Philly has produced a lot of great bands over the years. It's also produced a number of solid bands that had a good run. Such is Cayetana. Cayetana performed a going away show at Union Transfer recently as the band has decided to call it quits. It was a great show, with a lot of emotion and a loving, almost tender crowd there to support the band.
For those who don't know, which is most people, Cayetana is a trio of three women that play indie, punkish rock. Kelly Olsen, Allegra Anka and Augusta Koch formed in 2011, put out a few EPs and full-length albums, and developed a nice local following. They were solid enough to tour in support of a number of bands.
Augusta Koch plays guitar and does the singing. While she doesn't have a beautiful voice, it's a good voice, and her lyrics always felt expressive and emotionally vulnerable. She has a nice stage presence, but given the situation of the band's final performance in front of friends and family, it's kind of hard to judge whether or not this was a "typical" show.
The critics really liked Cayetana, but alas, one of the ladies decided it was time to move to California and pursue other interests. Thus, the demise of the band. But they left a nice little legacy, and some good artistic output to remember them by. I'm sure we'll hear more from them in the future, but maybe not as Cayetana. Want to hear some stuff? Of course you do. The band opened the show at Union Transfer with Mesa and it was a rip-snorting way to get the show up and jumping. Here it is:
I really like this track, too: Scott, Get The Van, I'm Moving. It rocks and it's about a subject that a lot of us have experienced. I dare you to listen to this a few times in a row. It will get stuck in your brain and you'll want more more more. Yeah, it's that good.
It was quite a good show. And like I said earlier, it was a very emotional love-in, both from the band's perspective and from the crowd's. That made the night more special than just seeing another live rock show (which, of course, is always special).
I keep hearing that rock is dead, no one is putting out good music anymore, all the great rock songs have been written, blah blah blah. Hey, here's proof that people saying that are ignorant and wrong. There's a ton of great rock still going in this country, and it's there for the taking at clubs all over this city. If you watch these videos and disagree, well, then you never liked rock in the first place.
One more track, just to prove how smart these ladies are. They covered a fantastic New Order song called Age of Consent. Here's the Cayetana version followed by the original New Order version. They're both good, but I prefer Augusta's lyrical take on it. I also like the more guitar-centric version and less synth-y take by Cayetana. What do you think? Listen and tell me:
And with that, it's goodbye to Cayetana and good luck to these three ladies. Thanks for the songs and memories, and keep going for the gusto.
As for me, I've got a few more live shows to get you caught up on. How can that be? I feel like I've been posting and writing reviews all summer, but I have two shows to write up that I just saw, and I'm on schedule to see a few more before September leaves us. Keep up, kids, life is for living!
Love ya, BRP readers!
I was kind of scared to see the Rolling Stones. Not about the crowd, or the cost, or the hassle. No, I was concerned that the ancient Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood would put out a pathetic performance that would ruin my memory of the Rolling Stones forever. I saw Jethro Tull last summer. I love Tull and had seen them a bunch of times when we are all decades younger. But last summer’s show was terrible – Ian Anderson’s voice is shot and it killed the whole thing for me, and has now left a bitter taste in my mouth. But I went to see the Stones anyway at the massive MetLife stadium in the Meadowlands. You see, I had free tickets.
I have seen the Stones when they were (a) pretty young, (b) “old”, and now (c) geriatric. I’ve always been a fan, but haven’t been listening to their music much lately. With the show approaching, I did the Spotify “This is the Rolling Stones” playlist to get into the spirit. What I got was a lot of great memories as rocking songs from my early childhood through about 15 years ago were played. I also once again had a grudging realization that many of their songs are just great rockers. Jagger’s voice and mean/cutting lyrics. Richards signature guitar licks combined with Woods guitar weaves. Great backup musicians like Chuck Leavell and Daryl Jones. Man, it’s true: this is rock ‘n’ roll.
But what was it going to be like to see a 76 year old Mick Jagger, fresh from heart valve surgery, trying to perform songs that are 50+ years old? Richards is the same age, Charlie Watts is 78 and Ron Woods is the baby at 72. How would they all hold up? As you know, I’m big on performers who also rock, and if Jagger isn’t the best of the classic rock frontmen, I don’t know who is. You can have Freddie Mercury, Roger Daltry, Steven Tyler and Robert Plant. I’ll take Jagger and his over-the-top, exaggerated rooster strutting around the stage. My big question was this: can they still do it while most of their contemporaries need to take Advil just to get out of bed?
