To check out pictures of other bands I was able to catch at the festival, CLICK HERE.
They call him the “screaming eagle of soul”, and Charles Bradley was one of the reasons I was so pumped for FYF Fest this year. I’m a big fan of the funk the soul music Daptone Records puts out. Even though I’m a fan of all music, if you were to make me choose one genre of music to live with for the rest of my life, I’d probably pick soul music. From Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings to Lee Fields, Daptone’s catalog is a soul music lover’s wet-dream.
Even though he released a highly regarded album, “No Time for Dreaming”, in 2011, I really didn’t know about his music until someone saw my Lee Fields LP and asked, have you ever heard Charles Bradley sing? My friend mentioned in passing that there was a documentary about him released in 2012, but I apparently didn’t pay attention. More to come on that point later. I googled some videos on YouTube and I was hooked.
There was something about the way he sang. He seemed to be able to communicate so much pain and life through his music. I read up on some small articles online about his upbringing, and from what I read, he had led a hard life. When I found out that Mr. Bradley was doing an artist signing session at 3:00pm, I made it a point to get to the festival grounds early. I’m so glad I did.
I got to have a chat with Mr. Bradley about his music, and about his motivation. What I asked him how he kept on pushing with music at the age of 65, all he looked me in the eyes and simply said, “The music kept calling”. He asked me if I was from Los Angeles, and when I responded yes, he told me that he once used to live on Los Angeles, but got a jaywalking ticket one day, even though there was nobody on the street, and said that that was probably a sign that he needed to move back to New York. When I asked him how it was performing with Bonnie Raitt, he told me that if I thought the day was hot, he had just arrived from Arizona and it was hotter than I could have believed. He mentioned that he loved San Francisco, and said that he was playing a small gig there soon and that if I ever had a chance to catch him at a smaller, club venue, I wouldn’t regret the decision. When I asked him why it took so long to finally get some music out there, he said that nobody had faith in him years ago, and I told him that it’s always “better late than never”. He nodded and with that the usher asked me to wrap it up as some people had just hopped in line. I asked him to sign the two LPs I had purchased (I already had one, by the way) and watched him methodically plan out what he wanted to write. He graciously thanked me for stopping by and I told him that the pleasure was all mine, and that I was eagerly looking forward to his set.
As an aside, I was reminded after the music festival that there was a documentary about Charles titled “Soul of America”. I watched it when I got home late Sunday evening on Netflix. I may have been a little exhausted from the weekend full of music, but that movie moved me. I’ll admit, I asked some questions that easily could have been answered from watching the movie, but what moved me to tears were the little things that all made sense to me after the fact. Charles Bradley sings the truth because when he sings, he’s singing from his life. When I watched him sign my LP’s, I didn’t realize that he basically learned to read and write in the past few years. When I look at what he wrote, “Thank you Brother with Love” … I had a lump develop in my throat.
Charles’ set at FYF Festival is perhaps in my top 5, and quite possibly in my top 3, of 2013. It was all that I could have wished for and more. Hyperbole is warranted. I loved watching Charles Bradley perform. He was probably my favorite act so far this year to photograph. So much emotion. So much energy. Even at 65, he could out-perform almost all of the current pop stars under the rug. Backed by the tight sounding Menahan Street Band, his live show was truly something to behold. They call him the “screaming eagle of soul”, and he screamed that soul into the audience’s hearts and mind.
Towards the end of his set he imparted a little wisdom to his adoring fans. He said, “The Brain is a computer, you tell it what to do. Do you want to do what it wants you to do, or do you want to do what YOU want to do.” I took it as his philosophy on life. Do what your heart tells you. His heart told him to follow music. 65 years into the game, his heart proved that the little morsel of wisdom true.
Cheers, Charles. You were the first act of all the acts I wanted to see at FYF Fest, and I could have easily left right after a satisfied customer.