Sep 17, 2012

Big Muddy Blues with Dr. John

If you’re tired of reading about the music I enjoyed last summer, I guess I owe you an apology up front.  However, I would be derelict in my blogging duties if I did not cover Dr. John’s performance at the Big Muddy Blues Festival at Laclede’s Landing in downtown Saint Louis. 

Dr. John was the headliner for the main stage on Sunday, Sept. 2.  With him on my short list of performers I’d never seen in concert but always wanted to, I was not going to pass up the opportunity, especially for a mere $10 admission!  You have to love the bargains you sometimes get at outdoor music venues. 

Plus, I had never been to the Big Muddy Blues Festival, which showcases not only national and international blues acts – many playing for free on the two street stages – but also the eclectic Laclede’s Landing area on the riverfront, which is full of restaurants, entertainment and nightlife  in its own right.  It may be time to do something about the brick and cobblestone streets, though.  I get the historic significance, but I’m surprised I don’t see more people twist ankles or take a tumble down the streets, which can also slope severely toward the water. 

Anyway, the day began with my friends Ken, Kent (yes, Ken AND Kent, not a typo) and me checking in to the Drury Plaza Hotel by the arch.  I’ve mentioned the location and amenities of this hotel before.  It’s probably my favorite place to stay when I’m visiting St. Louis.  And the views of the arch the next block over aren’t too shabby.

After a few drinks (ok, several), some R&R in the room, and a generous three-free-drink happy hour at the hotel, we stumbled northward toward the Landing and, just as importantly, the Hampton Inn, where we met up with more friends – Sue and Terry Hupp – two of the greatest people you’ll ever know.  Together, the guys made quite a motley crew.

A motley crew, but not Motley Crue
Sue, of course, looked spectacular.  Love the hat paying homage to Bear Bryant.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with the festival, but who cares?

We followed the music to the two street stages and all the chaos in between.  There were more than plenty of food and drink vendors to choose from.  The prices varied from acceptable to highway robbery, but there were bargains to be found. Although I’m not sure a Jaegerbomb is a bargain at any price. 

One of the free street stages at Big Muddy Blues Festival
By sunset, we had made our way to a grassy lot, which sloped perfectly to form a natural amphitheater for the main stage. 

I was quickly impressed by how excellent Ana Popovic was.  Her band was performing on the main stage before Dr. John.  Although she’s from Yugoslavia and currently lives in the Netherlands, she can belt out the electric blues with a vengeance.  And she looks damn sexy with a guitar.  Hell, she looks damn sexy without it, too. 

Ana Popovic rocking the stage.
This lame stage picture I took does not do her or her performance justice.  Someone in our group seemed to think she had unusually large knees, but I find that nitpicking. 

Before Dr. John went on, Kent and I decided to go exploring in search of a decent public restroom.  That brought us to Heartbreakers, a nightclub on the Landing known for its … umm … scenery.

And in case you’re wondering, I did catch a strand of beads she was throwing, but only because my face got in the way. 

A word of caution if you ever plan to use the ATM at Heartbreakers … they charge a $5.10 fee.  Really?  They have to add the extra 10 cents after gouging you for $5?  Isn’t that adding insult to injury? 

Back to the reason why I went to the festival – Dr. John.  If you’re just becoming a fan because of his critically acclaimed new album, you would have been happy to hear “Locked Down” and “Big Shot,” and truthfully they were some of his best performances.  I liked that he opened with “Iko Iko,” a New Orleans favorite.  Other highlights included two blues classics – “Let the Good Times Roll,” made famous by B.B. King and Bobby Bland, and Koko Taylor’s “Wang Dang Doodle,” which enabled Dr. John’s quartet of female back-up singers to really shine. 

Another unexpected surprise for the night was seeing someone we knew on stage playing trumpet with Dr. John – Mr. Frank Parker, famous locally in Springfield for his Monday night jambalaya jazz jams at the Brewhaus.  Frank is a true New Orleans native and a great guy, so we got a kick seeing him collaborating with the other back-up musicians.  He even got a solo and a call-out from the good doctor hisself.

Look close, and you'll see Frank Parker on trumpet/
And, in case you were wondering, of course he played “Right Place, Wrong Time,” which got practically the whole crowd dancing on the lawn. And he closed with “Such A Night.”  It was just about everything you could ask for from a Dr. John show.  Well, I would have liked to hear one or two more New Orleans standards he does so well.  “Tipitinas” or “Big Chief” next time perhaps?

Finally, our good fortunes continued after the concert was over.  The stand behind us which was selling small hurricanes and margaritas for $5 and larges for $8 wanted to get rid of their supply.  By the time Dr. John had reached his encore, their drinks were selling two-for-one.  As people dispersed, the large drinks were $2 until they were gone.  Even without the deal, they were actually pretty good hurricanes.  So, I was not going to pass up one for $2.  Needless to say, it was a long weave back to the hotel.   

1 comment:

nichole said...

Awesome review as usual. Make me miss living in STL:(

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