Before that question could be answered, we first had to hear the Wombats. A trio on a huge stadium stage, they were prohibited from using the runway down the middle of the field. The Stones are no fools. I had a buddy who saw the Stones in Jacksonville while he was in college. It was at the Gator Bowl in the hot sun. An up-and-coming band from Southern California opened for the Stones – Van Halen. As my buddy described it later, “the Stones were good, but damn, Van Halen blew them off the stage.” I’ve seen Van Halen, including the original lineup back in the day. I don’t doubt the story. Thus, the Stones now prohibit their opening acts from making full use of the stage. No more upstaging these guys!
Back to the Wombats. They were fine, but nothing special. I wouldn’t go out of my way to check them out. In fact, I think I went back to the food stand while they were playing, and chatted with my seatmates quite a bit during their performance. It wasn’t forgettable, but it wasn’t compelling, either.
The Wombats left to go back to wherever they had come from, and next up was the main attraction. I was checking out the crowd, and I’ll say this, it was pretty mixed in ages if not ethnicities. I saw plenty of young people at the show. I also saw massive amounts of boomers. They were buying all kinds of Stones paraphernalia and strutting around in their earlier Stones tour shirts. Some were wearing Stones capes, Stones hats, buttons, pins, pants, “Hawaiian” shirts with the tongue logo, and the like. I kept thinking that if they spent that money on seeing new rock bands, the world might be a better place.
Instead, they made the rich richer (probably at the same time lamenting about the nation’s income inequality). To each his own, but I was reading the comments to an article about the Stones ongoing tour, and there were a bunch of boomers saying that rock is dead, there is no good rock after 1985, blah blah. Yeah, right man, keep going to see the same bands that are stuck in the comfort zone of your youth, and I’ll go see the vibrant young talent that is still out there flying the flag. And I’ll go see the Stones, too. With free tickets, hahahaha.
Hey, here’s one thing I can’t figure out. If there was ever a group of guys that treated women like complete crap, it’s the Rolling Stones. I mean, the groupies, the lyrics to their songs, their lifestyle. Check out the lyrics to Some Girls:
Do you think they could even play that song now? It’s racist, sexist, and whatever “ist” there is, and it’s not an outlier in their catalog. If they were running for office, they would be crucified. Yet, the boomer women are all there, singing along to misogynistic slut songs. Someone explain this to me.
Despite being surrounded by a lot of aging rockers, I was still a bit shell-shocked when the Stones took the stage and I got a good view of them on the massive screens flanking the stage. Wow! Jagger, Richards and Wood were so old looking! Jagger was the one most prominently featured, and while he dyes his hair (at least Charlie Watts remains authentic in that regard) so that it has the appearance of youth, the rest of his face was what you would expect a 76 year old guy to look like. Dressed in a red sequined jacket and black pants, he sought the look of youth, but damn, those craggy features have AGED.
Then I started to think again. They all are fit and in good shape, particularly Jagger. They’re playing a great song (they started with Street Fighting Man), and Jagger is prancing and moving around the stage, which is massive. The sound is top flight. They aren’t trying to dazzle with props like in previous shows I attended (no massive penis, no honky tonk women). They’re just rocking.
And then I got completely over it and completely into the show. They played a set of great songs:
They had a solid backup band with horns, keys, and singers, albeit they haven’t ever mastered playing live performances as a tight and ripping unit. Nope, they’re still the sloppy live band that you’ve seen before, and some of the songs were just not played that well – for instance, Let’s Spend the Night Together was played too slow and they couldn’t replicate many of the great guitar riffs if they wanted to do so. And starting the “whoo hoo” at the beginning of Sympathy for the Devil rather than in the middle of the tune where it belongs, was not cool. But these are quibbles.
What was impressive is that the boys still have it. At the end of the show, I was tired from standing up, but Jagger must have done 3 or 4 miles on the stage. No, he doesn’t have the same moves that he did back in the day, but he did it from start to finish and was better than 95% of the young bands that I still see. The rest of the band was up to it, too. Rather than cringing, I was inspired by these guys.
