Belting Blues in Hotlanta
Summers in Charleston are hot and sultry but even they can't compare to a
weekend of the Blues in Hotlanta, Georgia!
A few months ago I got my ticket for the Journey, REO and Styx tour in
Atlanta on July 26. Unexpectedly, over the July 4th weekend I got to make an
early trip for Lucy's birthday bash. During that time she introduced me to
the Atlanta blues scene in a way that made me more than eager for more.
Taking advantage of the Journey concert, I planned a Friday-Sunday visit
that finally was extended to a Thursday through Monday bluesfest!
Lucy and her lovely family, Robert, Samara, lil red Max and the katz are
wonderful hosts. Lucy understands my craving for music because she shares
she understands that the only blues to be found in Charleston are in the
form of blue-bloods and blue-haired old ladies! At any rate, she treated me
to the best adventure I've had in a long while.
We started Thursday at Fee-Lay Gumbo's, a Cajun club and restaurant with
a Nah Owleans feel, with Andrew Black and his band, the Believers. I'd had
the pleasure of hearing Andrew at Lucy's party but he'd definitely put on
star quality for Thursday's performance. The trio play so smoothly together,
I was enthralled. At one point Andrew left the stage, strutting his mean
guitar and smoky vocals right over to our table. He is mesmerizing; his
sound is so liquid it seeps right into one's pores. That performance left me
thirsty for more, which Lucy & Rob willingly indulged the next
Come Friday afternoon, after lazing around the pool and hot tub all
morning, I was back at Lucy's, where we relived her July 5th party through
the magic of video. She
laughingly pointed me out - voice only - giving a stunning rendition of the
Rebel Yell as the Blues Cat played with Barry Richman and Andrew Black! We
watched and listened again as Simon Kirke gave us a private performance of
his wonderful solo work, still shaking our heads in disbelief that
"Simon Kirke was right there" in that living room just weeks
That night, we loaded up and made the hour-plus drive to "old
town" Conyers, Georgia, a place seemingly on the verge of ghost hood
but brought to lusty life that night by Blues Cat. Front man Jeff Robinson
has wonderful stage appeal; though the crowd was sparse, he had everyone
feeling part of the gig, and playing pranks on unsuspecting revelers who had
the misfortune to spend too long in the restroom. A very quick-witted guy
whose banter with his band mates made a very entertaining evening. Got me a
Blues Cat CD, t-shirt, and promise of a thong in the mail - hot damn! The
boyz performed some terrific blues and even gave us a surprise and most
awesome rendition of Free's The Hunter. I wonder if they knew that Paul had
sung that song to Lucy once upon-a-time? Having to make that stop a one-set
visit, we took care of some errands, including depositing the easy-going Rob
at home, before continuing our Girls Night of Blues.
Lucy then took me, dragging and kicking, of course, to a funky little
club called Darwins. I loved this place! The
walls and ceiling are covered with posters and stickers of all kinds of
blues acts, including Andrew Black and Barry Richman. And who should be on
stage but Mr. Black himself, with Forrest McDonald, another local blues
guitar wailer, and his band. If I'd thought Andrew was hot the night before,
Friday he left no room for doubt that he is in complete command of the soul
of blues. The man just reaches right now into your gut and makes you feel
every lick and note emanating from his straining guitar and belting vocals.
It really cant be described - you just have to get your butt there and hear
it for yourself! After listening to this guy wail, when last call comes at
1:00 a.m., you'll you find yourself literally dragging your feet to leave,
resisting the end of the evening. And you will just fall out when you hear
him moan Bill Withers' "Use Me Up."
Next day found me back at Lucy's, pouring over her original 60's and 70's
photographs of Free - Paul, Simon, Andy & Koss. The girl has incredible
stuff! Lucy then treated me a tour of her beautiful home, where we oohed and
ahhed over her photographs which she'd had made into posters. Lucy, you've
got to put that bare-chested pic of Paul on the website! You know the one I
Saturday night, the night of the Journey, REO, Styx concert. Though
our seats weren't together, I had the pleasure of sitting with Michael
Storm, lead guitarist for Blues Cat, while vocalist Jeff and his lovely
wife, Wendy, were seated just behind us. The anticipation built until at
last the lights dimmed, and the 30' screen roared into life with REO
chanting WE ROCK YOU! The crowd went crazy as REO took the stage. What
seemed a full hour of pulsing rock, their music as white hot as over, with
the unusual addition of very lively story-telling and terrific accompanying video graphics.
During the very brief equipment change over, we anxiously guessed over
who would be on next, Journey or Styx. We'd all compared notes on the way
over and before the show, and it seemed that of the three groups Styx, while
not disliked, was the least favorite of us all. I'd seen them 2 years
before, with Billy Squier and Bad Company and… needless to say, in my book
no one can follow Bad Company and I didn't even stay for Styx' full set.
This time, Styx made a believer out of me. They came out second, and
overwhelmed - and won over - all of us by ripping out one hit after another,
as well as some new material. The females in the crowd were as overcome as
ever, showering the boyz with panties, bras and thongs in every color of the
rainbow. The music though, was the surprise of the evening. They just tore
it up, energizing every person in attendance. Styx had a t-shirt on sale
that got the game exactly right - "Classic Rock, My Ass! 500 shows in 4
years!" They more than proved their mettle and I will never again say
that Styx is just "okay."
Styx had our senses heightened and screaming for more. All of us big
Journey fans, we waited eagerly for a performance that surely would blow the
roof off the place. Well. The performance by Styx was just a really hard act
to follow. Journey were good.
They played all their big hits and sounded great. Neal Schon did a soaring
solo of the Star-Spangled Banner, center stage and spot lit, that reached
right into your heart. For me, though, I was and will always be a big Steve
Perry fan. The new singer has a very good voice. His stage presence is
admirable - Journey is clearly there for the music and don't buy into the
love-starved female craze. But for me, Steve Perry is Journey and those
songs just didn't sound quite right out of some one else's mouth. That's not
to say that the group, and the entire evening, wasn't a big hit with us all.
It was a hot rock night with three superstar groups and nearly 4 hours of
Originally slated to leave Atlanta Sunday afternoon, my pal Lucy gave me
pause when she discovered the DeKalb County Jazz & Blues Festival was
going on that weekend. Saturday,
which we'd missed, was devoted to jazz, while Sunday was blues day. And
guess who should be appearing along with a host of great Atlanta blues acts?
Right - Andrew Black! Lucy had to twist my arm pretty hard to persuade me to
stay another day. I think she had to actually say, "Oh, Andrew is
playing on Sunday." Quick as that I booked my room and rental car
When one goes partying with Lucy, one quickly learns that everyone in the
Atlanta music scene knows her! We got front row seats - in the grass, 10'
from the stage! Appearing again with Forrest McDonald and his band, Andrew
treated us to another wrenching display of hard-hitting blues and vocals.
The man has a cool ability to adjust his technique and sound for each venue
he plays. The day was blinding hot and Andrew did nothing to cool it
a very limited amount of time, the group tore through one blues tune after
another. Forrest on lead guitar, John Schwenke on bass and John McKnight on
drums completed a fabulous set. Andrew Black can be set in front of any
group of musicians in any setting and give you something new and searing
every time. If you get the chance - and if you don't, MAKE the chance - go
Andrew's performance was followed by a soft-spoken little gal, Donna
Hopkins, who made a big sound with a mighty guitar named Beulah! Lucy and
Rob just added another group to my fav list!
In those four days, I was entirely saturated with Rock and Blues. It's
just left me wanting more…and planning my next trip to Hotlanta!