Monday, January 19, 2009

Open Mic At Sheri's Chippewa Club

The Music

On Sunday, January 11 my friend, Catya, and I headed to Sheri's Chippewa Club for their Blues Open Mic. Yeah, yeah, I know, three bands in one weekend is a bit excessive, as evidenced by my tardiness in blog posts; typical all-or-nothing addict behavior. Catya isn't a regular participant, but had heard that some of her friends from The Bear Creek Band and The Love Buzzards Blues Band would be playing and, having written some new material, she wanted to try it out live. I was pretty excited; I know Catya's work from Davy Jones and the Jones Tones, and always love it when she takes the lead with them, playing a couple of her original songs. She has a trio and plays with Sue Orfield, but I've yet to catch her in either of those bands. Sunday night I was finally going to get a bigger dose of her.

It took a while but finally she hit the stage, with Tim Caswell on lead guitar and keyboards, Rich Sickels on drums--both of The Love Buzzards Blues Band, Adam on harp, and a guy named Mark on bass. Catya brought her bass but said she always ended up playing it and this time wanted to play guitar; she was grateful for Mark's presence. What can I say? They rocked.

The first time up they did four of her songs: That's What You Do To Me; Just Can't Stop; How You Get To Me, and her most recent, Fickle Wind. These are professional musicians and their impromptu performance did not disappoint. As with Downers Grove, I understood that playing was the end to the means and the audience almost unnecessary; they played with controlled joy—simply for the pleasure of it all. Even the bass player—previously sitting in the corner of the stage—perked up, standing, becoming more engaged.

Tim stood, tall and straight, fingers dancing along the neck of his guitar, Rich—looking like a pirate with a temporary eye-patch and black curls falling over his forehead—made the drums in front of him appear small as he attacked them with enthusiastic vigor, and Adam blew harp like a demon. Catya's voice was true and strong and her songs amazing. I could write more—much more—about Catya, but my bias for my friend would be too obvious. Suffice it to say that even if she hadn't become my friend, I would still be in awe of her talent.

Catya sat through the next set, catching up on musical affairs with her friend Rich Sickel (at one point they asked me for a piece of paper so he could write down a newly-conceived lyric) as a different arrangement of musicians took the stage. Harmonica player, Adam, lead the group through songs like Tom Waits' “Temptation,” Old Crow Medicine Show's “Rock Me Mama” and Robert Johnson's classic, “Sweet Home Chicago.” Then Catya, Rich, and Tim took the stage again, accompanied by Dan Callan, head of the Bear Creek Band—who had been running the sound system—on electronic keyboard and the organ. Rick, on drums, led off with Junior Wells' “Messing With The Kid,” Tim followed, belting out Sonny Boy Williamson's “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” striking familiar chords with me as I remembered deceased Grateful Dead drummer, Pigpen, and Catya ended the set with one of my favorites, her original song, “If We Never Kissed.”

My bedtime on work nights is usually about 9:30 and I didn't get home until 11:30. I was tired the next day, but have no regrets breaking my bedtime rule that Sunday. It was—most definitely—worth it.

The Venue

Sheri's Chippewa Club, in downtown Durand, is a great place for music. The space is loosely divided in half, with the bar and pool table on one side, and the stage area on the other. There are tables and comfortable couches for music aficionados and cameras aimed at the stage stream images live to televisions scattered throughout the bar. I just think this is sooo cool! They offer a blues open mic on second Sundays, a country open mic on third Sundays and they stream shows live over the internet (check out the bottom of this entry for the link). The stage is plenty big, equipped with an organ, and while I know nothing about this stuff, their sound-system looks pretty comprehensive. On top of all this, they serve fabulous burgers and when you go there, you've gotta try their “Chippewa Chips.” This bar is most definitely a labor of love, created by music lovers for music lovers.

Recovery Note

I would never have come here when I was doing dope: too much focus on music and not nearly enough on getting drunk or high. This was my first visit to Sheri's and don't know what it's like other nights, but it felt pretty darn solid and safe, challenging my recovery not one iota. That said, it is a bar.

Next up: Jeff White and The Electric Range



The Bear Creek Band

Bear Creek Dan

The Love Buzzards Blues Band

Sheri's Chippewa Club

Sheris' Webstream Site:

Davy Jones and the Jones Tones

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