I’m beginning to get a bit long in the tooth, but I’m not the least bit ready to give up on physical exertion. It’s heartening to know that 4 guys who have done massive amounts of drugs, exposed themselves to god knows what number of sexual partners resulting in who-knows-what in terms of auto-immune illnesses, swam in alcohol, and abused their bodies for decades are still capable of moving and grooving well into their mid-70s. Sure, they aren’t what they used to be, but they’re still pretty damn good. Also, they aren’t doing this just for one night. They are on tour, playing over 20 cities. Color me impressed.
You know that I’m reluctant to see these aging boomer bands. They command high ticket prices, play in massive venues, and the show is often spotty if not downright bad. But when a band like the Stones puts it all together and play like what I recently experienced, it restores my faith. As one of their contemporaries sang many years ago: Long live rock, I need it every day!
And get it I did. Two nights later, I was out catting around yet again. This time it was down at a much smaller, intimate venue that I love. Yup, Union Transfer. And it was a going away show for a band from Philly that deserves a lot more attention than they ever got. I’ll be back shortly with that review. And I’ve got tickets to three more shows in the next few weeks. The Kid is back and rockin’ – can you keep up? Only if your name is Jagger, hahaha.
Have you ever been to a show that you were hopped up about and no one else even showed up? It doesn’t happen often. I saw Ash at the Foundry a few years back, and about 100 people were there. Ash just tore it up that night, playing all of the classic 1977 album and then the best tracks from the rest of their catalog. On that night, Ash was the best live band in the world, and only about 100 people witnessed it. Such is life, but it’s unusual to have that experience.
At the Boot recently, I was pretty psyched to see Pittsburgh’s indie rock savants, The Gotobeds. It took me a while to get around to grabbing tickets, and I was a bit worried about getting shut out. Well, that concern was ill-founded. We got to the Boot only to find that about 20 people were going to see this show. And twenty might be about 5 people generous. Hoo boy.
I learned of the Gotobeds from the Sound Opinions guys. I downloaded their first CD and really enjoyed it. Indie garage rock stylists with an attitude, sort of like the Fleshtones with less humor. Yeah, that’s in the BRP catalog for loved musical genres. Seeing that they were going to be playing the Boot was excellent – nothing like a hot summer’s evening full of guitar driven sloppiness.
Well, we got there and the joint was EMPTY. Even the cowboys and cowgirls who frequent the front bar were somewhere else, probably sleeping on the floor of someone’s dad’s house in Avalon. We hung out with the guy who runs the door for the club (who has dreds down to the back of his knees), and had a nice chat about the Boot, its sister venue Union Transfer, the overcapacity of clubs in Philly that can hold about 4 – 500 people, the trouble with Underground Arts as a venue but the respect for the bands that it routinely brings in, how crappy the Electric Factory nee Franklin Music Hall is, and other such world-bending issues. Very enjoyable pre-show banter. But our boy also was honest that not many people had bought tickets, and the walk up crowd was unlikely to materialize. Worse yet, the opening act, who was local and thus would probably bring along 15 or so friends and hangers-on, had cancelled, so it was just going to be the Gotobeds.
After waiting around for a long time, the band finally decided to go on stage. They were good-natured about the whole thing. One of them said that this was how they were spending their vacation. When I tried to clarify by saying “wait, so you’re on vacation?”, the answer I got was “Dude, this ain’t work.” That’s the damn truth. Anyway, they got up there, said that they were the Gotobeds and that tonight they were opening for the Gotobeds, and then they got down to business.
I don’t know whether they decided to treat the night as a live rehearsal or if they are just consummate professionals, but the boys didn’t skimp on the show. Well, they only played about 50 minutes, but what I mean is that they went after the songs, played them with motivation, jumped around and engaged in some silly stage hijinks (like jumping off the amps), and otherwise gave it their all. They played with urgency and desire.
Yes, they played the songs I wanted them to play. Yes, they were fun. No, they shouldn’t give up the day jobs (assuming they have them – if not, they should consider whether to get them). And yes, they reminded me how tough it is to make it in the music business. This, after all, is a band with a record deal and enough PR clout to get noticed by some prominent rock podcasters with influence. Yet, they could only get about 20 (ok, 15) people out to see them play for $10 on a summer’s evening in the nation’s 6th largest city? A city that cares about rock and has a passion for live music? That’s trouble, man.
