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Standard Times

Blues legend Zac Harmon heals San Angelo with the blues

Federico Martinez , San Angelo Standard-TimesPublished 4:00 p.m. CT May 21, 2017 | Updated 8:37 a.m. CT May 22, 2017

More than 12,000 people turn out for 9th Annual Simply Texas Blues Festival


SAN ANGELO — It took just one note from his guitar — a soulful moan-like sound — and the thousands of people in attendance to see blues superstar Zac Harmon perform during San Angelo’s 9th Annual Simply Texas Blues Festival, truly understood the blues.

As Harmon and his band continued to play more than 500 entranced fans cluttered in front of the stage, their bodies writhing in ecstasy, tears of joy streaming down many of their faces, their outstretched arms yearning to touch what they could feel.

By the band’s third song, shouts of “hallelujah” and other triumphant jubilation's reverberated throughout the crowd. More than 12,000 people attended the daylong event which was held in downtown San Angelo on Saturday.

Zac Harmon Band performs during the Simply Texas BluesBuy Photo

Zac Harmon Band performs during the Simply Texas Blues Festival Saturday, May 20, in downtown San Angelo.  (Photo: Yfat Yossifor, San Angelo Standard-Times)

“Incredible,” is all a pleasantly stunned Clay Hubbard could say as he watched the show. Hubbard is the board president of the San Angelo Blues Society, organizers of the event.

An international superstar, Harmon is the most prominent performer ever invited to headline the blues festival. The Jackson, Mississippi born Harmon didn’t disappoint.

Harmon knows how to provoke powerful emotions from his guitar. His slowly drawn out, sustained notes are drenched in pure soul. At the drop of a hat, he can shred his guitar like a panther unleashed, his extended solos working his audience into a frenzy.

Harmon’s band, which includes Chris Gipson, bass, Corey Carmichael, keyboards, Ralph Forrest, drums and Texas Slim, on guitar, make a powerful team, whose skills and showmanship complement each other well. During introductions, Harmon referred to each band member as “Doctor.”

“Let me explain why we refer to each other as doctors,” Harmon told the audience. “How many people believe that music is medicine that can heal the soul?

“We’ll we’re all musicians, so that must make us doctors, anointed by The Father.”

Harmon’s intimate rapport with the audience was noticeably different that opener Michael Lee. Lee’s high octane set included little verbal interaction with the audience. Lee, a former blues festival winner, opened for last year’s headliner, Mr. Sipp, “the Mississippi Blues Child.”

Lee, whose music has a harder rock edge to it, dipped his feet into classic R&B and funk, most noticeably during his cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” During the song’s extended jam, Lee and his band being playing a chorus from a song by funk legends, Parliament.

Lee’s rock-oriented style played well with the younger crowd.

But this was Harmon’s night, and he noted Saturday was also Armed Forces Day. Harmon asked everyone who has ever served in the military and those whose jobs are to serve and protect Americans to stand up and be recognized.

“In 2008, I visited our soldiers in Iraq,” Harmon told the crowd. “When I was there, I didn’t see a democrat flag, or a republican flag; I saw an American flag.  That’s when it hit me. We’re all one people, we’re all one country.”

During that visit another Harmon encountered another revelation. One day Harmon asked a soldier who was assigned to guard him what his favorite song was. The soldier answered Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”

When Harmon inquired why, the soldier responded: “Because every day that I’m out here, I’d like to think that if anything happened, I’ll be knocking on heaven’s door.”

Harmon told his San Angelo audience that since that day, he performs that song at every show, in honor of that soldier.

As Harmon and the band began playing, the thousands of people in attendance began singing along. The effect was far reaching: Two blocks away, a husband and wife sitting in lawn chairs held hands and began singing along. Four blocks away and a chorus of 10,000 people could still be heard.

The Blues Box

Zac's Performance Calendar

  • April 7, 2018
    Big Beat Dallas, Irving, TX
  • April 14, 2018
    The Keys Lounge, Fort Worth, TX
  • May 4, 2018
    Beale Street Music Festival, Memphis, TN
  • May 5, 2018
    Bourbon St Blues & Boogie, Nashville, TN
  • May 10, 2018
    The Blues Music Awards, Memphis, TN

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