Monday, May 18, 2009
BB's, Stlblues.net and Cornbread
May 17th was fast approaching and our band, who has been in the process of sorting things out, including coming up with a name and, most importantly, the time to practice as a group, wasn't looking like it was up for the task. We lost our drummer in April and last week Kevin, our Lead Guitar needed some "him" time.
We were the St. Louis Kingpins and supposed to be the opener for the Soulard Blues Band at BB's the STLBlues.net Cancer benefit, put on by our boy Peter Cohen, (aka) Cornbread. Now, Cornbread is pretty well known in the underground, grassroots community of St. Louis Blues. He has told me stories of receiving tons of CD's from all over the country that he listens to and reviews and posts them on his site. I took for granted, I am sure, that it was just a hobby and one that wasn't quite so "involved" as hobbies go.
This is not the case with Cornbread and his partners, who have embarked on a journey, a viral marketing process that engages the way musicians and fans communicate; how to find the blues. Visit stlblues.net if you get a chance. It is a very comprehensive site, devoted to the blues with an ongoing calendar that is comprehensive. As I get "all-up-in" to that culture, while still learning to play guitar and crafting out my own style, singing and playing the harp, it will be important to take note of a couple of things in regard to the community.
First and foremost, let it be known that blues fans come in all shapes and sizes, and the history of who's who, or better said, who used to play where and with who, is sacred knowledge amongst the group. I say this because it didn't take me long to put my foot in my mouth.
We had been at BB's for a couple hours and had gotten there early to get a good table to watch Chef Mike, one of our band members (keyboard player), playing in our forfeited spot under the band name, Park the Karma. They were really good and I was indeed correct in assuming that, since we lost our lead guitar player and drummer, it was the right thing to do: bag the inaugural St Louis Kingpins event.
And I was thinking while sitting there watching, listening--if I would have gotten tripped up while on stage, I could have simply blurted out stuff about being an elite cyclist or something, and that I can ride really fast, and that this blues thing is all really just an experiment, and that if y'all throw shit at me, I will leave on my 4000.00 Cannondale like, really fast.
So the bands went on for a couple hours, Cornbread knew virtually every musician and every musician wanted to meet him because he is the one who does all the reviews in the city and other. I met the lead singer of the Soulard Blues Band, asked him how and the hell he remembers all the words. He says, the key is knowing the story. You got to get the message, so you can feel it, sing it, be it, the way the artist wanted it to be, when sung. Word, I didn't get his name but he told me that he is coming out west for coffee soon. A black guy in cowboy boots, we are now friends.
I was wanting to get out of there because it was getting dark and I selfishly yearned to get back home to the comfort of West County, where there are less chances of people asking for money. While standing out front of what is surely St. Louis's premiere blues entertainment venue, BB's.
I noticed this guy, around my age, short and plump, dressed up in one of those vintage southern Alabama shirts that looks like Mayberry. He had on a straw hat and looked like he come right off the set of "Brother Where Out Thou". He was standing around like I was, so I struck up a conversation with him. I told him that my boy Cornbread over there is a baddass blues CD reviewer, the best that ever existed and that, (and here is where you hit me) if the CD's were DVD's, he would listen to them on priority and that every CD should accompany a DVD, as part of the marketing, blah, blah, blah...typical Pfoodman necktalk. Turns out the dude was no other than Tom "Papa" Ray, the owner of Vintage Vinyl down in the Loop. The man. He shut me down pretty good and I got a serious learnin from this southern boy, who was really quite charming in his knowledge and oratorical articulations (George Clooney demure). Great guy, very knowledgeable, a true St. Louis icon.
From Cornbread himself:
Yesterday BB's had a decent crowd. Ralph, Dan and I were there, had a Bud, ate some wings & sweet potatoe fries and took in 4-5 bands. The crowd was less than we hoped. Mike and Park The Karma really well. Ralph and I are each getting some coaching from guys in Soulard Blues Band (vocals and bass). Dan kept talking about the old guys that were playing. I was asked for rolling papers by some guy walking by, Ralph offended Papa Ray then hit a tree..... All-in-all it was a great afternoon!
So even though we didn't play, I made a couple friends, got down with the culture of the blues in St. Louis, which is a very serious thing. I just returned from Austin and it is a very serious thing there as well. Who knows where the journey will go from here? The main thing is that there are open arms in each community as it relates to music and the love of music. And that, even if my opinion is shit, I can still make some meaningful acquaintances.