I had a good time. I ate a bitchin’ cheesesteak before the show at a place I never would have thought would be up to it. And because of the limited nature of the evening’s performance, I was home early and not dragging a dog-tired body through The Man’s workhouse of horrors the next day. I could complain, but that would be extravagant, and I’m not extravagant. In fact, I’m a common dude, a man of the people. I love live music, and enjoyed the sensation of being in someone’s basement while a talented group of people played some interesting tunes at high decibel levels. It could have been worse.
I know, I know. It's wrong to hate. It's unproductive. We should turn the other cheek.
Well, my friend Taylor knows that haters are gonna hate!
And my boys the Clash popped out a great song about hate:
I don't hate too much. Well, there are some sports teams/sports figures (I don't quite know why, but I can't stand Peyton Manning - I'm sure he's a pretty good guy, but sports made me hate him). But that's sports hate and that's different. But there is one person out there that makes my blood boil. Can you guess?
Right now, I'm wavering on this one, and will likely stick it out to the end of the year. But I keep thinking about the great Johnny Paycheck song as redone by the Geto Boyz for the movie Office Space (a cinematic masterpiece about the modern corporate workplace). Any movie that can get Jennifer Anniston telling her boss that he's Number One, Philly Style, is a keeper, right?
I need to go see a show. What's this? Davy Knowles? Who the heck is Davy Knowles? I'm not quite sure, but I'm going to go see him tonight at AMH, and try to kick these work blues away.
Have a great weekend. I still owe you a couple of music reviews. I'll get to them, I promise. Oh, one last thing. Did you see that walk-off grand slam last night by Bryce Harper to beat the Cubbies? If not, it's great and you should see it. It capped an epic 6 run ninth inning. Maybe that's the kind of game that jump-starts a team on to a roll! If you didn't see it, why don't I just go ahead and show it to you:
Hey rockers, I have a bunch of stuff to post, but thought I would take a detour from the concert reviews to give you some great tunes to get you through the dog days. Ready?
First up, it's the pop master himself, Justin Timberlake. Say what? Yeah, I know, I'm a hard rockin' dude at heart, but I have much broader range than most people know. I've liked Justin for a while. I like him in the movies, I like him dancing, and I like him singing pop songs. And this track, Can't Stop The Feeling, is infectious. But even better is the video! I love it!!
I was recently in Tennessee along the banks of the Mississippi River. Big Muddy, Old Man River, whatever, it drains a huge swath of the country and is our mightiest river. And then I heard this track by the Doobie Brothers, and thought, voila, put this on BRP. I was a big DB fan back in the day. A little known fact is that my second concert of all time was seeing the Doobies. They used to play with that dry ice "smoke" around their knees and feet, and when you're 14, that's pretty freakin' cool. This track was a HUGE hit for them, and I like it to this day.
Football season is coming up, and that means stadiums and big-time crowds. Crowd mentalities are weird as the wheels can come off and the "we'll never get caught" euphoria pulses through the masses. To control that, stadiums play songs that everyone knows and that help to get the crowd appropriately pumped, but not out of control. Enter the White Stripes. Is Seven Nation Army one of the most ubiquitous stadium songs or what? Sometimes, entire crowds just pulse to it and chant it even when the loudspeakers don't play it. This song rocks. And I think the video is pretty low-fi but cool, too.
I've been digging this next track since the first time I heard it. Fang Fang's Proscenium Arch rocks it pretty good. Great guitar, singable chorus, good song structure. What else do you want? How about that they're from Philly! Local band done good, let's support them, ok?
Oops, I'm a day late, but I'm going there anyway. Yesterday was Feargal Sharkey's birthday. Remember him? He was the lead singer of the best rock band out of Northern Ireland, the Undertones. In celebration of Feargal's birthday, here is the seminal Undertones track, Teenage Kicks. John Peel, the famous rock broadcaster from England, once called this the perfect rock song. I don't disagree. Great riff, Feargal's interesting and unique voice, classic teen angst lyrics. Listen up:
As you know, I love Motown. As you know, I love British new wave/punk. As you know, any band that can combine these two into one fantastic track has to be celebrated. The Jam put out Town Called Malice which was both danceable and serious. Alas, it was near the end for this great trio, but still it's one of my favorite songs from this era. Check that, make it any era.
