at the California Institute of the Arts  brought a genuine wow factor to the event. To label them as "country electronica" or "swamptronic" is accurate but what lifted the set was their ability to create and perform instantly-winning material enhanced by their powers to perform not only on the likes of percussion, keyboards and slide guitar, but a megaphone, banjo, nagonis (West African guitars), Mbira (a finger-plucking traditional instrument from Africa) harmonica and many more. Those instruments are blended with modern technology that was evident during Dirtwire's 45-minute outing. A truly riveting set that had many in the crowd dancing and swept up in the intoxicating sound. Learn more about Dirtwire via the band's official website HERE.

Ponderosa Grove performing at the Pure Imagination Music Festival.

Ponderosa Grove singer Candace Devine
moving with the music.

Ponderosa Grove performed a set of material rooted in classic rock, soul and R&B. Singer Candace Devine's impressive vocals used in the service of great songs would be enough on their own to celebrate the group's appearance, but Drew Hall and Joshua Taylor displayed their own stellar strengths as singers and guitarists. The troupe displayed its top-tier approach via a number of songs including "High Road" and "Save My Soul," the latter featuring some masterful guitar work from both Hall and Taylor. It should also be noted that Devine  via her company Further West  is the president and founder of Pure Imagination, which held its inaugural festival on May 21, 2022. 

Capital Cities performing before an enthusiastic crowd at dusk.

Capital Cities
' indietronica sound fueled a dance party in front of Bucky's Stage with Sebu Simonian and Ryan Merchant leading the group through uptempo dance favorites "Kangaroo Court," "Vowels" and the set-closing "Safe and Sound."  

Lucinda Williams and Her Band performing at Pure Imagination.

Lucinda Williams in Prescott on May 20, 2023.

Lucinda Williams is widely regarded as one of America's greatest living songwriters. The 70-year-old songstress certified her acclaimed status during a bewitching 10-song performance. Backed by a solid four-man band, Williams hit artistic pay dirt at every turn. The rollicking roots rocker "Protection," affecting country folk classic "Drunken Angel" (with its euphoric chorus) and "Lake Charles" were early standouts. The power of the set continued with the rocking "Let's Get the Band Back Together," a freewheeling cover of Memphis Minnie's "You Can't Rule Me," sweeping "Out of Touch" and a truly driving version of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" that became a sing-along with the crowd to end her set. 

David Hidalgo, left, and Steve Berlin of legendary band Los Lobos.

Los Lobos multi-instrumentalist / singer Cesar Rosas.

Los Lobos tearing it up at the Pure Imagination Music Festival.

Los Lobos
 always brings such as positive and uplifting spirit to the band's live sets it's no wonder they were selected to perform at Pure Imagination. The six-member East Los Angeles-spawned collective performed a mix of songs sung in Spanish and English. Among the memorable cuts was a fervent version of the '50-styled "Evangeline," brisk "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes" from their By the Light of the Moon album, timeless "Will the Wolf Survive?" and rousing take on Ritchie Valens' "Come On, Let's Go."

Nappy Roots entertaining the crowd at Pure Imagination.

Allison Russell
Other artists who performed during the last half of the festival were pioneering hip hop group Nappy Roots and rising songstress Allison Russell. A highlight of Nappy Roots' set was an original reworking of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car," while Russell and her group impressed on their opener "Hy-Brasil" with its a cappella vocal opening and the lovely "You're Not Alone."

Capping the day-long event was a performance by Ziggy Marley and his large ensemble of musicians and singers. The eight-time Grammy winner's feel-good vibes and eternal message of peace through the power of reggae music was in tune with the positive spirit experienced throughout Pure Imagination.

Below are some more great images taken by photographer Daryl Weisser at the festival.

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