Foghat and The Chris Gardner Band highlight the music lineup at the Monterey County Fair.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
After a day of fishing on Long Island’s North Shore, Roger Earl is pleased with his haul: Two blue fish that he plans to fillet, brine and smoke for dinner.
Earl is also pleased with his nearly 40-year tenure as the drummer in the seminal British band Foghat: The blues-rock outfit has racked up platinum and double-platinum records, eight gold records and a boatload of hits, including “Slow Ride” and “Fool for the City,” earning a non-negotiable part of the definitive rock soundtrack of the ’70s.
“Slow Ride” continues to resurface in pop culture: It was famously featured in Richard Linklater’s cult classic Dazed and Confused, and appeared on Adam Lambert and Allison Iraheta’s setlist during American Idol’s Live Tour in 2009.
For the most part, though, things have slowed down, and that’s OK with Earl.
“We play two or three gigs a week so there’s still plenty of time to spend with my grandchildren, play golf and go fishing,” he says. “Life is good.”
Foghat has traded sold-out arenas for modestly attended county fairs – they perform tonight at the Monterey County Fair – but the group continues to approach every show with equal enthusiasm because they still dig the music.
“Songs like ‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’ and ‘Stone Blue’ are still a gas to play,” Earl says. “We’ve always maintained creative control over what we recorded and how we recorded and what songs we play live.”
In order to prevent their shows from growing stale, the band convenes every year at its Florida recording studio where they either relearn five or six tunes they haven’t performed for a while, or add completely new songs.
“That manages to keep it fresh for us,” Earl says. “And challenging.”
Earl recently experienced one of the greatest honors of his career when he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
“It was really humbling because I’m in some really good company and got to jam with a lot of really good musicians,” he says. “I can’t remember the last time I had that much fun.”
Foghat averages about 70 shows per year and it doesn’t look like retirement will be coming anytime soon.
“We’ve already started booking dates for next year,” Earl says.
When “Slow Ride” was flooding airwaves, Chris Gardner hadn’t been born. The Chris Gardner Band – performing Monterey County Fair on Saturday – recently released its debut, The Answer, which the frontman sums up in one word: “inspirational.”
“I wrote it from my heart,” he elaborates. “It’s about who I am.”
Song lyrics have always intrigued Gardner. The country musician says he wrote his first lyrics when he was just 13.
“Country is the grass roots of America” he says. “I was raised on country… it’s true blue-collar American music.”
When he was even younger, he would memorize lyrics by bands like Alabama. That’s part of the reason coming up with words to accompany music has never been much of a struggle for him – though straddling the line between straightforward country and Christian music is a perpetual challenge.
“I’m a Christian and a true believer,” Gardner says. “When I write lyrics it’s tough not to write about [Jesus]. But I play secular music so I have to always work it to where it’s not too Christian.”
Sometimes, Gardner’s devotion pokes through. The title track on The Answer is one example: “I want the answer, do you walk on water?” But the tune still plays like modern pop country in the vein of Toby Keith.
But then there’s CGB’s ripping cover of Merle Haggard’s “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink.”
“We try to work that middle-of-the-road,” Gardner says.
Gardner doesn’t overthink things when the ink starts flowing, either.
“Once a song starts to write itself, I let it,” he says. “If it ends up on the more Christian side, I leave it there and if it ends up on a secular side, I leave it.”
Another thing that comes naturally: respect for his fans. “I want to thank with all my heart my fans, the people who come out and support us and believe in us,” he says. “I love them all.”
Plenty of showmen share that sentiment, but few take it to the next level: “We get out there and offer our respect and shake hands with everyone,” Gardner says.
Even with that type of time-intensive TLC, CGB has been averaging around 200 shows per year and recently opened for Billy Currington at Sacramento’s Country in the Park where they performed for a sold out crowd of 17,000.
Also performing for the 76th installment of Monterey County Fair: Van Halen tribute Fan Halen (7:30pm Friday). It’s kind of a stretch, but tribute frontmen Ernie Berru and Derek “Fan Halen” do their best to look the part of David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen with tacky animal print get-up and feathered hair; fortunately the music is a closer facsimilie. The subdivision of the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West, Mobility (3:30 and 6:30pm Monday), also plays. The fivesome delivers pride for country through a feel-good set of pop, rock and country covers.
FOGHAT performs 7:30pm Thursday, Aug. 30, and Chris Gardner Band performs 7:30pm Saturday, Sept. 1, at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, 2004 Fairgrounds Road, Monterey. Free with fair admission ($7; $3 children 6-12; free 5 and under). 372-5863, www.montereycountyfair.com.