One more, shall we? If you've ever been to Toronto, there is a place called Echo Beach. They even have a music venue there. Toronto is a wonderful city, clean and diverse with tons to do and all set along a gorgeous lakefront. Martha and the Muffins put out this tune many moons ago celebrating Echo Beach, and it still sounds lively and fresh. And while I am not much of a nostalgic person, this one puts me back into my youth and makes me feel happy. Who can't relate to the lyrics? If they changed it to "my job is very boring, I'm a big firm jerk," that would put this into the stratosphere.
Was that cool? Did I scratch the itch a bit? And when I did, did your leg move like your dog's with that funky kick thing? I hope so. I'll be back very shortly with some more hijinks. It's what we do here at BRP. And it's what I do in real life, too. C'mon, time to party!
What time is that? It's almost football season! Yes, I hate to see summer go. But the big blessing is that football season arrives just as the weather starts to turn.
You know who we root for, right? Of course, the Virginia Tech Hokies. VT opens the season in two short weeks with an in-conference game against Boston College. I hate starting the season with an ACC game, but I love that the season is starting.
Ready to get fired up? This Hokie football trailer should do the trick. Turn up the sound. Louder. There, that's better. Now hit "play" and enjoy.
I'll be back to the music in a heartbeat. Thanks for suffering through.
Everyone knows Stevie Ray Vaughan, the blues impresario who died at a young age in a helicopter crash. But Stevie has a brother, named Jimmie, who is himself quite an accomplished blues guitarist. Jimmie brought his act to the Ardmore Music Hall recently, and BRP was there to catch it.
I saw Jimmie and his Tilt A Whirl Band about 18 months ago at Antone’s in Austin. It was a late spring evening, warm, and we were with some old and dear friends. Antone’s is a great venue, and we had a choice spot up front. That night, there were about 10 or 12 people on stage playing as the Tilts, including a few remarkable backup singers. It was a flip-flops, shorts and t-shirt evening after a long winter. BRP heaven.
Go forward 18 months, and Jimmie comes to AMH. He brought along the horns, the B3 and the same tunes, but AMH did the unthinkable and filled in the standing room section up front with seats. Jeez! No one up and moving, just a bunch of cotton tops sitting there, some of whom looked like they might fall asleep. And worse, the standing room people had to be crammed into the crappy bar area, making for an evening of jostling and movement.
Oh, and for whatever reason, this show attracted the tallest crowd I can remember. It was like “Dutch Night” at AMH or something. The upshot is that the magical night in Austin was not replicated in Ardmore.
That’s not to say that the show wasn’t good. It was a solid blues outing put on by a group of consummate professionals who are excellent at their craft. Having the B3 and the horns added punch and drive to the blues, and Jimmie can rip on the guitar. However, after being bumped, jostled and craning my neck for half the show, I got kind of tired of it. Each song began to sound like the last one. If that were a blues lyric, I would now repeat it: each song began to sound like the last one. That’s always a bad sign, and I’ve noticed it with some performers (calling the Rev. Horton Heat!).
I will say that the opener was a guy named Scott Sharrard who had played a lot with Gregg Allman in the last years of Gregg’s life, and he was worthy. I don’t go much for the solo acoustic guitar guy, but this dude didn’t just strum like he was playing the folk mass on Sunday at St. Agnes. He was playing leads, tricky chord changes, and his song structure and lyrical arrangements were good. It was a surprisingly good start to the night.
Jimmie did nothing wrong. In fact, the crowd was digging what he was offering. But there were weird moments, like when some dope yelled “play some blues” after he had just played 3 blues numbers to start the show. Jimmie looked a little surprised and simply said back “what the f+ck do you think I’m doing up here?” That made people laugh, but the banter was unusual.
I think the best moments were when Jimmie would start with a slower number that would begin to build, and then he would turn it over to the dude on the B3 or the horns, and they would power it up. JV would then come back in with an aggressive lead and the song would then muscle through to the end. But not all of the numbers did that, and the slower blues numbers simply wore me down. I just wasn’t feeling it that night.
I’ll also say that the AMH crowds that I’ve been part of lately have been remarkably, well, rude. Hey, man, people are performing. I honestly don’t care about whatever it is you’re talking about, but could you keep it down? I paid good money to see this show, and you need to either STFU or take your mindless banter about your high school years outside onto Lancaster Avenue. I don’t mind someone ordering a beer, or people dancing and whooping, but enough with the jabbering.
