November 12 Main Act

Sue DaBaco and Wise Fools

Sue DaBaco and the Wise Fools, a magical blues band, three musicians with wicked licks and hard-driving mojo — the main act on this night. The group followed Charlie Horse and took the crowd in to the deep end of the blues waters of the blues pool.

The drummer never quit. He opened the show, alone and never stopped sometimes sliding in to the percussive harmony of others, sometimes taking the spotlight. Never stopping.  Never even breaking a sweat as far as I could tell.

Again, the luxury of up close photography at the Doublewood Inn ballroom, courtesy of Steamer Productions, and I got a taste of how good it would be to do this for a living, for a full-time gig.  To get to work AND play at the same time.

Sue DaBaco is an amazing gutsy blues singer and guitar player.  She makes that Fender Strat scream the way it was meant to scream, melodic and precise.

Her energy is mesmerizing.  She loses herself in her performance,  in not only the tune she plays but the words she sings.

Frankly, I was almost afraid of her until after the show when I visited with her.  She is real. She is friendly and humble.  I joy to know.  Since then, I have extended the communication (via FaceBook) and have learned she’s a woman with a friendly spirit, quick humor and a deep passion for victims of ethnic and genocidal atrocities such as the Holocaust.  She’s one smart woman, pursing higher education in her field of sociology.

Her sideman, bassist Scott Walters is a Green Bay Packers Fan — of course since he comes from Wisconsin as does the rest of the band.  I mention that because he too is a real human, and not some arrogant untouchable icon on stage.  Like the drummer, Scott can shine as a soloist or as a bridge between rhythm and percussion.  He’s a fanatic about bass guitar player legends, not only studying them but adding his own technique to the stylings he has picked up from others.

On this night, North Dakota was treated to the sound that biker bars, blues clubs and other venues in Milwaukee and other populated midwestern cities get to hear more regularly.    For my taste, we out here in North Dakota don’t get enough exposure to such music.

I’m fortunate to be able to capture the sight.  Now, to get the sound, that’s up top you.

October 3 — Singing the blues on a Sunday night

Bob T and Wayde S pair off

I love shooting artists of another genre: musicians such as Bob and Wayde.  They are a couple of the finest blues players in this part of the U.S.

Bob Tikippe

On this night, they’ve teamed up as the opening act for the Joe Moss Band, thanks to Steamer Productions.

Bob Tikippe has appeared here earlier in the North Dakota 365 blog.  In that entry he was performing  in another venue as an acoustic blues player on his steel-bodied National.  In this entry, he’s here on a Fender Strat — the leader of the pack for those country, blues and rock guitar players who like the precise sound of the Strat.

Wayde Schafer

Wayde’s down home authenticity is woven in to blues with his Gibson, the other leading choice of blues, rock and country guitar players.  (Back when I was a blues bass player, Wayde was the man whom I aspired to back in a public performance.)

Together, these  two men combined always provide a purists blend of sound, each taking rhythm/harmony to the others lead.

I like shooting musicians like these fellows because the color, the lights and the energy enhance the emotion you can read in their faces.  Do you see it?  Can you almost feel it?

The two work well together. And when Bob pulls out his mouth harp to blow some tunes, Wayde expands the sound accompanying Bob.

Theirs is a blues you can sit and relate to, feel, absorb as though they’re telling you their story — one you recognize as your own.  This night they entertained with not only cryin-in-your-beer leavin’ me blues, but some nasty hard core deep down rumbling gut-moving stories put to a 14 bar progression.

You can catch them playing as a group called Levee, but you gotta work hard cuz they’re full time employed with other careers and this kind of outlet is only their night job/hobby, and their passion.  If North Dakota were a bit more receptive to the arts, both performing arts and visual arts, they would be able to make a go of it full time as the boogie-meisters of Bismarck.

On this night the two were here to warm up the crowd for the Joe Moss Band a Chicago blues band with high energy and gutsy mojo.  Joe Moss draws in a crowd wherever he is and for blue-hungry fans in Bismarck, a night like this is one to not only attend but to remember.

