I was in Chicago last weekend and decided to catch a blues show at a local venue. Buddy Guy’s famous Legend’s blues bar was sold out because he was playing both nights that weekend. Anyway, I found Kingston Mines which had been around the North Side since 1968. Wow! This place was like a big old barn inside. It had two stages, the price was right ($15), and the MC, Frank Pelligrino, was freaking magic! He appeared to an old perverted drunk who was likely to topple over at any moment. But when he lurched for the mic and started rapping his genius came to life. Byder Smith , a ninety year old guitarist rocked the first set. The next set was The Joanna Connor Band. What a fabulous guitarist. You gotta check this mama out if you’re in Chicago.
Anyway, the next day as I was leaving Chicago and we drove by The Chicago Art Institute toward Midway Airport. That got me thinking about a topic I frequently mull over in my mind: Broadly speaking, what happened to Art’s soul? In the context of the Blues scene in Chicago this question seemed to be especially relevant.
If Art was a person I had seen at Kingston Mines he would surely be a scrawny white guy with glasses stiffly trying to move his pale rickety body to the groove. Now if we look at history, for a while there it seemed like Art had loosened up his European backbone starting around the time of Impressionism in France. Then, Art really took the world by surprise when he began flirting with Japanese women and soon after, women of color from Tahiti and Africa. His son, also named Art, was nicknamed was Modernism. He was such a cool guy… the kind of person that you’d see at Kingston Mines dancing the night away. Yeah… the good old Art. The Art you could have a few drinks with, talk philosophy or politics with, or listen to some killer Jazz with. He was cool. But then Art gave birth to the next generation of Art. This Art grew up watching TV. He developed a sharp wit and conceptual mind. He didn’t care for dancing much and seemed withdrawn from the world around him. Indeed, Art lost his soul.
|Frank Pelligrino on the mic|
Now remember I’m speaking broadly here… of course there is art out there that resonates with the kind of Blues I heard at heard at Kingston Mines. I should also add that soulful music such as Blues and Jazz is only a small fraction of the music being listened to and played today; So Kingston Mines may just be some anomaly outside of Chicago. Maybe its just because I’m such a fan of Howling Wolf, Jimi Hendrix, Lester Young, and Billy Holiday that I’m acutely aware of the absence of music like this in the popular music scenes of the day. But it seems so obvious to me that Music and Art of soul is the most human and the therefore the most exciting and enjoyable to experience. So where’s it at Chicago? You kept the Blues alive… so where’s all that soulful art at? I doubt I can find a gallery that turns me on as much as Kingston Mines did last weekend. Surprise me!