Antone's, July 13-14
An uncharacteristically somber mood prevailed over Antone's 25th Anniversary. The blues were inspired, played with joy and vigor, but something was definitely missing. After the raucous opening weekend capped by the traditional "We Three Kings" tribute Monday night, the week settled into a laid-back groove. It harkened back to the club's early days, when most of the name acts were from Chicago or East Texas, and maybe that's what everyone needed -- a small dose of the good old days. For Antone's staff, it has been a tumultuous year that led up to Clifford Antone's departure for federal prison 48 hours before the club began celebrating a quarter-century of blues. It was also a tough year for sister Susan Antone, fresh from rehab, who was heard to mutter in good humor that the club had driven her "to drugs and treatment," but is looking light years healthier for the sobriety. The club has also benefited from the addition of Brad First, who started out booking Club Foot 20 years ago and has brought a very contemporary sensibility to a genre always in danger of being marginalized. It's the ever-vital injection of young blood that makes the old blood sound so good, like watching Shandon Sahm play alongside his dad's sidemen and contemporaries Arthur "Sauce" Gonzalez, Ernie Durawa, Randy Garibay, Spot Barnett, Jack Barber, and Rocky Morales. That late-night Thursday lineup followed an honor roll of bluesmen who played the first half of the night, James Cotton, Calvin Jones, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, and Miss Lavelle White, who is woman enough to be a bluesman too. Big Bill Morganfield dressed nattily each night, carried the spirit of his father Muddy Waters back to the Antone's stage where it once resided, his home away from sweet home, Chicago. James Cotton has seen better shows, but players Jones and Perkins were electrifying, links to an era most of us only imagine, and when these men go, it goes with them. A 16-year-old guitar student of drummer Ernie Durawa waited anxiously at the side of the stage, guitar in hand, Thursday night during the Doug Sahm tribute, and was terribly disappointed he didn't get called onstage. That's the way it goes; Stevie wasn't called up the first time either. The following night, however, 16-year-old local Eve Monsees was holding her own on the Stratocaster against Bob Margolin and Morganfield as Kim Wilson stepped back and watched, harmonica tight in his hand. Angela Strehli glided through the light crowd at the side of the stage, regal as the house queen of blues she is, and cocked an ear toward Monsees when the girl cut loose. Sue Foley sat upstairs and nodded her head as she too watched the young girl and grinned. "There's a new girl playing guitar every time I turn around," laughed Foley. "It's good!" And it is
good, as was the anniversary. Not great, because something was missing, something palpable. Clifford's presence was too fresh, and he was on everyone's mind, looking down from a poster behind the stage. It was Richard Luckett's Doug Sahm altar stage left. It looked out on the annual celebration dedicated this year to the ol' Texas Tornado himself. Clifford will be back, you see, but Doug will not. That's what was missing.