The blues nights such as this, as rare as they are, bring in a crowd even on a Sunday night like this.  Joe Moss brings his Chicago blues band across this region far too rarely to suit most rockin’ blues players.  But thanks to Steamer Productions, North Dakotans can catch something that is usually reserved for blues lovers in larger cities. 

Joe Moss’ high-energy sound on this night built on the groove dug by Bob and Wayde.  The energy of this band doesn’t shock you, doesn’t irritate you, but it lifts you to the next level.

Joe can entertain as well as any, but when you pair him with Carl Davis, the crowd gets a two-for-one treat.  I love Carl Davis. He’s a misplaced 50’s-60’s rockabilly, rock-and-roller, R&B master.  I was completely unfamiliar with him until this night.  Now, I’m a fan.  What I especially like about him is that he gets in to the role as a soulful emotive guitar master.

Carl Davis

When a night of high quality low down entertainment such as Bob, Wayde, Joe and Carl hit the stage, it’s a good idea to break those doldrums you’re wallowing in, and hit the highway, head to town, and pack the house for an art form you don’t get to experience often here in the Northern Plains.

Can I count on seeing you there, next time?

September 10

 

Black Cat Rumble

 

Four extremely talented local musicians get together for good rockin’ blues. Each play on their own, in their own bands or with others.  Sarah McMahon, Adam Halverson, Arnold Jordan and Weston Shick get together to play as Black Cat Rumble. 

Bismarck doesn’t seem to have the venue for such outstanding musicians to perform, so they get together when they can, where they can such as here at in the corner of the lounge at a local motel.  I don’t know if there’s no market for such music or if there’s no venue. Either way ya gotta catch this talent when you can, where you can.

I was fortunate enough to catch them here, and in conversation with another member of the audience shared the same thoughts. Except he’s a promoter and invited me to shoot some upcoming acts he has coming to town.  What good karma!  I look forward to developing this line of photography.

 

August 28

 

Big Walter Smith

 

Blues on the Red.  Grand Forks party on DeMers and Big Walter Smith was there to entertain. Grand Forks puts on the regular event each summer and it’s worth attending.  On this night the electrified Chicago/Delta/Mississippi blues of Big Walter Smith attracted the crowd on a perfect weather night. Motorcyclists joined the eclectic crowd of beer drinkers, bar-b-que eaters and blues lovers for a celebration of summer — one of those rare nights when the mojo is working and the black cat is strutting.

This time of year, the sun is still lingering as it descends in the west, and the crowd packs in to the park to enjoy a brief moment of  those lazy hazy days of summer.

After the Red River destroyed much of Grand Forks in the Big Flood/Fire/Blizzard of 1997,  the city was re-built with a flair and design that is perfect for good easy culture such as Blues on the Red.  A good ride to Grand Forks, a good night of entertainment, good food and good weather made this a memorable trip of 2010 for me.

The music as good as any I’ve heard all year. The photo ops were supreme.  The trumpeter in Big Walter Smith’s band was far more than an accompaniment. He was a show all to himself.

And when the show was over, there was still plenty of energy and opportunity to wander the streets along the Red River in Downtown Grand Forks.

And so wandering was on order for the rest of the night, visiting some of the more collegiate and more cosmopolitan establishments in the rebuilt section of town along DeMers Avenue.

 

DeMers Ave on a Sat night

 

July 15

Old blues the way they were meant to be played

Bismarck is not an oasis of good music. Most of what you hear in town is cover bands and bar bands which are merely one step above garage bands.

Once in a while you can find some authentic music played by authentic musicians who know the feeling of the music they play, not just the notes.  Arnold Jordan is one of those musicians.  In the middle of the week,you’ll find him at the East 40 Chophouse playing acoustic blues he feels, he writes, he plays.

There is never a big crowd for his music. He is generally background music in the “lounge” but his music is not background in its intensity and it’s authenticity.  He plays from the heart, not from his fingers.

There in the upscale bar of the East 40 you can hear a bit of what must be a direct descendent of the  blues bars, the juke joints of old.

I have trouble shooting in the East 40 because the light changes so much from those stained glass windows and the lights overhead. I don’t use a flash and capture the natural light of the moment.  Arnold’s natural music and these natural lit photos are a perfect combination.