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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Delmark 60th Anniversay Show @ SPACE in Evanston

I went to the Delmark 60th anniversary show on Friday, August 23.  It was a serious gathering of Chicago's blues community (which includes the die-hard fans).  Delmark is the record label founded and managed by Bob Koester.  Bob has kept this label going and it is now the oldest independent jazz/blues record company in the country.  Bob is over 80 years young, and he was at the show last Friday.  He spoke to the crowd at some length.  He is a spry old fella.

Delmark assembled a crowd of its artists - at least nine headliners led bands during the evening ("young bucks" Toronzo Cannon, Mike Wheeler and Dave Spector; "veterans" Linsey Alexander, Byther Smith, Jimmy Burns, Taildragger - pictured above, Lurrie Bell and Sharon Lewis).  This led to short sets and a long show.  In addition to the "stars," a small army of sidemen held forth, including major heavyweights such as E.G. McDaniel on bass, Kenny Smith on drums and Martin Lang on harmonica.  There were some outstanding moments - Byther Smith uncorked a great set, for example.  But all the artists were trumped by Eddie C. Campbell, recovering from a stroke he suffered during a winter tour to Europe, in his wheelchair in the audience, singing Little Walter's "Last Night" and playing the harmonica while Lurrie Bell and the band dug deep to support the old bluesman.  It was an intense experience, and the audience responded with a full-throated roar.

And the audience was full of musicians from the Chicago blues community - I counted at least a dozen folks that could have been on the bandstand with the headliners.

I am a fool for blues music, but even I was cooked by the time the 9th artist stumbled up on stage.  The same sidemen backed several artists with no break and they were getting really tired.  I finally left at the beginning of the last set.  The energy level had fallen, the crowd had thinned and the show fell on its face at the finish line.

Having said that, it did feel like "the old days" to have a sizable venue crammed with knowledgeable, enthusiastic blues fans.  Thanks to Delmark and SPACE for putting on this show.

Note to Delmark - your next big show should be limited to four headlining artists over a 2-3 hour period.  Always leave the audience begging for more, right?

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