Ventured into the unavoidable void of the west side on Friday, where broken bottles twinkle like suicidal stars and women on the financially motivated stroll ask for the time as a ploy for money. It's bleak, I tell you. But within this shabby Shangri-La beat the hearts of two excellent venues pumping out real American music to those who live there, and those that come from the surrounding burbs to get down.
With the wife and her sidekick in tow, we hit Sandra's Saloon on Smith Street, where the Mike Snow Band was laying down a flurry of country and western in this beautiful urban honky-tonk. Snow draws from the Willie and Waylon and George and Buck songbooks of rural bang 'n' twang, and he is the most country-ist cat this town has to offer since Dave Donnelly died in 2011. What a voice.
As if that weren't enough, we climbed into the midnight caboose and headed over to Smokin' Joe's on Lyell for some down and dirty blues from Dan Schmitt & the Shadows with special guest Joe Beard. The place was packed. The steam heat fogged the windows like a Roman bath house on Valentine's Day. Schmitt solos with and around lush chord patterns. The music swings for sure, and it jumps, too. It served as a perfect back to Beard's forth: a bare-bones tone that is both soothing and sinister. And though Beard intoned, "I feel like a stranger in my own home town," there was nowhere else any of us needed to be but right there at Smokin' Joe's with the blues and the Shadows and the steam.
The good folks at Gig Link threw an all-day party Sunday at the Firehouse Saloon on South Clinton to benefit the families of the victims of the Christmas Eve shootings in Webster. The place was already jumping by the time I made the scene. Funk Nut was rocking a deep-dish groove full of jazz, soul, and funk. Moon Zombies followed with a multi-media extravaganza that at times resembled a tantrum. Again this was funk, but with a breakneck edge and abandon. The band stomped around as if it were trying to get the flubber on their soles to kick in. Give it time and I predict this band will be playing air born.