So the night was a success of sorts, but not the badass electric blues outing that makes my soul stir. I was happy to be a part of it, glad that I went, but also mindful that not every performance is going to kick butt. A solid show, but one where I got home early enough to be happy that I could get a decent night’s sleep before The Man gouged out my eyes at work the next day.
Rockers, I have a few more shows to get you all jumped up. I’ve been on a bit of a tear lately, and I’ve seen some really remarkable performances. If you come back soon, you’ll get those remarks BRP-style, and hopefully, you’ll go away happy (or at least pursuing happiness). I’ll tell you what: you come back soon, and I’ll make sure that there is something new and cool to read. Deal? Nice, see you in a few.
In the meantime, enjoy sweet summer. The 2019 version of Julius Caesar’s month is in the record books, and we’re on to Caesar Augustus’s 31 days. Before you know it, the kids will be back in school and the Main Line will be jumping again. So Frankie say RELAX and enjoy, nay even savor, these last days of sweet summer.
If there is a guy that has paid his indie rock dues more than Ted Leo, I would like to see him. Ted has been around for a l-o-n-g time, put out a bunch of solid albums, toured the country over and over, and remains just under the radar of big-time musical success. It must be a bit of bummer for him. But you would never know it from a recent night at Boot & Saddle in South Philly. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists blew that place up with a fantastic and rollicking live show.
The Boot is an interesting place. I’ve now been there a bunch of times, and I think I like it. I’ve gotten great parking spots the last few times, which always makes the night more fun, and I think that the staff there are generally friendly and decent. The music venue is small, holding maybe 200 for a sold out show. Think of a standard two-car garage and then double it in length. Add some cheap ass faux-tin ceiling tiles on the walls, a tiny stage about 2 feet high, and a “how do I get out of here in case of fire” lack of exits, and you’ve got the Boot in a nutshell. It has decent acoustics, too.
Because the stage is low, and I like to see the band, I make it a point to get there early. That way, I can grab a spot against the wall (my knees are old, man!) to lean on, and be close to the stage so that I can score you some great photos. Knowing that TL was going to sell out quickly, and the place would be packed, we got a great spot. Don't believe me? Check out the pics! Who loves you?
I can’t remember the opening act much. They had a female lead singer and seemed in need of more time in rehearsals, but they rocked, too. It’s probably not a good career omen that my recollection of them is this dim. But they got off the stage after ½ hour, and thankfully, we didn’t have to suffer through another opener before the main event.
Sometimes, Ted doesn’t bring along the full band. I always think that’s a mistake even if it is economical and logistically superior for the artist. On this night, TL had the full Pharmacists behind him. That meant two full-time guitars (and the dude on the keys played guitar for about ½ the tunes), a bass, a great drummer, and a sax. That’s a lot of people on that little B&S stage, but it worked. And with all those people and all that gear, the sound was forceful and vibrant.
Ryan was telling me that when he was in college, a TL CD was left in a car used by him and his roommates. People would use the wheels and come back humming TL. Yeah, those songs are catchy. And when played live with a terrific group of musicians like the Pharmacists, it’s great. The only thing that could hold back the show was song selection, but TL played a number of his best tunes, and the crowd was just loving it. It was a show that restored your faith in all that is great and powerful about live rock ‘n’ roll played with passion. And if you use your Spotify account and do the "This is Ted Leo and the Pharmacists" playlist, you'll hear the lengthy hit list that makes TL an indie-icon.
Of course, Ted had to preach a little about how liberal everyone should be. Yeah, yeah, just play music buddy. No one really cares about your politics, and if you have something to say, put it to a punchy tune with 3 guitars and lyrics I can’t understand, and we’ll all go away happy. You can never trust these Notre Dame grads to keep their mouths closed, but (a) at least he didn’t talk about Irish football, and (b) remarkably, he didn’t tell us how great it is to be a vegan.
I got some splendid pictures that captured the essence of the live show. Despite the small stage, there was movement, interaction and stage presence that made the show really terrific. It’s hard to do justice to real life, but I think these pictures are, as a collection, some of the best I’ve posted in a while as they captured a lot of the human action that took place that night. I hope you agree.
