Wednesday, May 14, 2008
St. Louis Sit-In
I had to travel to St. Louis on business a few days ago, but during my free time I was able to catch up with my bandmates -- and good buddies -- Rob Endicott and Neal Connors (a/k/a The St. Louis Horns). In fact, I even had a chance to sit in with Rob and the rest of the guys in the Voodoo Blues Band during their weekly jam at Hammerstone's in Soulard. Thanks again to singer/guitarist/bandleader Raul Consuegra for allowing me take part in the fun.
As enjoyable as it was to jump on stage with a fine band in St. Louis, I got an even bigger kick out of something I saw at the bar later that evening. After the Voodoo Blues Band finished its show, a two-piece act -- at least, I thought it was a two-piece act -- took the stage to play until closing time.
The front-man played a beautiful Gretsch electric guitar and sang a lot of old country songs. He appeared to know hundreds of tunes, and he did a nice job of keeping the crowd engaged. His companion onstage was a guy with an upright bass.
He was the guy who really held my attention.
For starters, no one in the bar could hear a note this "bassist" played, so I'm not sure why he was even on the stage. I only stuck around for five or six songs, but it was obvious to me that this low-rent Mingus was playing some variation of "air bass." The catch was that this guy played "air bass" on an actual instrument, and he did it during an actual show.
In any event, my man worked the neck of that bass with fingerings and facial expressions worthy of Ray Brown or Ron Carter. As for his right-hand technique, this guy switched from pizzicato to bow no less than two or three times during each two- or three-minute song. There was no musical reason for these random switches, but since he wasn't really playing music, it didn't matter.
He definitely looked the part with his tousled hair and his old suede jacket. He even occupied prime on-stage real estate just a few feet to the right of the singer, yet somehow the singer managed to ignore him completely.
Of course, I didn't have the singer's discipline -- so I was riveted.
I asked around, but none of the regulars at the bar could explain the man's musical role to me. They told me only that he lived in the neighborhood and "sat in" with the singer nearly every week.
But since that guitar-pickin' front-man didn't seem to mind, who was I to complain?
Posted by Matt Farmer at 7:36 PM