Bangkok Blues was pretty busy last Thursday. All the tables in the
main room were booked by the time I got around to arranging my own.
So I was stuck in the bar area without a view of the stage. The staff
seemed a bit overwhelmed. It was probably the biggest crowd the staff
had seen. But they did fine. And the food was wonderful as usual,
though in my case, wickedly hot.
The backup band was essentially the J St. Jumpers sans horns, though their trombone player, Steve Shaw, was handling the bass duties. The first up was Charlie Hubel, who is normally a sax player with the Jumpers. I'd never heard him play anything but sax. And he sounded good. Next up was God in the person of Phil Wiggins ;-). Phil usually plays country blues with John Cephas, so this was a rare opportunity to see him with an electric band. He played mostly acoustic through a vocal mic. And he sounded great. After Phil they took a quick break.
Wayne's whole theory behind this is that he got the bunch of Blues harpers who were in town in the 70s. So after the break 'the Dean', Bret Littlehales, had his turn. Bret was apparently the first. He sounded wonderful, perhaps in no small part because this is the same band he uses when playing around town as 'Big Boy Little'. Then they pulled up Bruce Ewan. Bruce went through several solid blues tunes, and then switched over to a smaller band. The Steve Shaw pulled out an upright and Rusty Bogart sat down with his guitar. And they shifted over to Brazilian Jazz... Blue Bossa (ala Toots Thielmans) and another I can't recall.
The whole night was interspersed with remembrances of how folks met and the various rooms they played and assorted other stories. Mark Wenner was acting as MC and relaying a lot of the stories. He finally did get to play a couple tunes at the end of the night. And then he pulled everyone back up for the finale. After cycling the mic through all five players a couple of times, the band turned down and they all played. The band eventually stopped completely and let the 5 solo harps go with the whole crowd clapping along. The whole band came back in for the finish. It was really cool... you could just see the comradeship.
The whole crowd pretty much stayed to the end. As Bret Littlehales said 'Looking Back, I never thought I'd be doing this now, and I didn't think anyone would care.' The guys were hanging around a good bit after the show, pictures were taken, there were discussions of equipment and harp boxes and the like.
Harpers are a cliquish bunch. You could loose track counting those in the audience... Robert Lighthouse, Roger Edsall, and a number of others less famous were there. Many hoping to get up on stage themselves.