I’ve got 4 more shows to get to and times a-wastin’. Next up is Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-A-Whirl Band at the Ardmore Music Hall, then it’s back to the Boot for the Gotobeds. After that, one of rock’s all-time legends in a massive football stadium, and then to Union Transfer for a sweet and emotional sendoff to a Philly band that deserved much more prominence than they ever received. Are you ready for all that? I sure as heck hope so. Because there is much more in the hopper! Strap in, sit back and enjoy your flight through BRP’s summer of rock. See you on the flip side, friends. And thanks for reading and visiting – you always have a home here at BRP.
I’ve strutted down Bourbon Street, 6th Street, and South Broadway. But I hadn’t been to the Memphis version of live venue row in decades. Beale Street is pretty famous and has a long heritage. But it’s funky and while it shares some similarities to the other famous honky-tonk strips, it’s different in important ways.
Of all the strips, Beale Street is most like Bourbon Street, but much, much smaller. It’s about 3 blocks long whereas Bourbon goes on for about 15 blocks. Why is it similar? Well, it’s got a scent of danger with it, a HEAVY police presence, local scam artists trying to get you to part ways with your money (both voluntarily and involuntarily) and it has not only live music but some off-beat stores that are worth a peek.
Let’s start with an obvious issue: the place reeks of danger. On weekend nights, you have to go through a metal detector to get onto the street as a whole. They don’t have them at clubs, but instead for the whole entertainment district. There must be a reason for that.
And there are cops galore. In fact, there is a police station right at the end of Beale Street. But at night, they have these cherry-pickers-on-steroid things called Blue Crush at the end of every block. Cops go up in them to keep an eye on the crowd, and most likely, to direct the many street cops to signs of trouble. There must be a reason for that, too.
Unlike other places we’ve been to, including Bourbon Street, we didn’t see any fights. That’s good. One time in New Orleans we saw two women going at it, one yelling “f+ck with me?” and throwing punches at another, who was trying to get away but occasionally swinging back wildly. It was great. But with the number of people carrying guns now, I’m not sure I want to see that too often. (But every once in a while? Cool.).
We had fun on Beale Street. Like New Orleans, there are chain bars on the street, and we ended up in one called Coyote Ugly. [What’s with life imitating movies? I think the worst one of these is the Bubba Gump shrimp restaurants – who eats at those places?] Like the movie version, they encouraged you to dance on the bar, and Helen did so. But they also had a pool table and not many patrons while we were there, and we shot pool and danced to a really good selection of tunes. It was a great way to spend an hour or two.
We also happened upon a classic car show where the owners were displaying their pride and joys up and down the street. I love those old cars, and seeing them again is always fun in my book. We strolled around and checked them out and chatted up a couple of owners. It was nice.
The blues are king here. At the Blues City Café, we saw Blind Mississippi Morris and his band play a ferocious set of Delta Blues. And in a small city park along the strip, we saw a few different bands take the stage and entertain the blues-hungry crowd.
And then there is the weird stuff. Bourbon Street used to have a place with “French style entertainment.” I never went in, but it looked like a naked rugby scrum. They also had female impersonators. Beale Street has a place with goats in the patio of the bar near where the bands play. And it has Jack Lawler’s place, which is part museum, part live music venue. Lawler was nicknamed “The King” and was a professional wrestler. We sat on his throne, listened to a good blues band, and hung out for a while.
One thing that is different is that some of the clubs charge a cover. What?!? B.B. King’s place had a big band with about 10 people on stage, but they wanted something like $10 to get in. We didn’t know if we wanted to hang there, so we kept on walking and ended up in some other place where the music was free. We never made it back to B.B. King’s.
My biggest impression of Beale Street is that, for a city that has an outsized and well-deserved reputation for music (particularly the blues and early rock), Beale Street is small and a bit overrated. SoBro in Nashville is much bigger, and Nashville also sports a ton of other live music venues throughout town. The same goes for Austin: 6th Street has many more venues, and if you tire of the touristy music thing, there are clubs galore that feature live acts playing their own songs. I didn’t get the sense that non-Beale Street Memphis has much to offer beyond a few clubs, and that Beale itself is not big enough to do Memphis justice. Then again, Memphis itself doesn’t do its heritage justice.
Done! That’s it for my Memphis/Nashville/Little Rock musical sojourn. It’s time to get back to Philly and feast on its summertime music scene, which remains dynamic, diverse and thriving. Onward and upward!
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.