Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Chicago B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted

I stopped in for an icy shot of Blues this past weekend at, where else?... B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted Street. It's been my favorite live musical joint ever since parking my own U-Haul sideways in a Chicago alley one snowy December night some 13 years ago and unloading once and for all. Whenever things aren't low down, dirty, or tattered enough in my own life as a Chicago realtor, I just pop into B.L.U.E.S. for a reminder of how sad it really can be. On this eve it was Carlos Johnson, on a vintage left handed Gibson, and his band dealing out the pain shooters. As usual, Big Time Sarah was hunkered down at the main bar, bellowing her own crushed rock baselines above the amplified Peavys. The place, as always, was jammed to the rafters.

One man was missing though; in mortal body anyway. And if Chicago guitar legend Chico Banks was indeed in the room, which I believe he just may have been, it was in spirit and memory only. The audience learned from an overwrought Carlos Johnson that the 47 year old virtuoso had just unexpectantly passed away. Johnson gave a checkerboard bluesman's eulogy to a now hushed crowd, raised his snifter to the Heavens, took a sip of cognac, then immediately ripped into a 15 minute jam that tore the wallboards from the studs. And I mean that. Each musician in the tightly wound quartet tore...it...up. The dude on keys, the brother on bass, the monster on drums, and CJ out in front. Shredded it. I raised my own club soda from a stool against the wall in back and silently toasted Life in general. I got the fix I subconsciously came cruising for.

Women were crying. Men were choking. Big Time Sarah was howling on the floor. The crowd was emersed, swallowed by the sound and the soul of the Blues. And not the weak ass, watered down swill they serve up across the street at Kingston Mines but the real deal. The kind that comes out indigo when you cut. The kind that pumped through the veins of Chico Banks until a few days ago.

Geno Petro

I snapped the shot of Carlos Johnson (but I did not shoot the deputy)

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