By MIKEL TOOMBS
Bumbershoot 2010 got off to a rousing start Saturday, in part because of a surprising set by local favorite Star Anna that wasn’t so much all Star as it was all-star.
The ascendant Ellensburg singer-songwriter was joined onstage at the Starbucks Stage (that is, the Mural Amphitheater) by vocalist Carrie Akre (pure, gritty goodness) and guitarist Mike McCready, who, um, jammed on three songs with Star’s newly reconfigured band, the Laughing Dogs. (More on the two Seattle rock icons later.)
The two new Dogs were replacement bassist Keith Ash and organist Ty Baillie, whose addition at times enabled Star to approximate her heroes, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and at others turned the musicians into a full-tilt boogie band. Baillie didn’t always seem a good fit with Star’s earlier material, while one heavy-rocking new song rather amusingly recalled the heyday of Grand Funk Railroad (two words: more cowbell).
Much like Saturday Mainstage headliner Bob Dylan (whose own new keyboardist is, well, Bob Dylan), Star Anna has taken a bluesier direction with her new material, which was well in evidence Saturday afternoon. The riveting “For When I Go” was perfectly matched with a vintage Memphis R&B arrangement, and Star and Akre’s cover of Elvis’ “Power of My Love” proved a gutsy blues-mama shout-out.
Star and company enter Stone Gossard’s studio in about a week to record the promising new songs. Some will feature fellow Pearl Jam guitarist McCready, who brought his rock star energy to “Space Beneath the Door” and the more recent “Wolves in Disguise” (paging Neko Case) and “All Alone in This Together.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mikel Toombs, who writes a weekly music column for the San Diego News Network, is an occasional contributor to GeneStout.com. For another recent story by Toombs on singer-songwriter Joe Pug, click here.