As grey evening moved into night, an enthusiastic crowd of Double Decker music fans ringed the Catepillar Sound Stage on North Lamar Boulevard to celebrate the opening of the 18th annual Double Decker Festival Presented By C Spire in downtown Oxford.
The rain that threatened to put a damper on the celebration earlier in the day had ended –– at least for the moment –– by the time the opening music act took the stage, allowing a DD crowd long accustomed to rain and inclement weather to enjoy the cool respite while it lasted.
First up in the lineup a special outdoor presentation of the Thacker Mountain Radio show, with house band the Yalobushwackers joined by Blue Mountain and Will Sexton.
Next came the Eric Deaton Trio, a group whose style not only blends the sounds reminiscent of Deaton’s Hill County mentors but also the confident grooves of Meters and masculine strut of early ZZ Top.
Much to the pleasure of the crowd, Eric Deaton Trio Drummer Kinney Kimbrough took lead vocal to close the set with his late father Junior’s “All Night Long.”
Many of the Double Decker diehards who braved the rain that had returned as the evening wore on were there to see another popular opening night act –– Blue Mountain –– making one of their final public appearances at this year’s festival. Fully cognizant that they were witnessing a moment of local music history, the crowd gathered under the balcony in front of Highpoint Coffee and on the porch of the nearby Chancery building while others rocked to the music in the rain.
Ten minutes later, the crowd’s patience was rewarded when the rain again stopped, allowing the music and the celebration to go on.
“I love Laurie and Cary, and I’m so glad they’re from here,” said Blue Mountain fan Stewart Rutledge.
If the musical and artistic bounty of Double Decker was something reserved for Saturday in year’s past, this year’s Friday jump start demonstrated just how far the festival has come as an event offering something for all ages and tastes.
“The Convention and Visitors’ Bureau has grown Double Decker every year to where you really need to get up here early,” said Oxford’s Todd Windham. “I’m glad it remains a family event. We have a lot of friends who brought their kids. We got a babysitter but we really could have brought our daughter.” –– Tad Wilkes and Michael Harrelson