Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: From the Archives: S’Killit at Chicago Blues, NYC 7/4/96

Happy 4th!

The party started before noon and continued in Westchester at my girlfriend’s sister’s place. We then moved to a generic Mexican restaurant that her sister and husband were very fond of. Tequila flowed all afternoon. Somehow we made it back to the Metro North train, to the 6, to my place in Gramercy Park where homegirl promptly passed out. It was a nasty, humid, sweltering day, not a hint of breeze anywhere. But I wasn’t finished yet. By myself, I slogged down to 14th St. and 8th Ave. to Chicago Blues, which was surprisingly open, and even more surprisingly, the place was about half full, an enthusiastic crowd gathered toward the front of the club by the stage. S’Killit was in mid-set. They were a blues band fronted by an excellent piano player named Rusty Cloud, and had their full horn section.

The bars and lounges off the interstates from Maine to California abound with bad white blues bands, but S’Killit wasn’t one of them. Their main distinguishing feature was good songwriting. Cloud (who was Southside Johnny’s keyboardist for a time) wasn’t much of a singer, but he knew how to lead a band, how to work a crowd and wrote knotty, intricate, jazz-inflected songs. And when he was feeling more than he was thinking, he could play his ass off. The band used to play around town a lot during the early to mid 90’s and developed something of a following for their tunes and their impressive, jazzy improvisation, perhaps something akin to vintage Tower of Power without the Latin influences. Though it was an early show for them, on a holiday, the band was into it. I was about to leave just as they were about to begin their second set, but I heard the intro to Blue Fever (the title track to a cd they would release almost ten years later, still available at the cdbaby link above) and returned to the bar. It’s a long, slowly crescendoing, minor-key blues epic, the kind of thing they did best, so I thought it would be worth sticking around for at least this number. The only problem is that the place smelled like vomit. Which is why I’d wanted to leave in the first place. Strange: this wasn’t Doc Holliday’s. Chicago Blues pulled some pretty upscale acts sometimes, the sound was superb, and the place was always well-maintained.

After the song, I went outside (for a breath of fresh air – in those days, you could smoke in bars). But the smell lingered. All of a sudden it occured to me what the problem might be. I bent over and looked at my shoes, realizing what must have happened: someone had gotten sick in the bathroom at the Mexican place, and in the condition I was in, I was oblivious. No wonder the crowd was gathered at the front of the club: they’d seen me come in and wanted to get as far away as possible. That explains why the waitress was hanging at the end of the bar, watching the show. But I went back in anyway. An attempt to do a little cleanup in the bathroom proved pretty futile. The waitress kept bringing beers which I kept drinking, and in my condition this was not a good idea. How I managed to catch myself, pull myself together and stand up, in the split second before my face went into free-fall into my pint glass is something I’ll never know. If memory serves right, the slow stroll home was punctuated by a stop at the Twin Donut on 14th and 6th Ave.

July 4, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment