Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Music of Chicago

June 11
Chicago, Illinois

Today may have been somewhat... challenging, but the finale made it all worth it.  I finished the obscenely long day at Buddy Guy's Legends blues club with both feet and legs threatening to retaliate for the endless walking I had done in search of pizza.  The opening band relaxed me and pulled me in stronger then I expected and almost instantaneously perked me up from my toured daze.  They had a great vibe and were clearly talented musicians doing what they loved most.  It was a romantic club left with standing room only behind the seated customers eating dinner and cheering at their favorite parts.  The place had an incredible dark but romantic vibe to it, and I wouldn't have been surprised in the least if you told me they used the place to stage movies.
Almost towards the end of their set 3 elderly women came in like they owned the place, ordered drinks, and got down to it.  I quickly did the math and realized they could have easily been around the scene when it was really kicking off.  How crazy is that?  I was under no delusions that this scene was still the same one it was decades ago, but the looks on those women's faces when they walked through that door said it was close enough.  I thought I could feel feel the commercialization soaking out from the stage, and I know with a little bit of sadness I will never be able to truly experience what this place, or others like it were like in their heyday.  But even now its pretty cool, so back then I can only imagine... 
It was around that point that the night started to take an interesting turn, and the spirit of Chicago managed to creep up on me once again.  The "opening band" finished their set and announced they were going to take a short break before coming back.  I was a little disappointed because I had been thinking that if these guys were this good just wait for the main act!  However they came back on continuing to play their soulful music until after the first couple songs they said they were going to bring up a special guest: "Hoochie man."
Hearing his name for the first time I wasn't expecting much as he looked to be on the longer side of 70 with a rather silly amount of gold on him from sunglasses and earrings to his belt buckle.  He picked up the guitar, fiddle with it for a minute giving no indication of what was in store, and then proceeded to introduce myself and the entire club to what the blues really were.  His guitar licks were inspiring, his vocals authentically raspy, and his words went straight to my heart touching on the very moods I had felt since leaving Alfred.  His showmanship was out of this world and I never questioned that he felt what he was playing as much as it really being an extension of his guitar.  Now to be clear, being a musician and rabid concert goer myself I've heard a lot of guitar players in my day but no one ever before had played like he did melting guitar, fingers, licks, and soul into one smooth shot.
A funny thought crossed my mind while I was sitting there entranced in his performance: I hope he's not playing much longer because if he was I'd be there all night.  His lyrics made me laugh at points while pinpointing my sorrows at others, his guitar solos made me cheer, and his on stage charisma made me smile.  This is what the Blues really was all about.
Thinking about it more I realized the problem with the "opening band" was they weren't authentic.  Sure they were all world class musicians playing ten times better then I probably ever would, but at the end of the day their blues was just for show.  Hoochie Man's on the other hand was real and I guess that's just something that can't be recreated.  As I had quickly realized Chicago is a tough place just to get by dashing the hopes and dreams of men and woman stronger then myself.  At the end of the day it's the beaten down heart of city that has seeped into its music. 
Feeling rather tipsy from both the music and the beer, I finally left the club before midnight taping me feet, smile on face, and a shiver running up my spine.  It was an incredible experience to hear that music in that venue.  It's one that I don't think I'll ever forget, and it was worth all the trouble in the world.  Goodbye Chicago! It's been wild.
Coming soon: Matt outruns an actual tornado and finds shelter in an old campground that reminds him off his youth.

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