Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Messin With The Kid -- Mojo Buford


The first time I ever saw this group The Butanes was at The 400 Bar in Minneapolis (may it rest in peace).  My buddy Pat and I staked out a nice spot at the end of the bar.  It had prompt access to the bartender and it was close to the bathrooms.   I had never heard of The Butanes at that point but I was pretty impressed.  They were really cutting loose and the lead singer and guitar player, Curt Obeda, was really a good front man.  He kept things very lively and light-hearted.  During the show, however, Pat and I couldn’t see Curt Obeda’s face.  The bar hung too far over and it obscured our view of him.  We could see him playing guitar, but couldn’t see him sing.  I never saw his face the whole show.  

There was another memorable thing about that show.  The Butanes had this one handed piano player.  I don’t know how he did it, but he pounded out good rhythm with his left stump and improvised the rest with his right hand.  That made an impression on me and I’ve never forgot The Butanes because of that night.

Back in those days during the mid-80’s, I was a Mass Communications Major at the University of Minnesota.  As part of that major, I took several radio and television production classes.  In one radio class, we were assigned to do an interview with someone and then make at least a dozen edits in it.  Back in those days, of course, we actually had to manually cut the tape with a razor and tape it back together.  I must say I was pretty damn good at it too.  I made an edit so flawless that my teacher didn’t believe it and had to double check the tape to make sure.

Anyway, I decided to ask Curt Obeda.  He graciously accepted.

I had no idea what to expect, but I have to say, he turned out to be a great interview.  He had a lot of interesting tales to tell.  He told the familiar saga of a lot of Blues guys in the Midwest.  He basically graduated from high school in Minnesota and took off for Chicago with his guitar.  He lived down there and went to The West Side and hopped on stage with the legends during some Blue Monday jam sessions.  After learning from the masters and perfecting his craft, he moved back and started The Butanes.  

He told about how his life was pretty sweet because he did what he loved and he didn’t need to worry about money.  The money he received playing music was enough to pay for his rent and cigarettes.  He spent almost nothing on booze and food because he was usually comped at the bars he played at even when he was just there as a patron.

I wish I kept that interview.  It would be a really interesting piece of early 80's history.

As another interesting piece of early 80's history. It is a very obscure video of another Minneapolis Blues legend, Mojo Buford (sorry couldn't find any Butanes in case you were looking for that.


Friday, February 1, 2013

I Feel Alright -- The Bill Magee Blues Band


In my last post I mentioned something about not having very memorable concert going experiences during my time in San Diego.  I’m not trying to cast an aspersion upon all live music in Southern Cal.  It’s just that disappointing concert experiences have been the norm for me personally.

Case in point...

It was back in 1993.  I had just moved to San Diego.  Living in San Diego was an acquaintance of mine from Minnesota, Derek.  It was natural for me to seek out somebody that I knew who could show me around.   Derek was much more into the punk scene and not so much into the Blues.  However, I had some punk roots too so when he invited me to go see the hardcore group Bad Religion, I accepted.  Going to this show would coincidentally be my first trip down to Tijuana, Mexico.  There was a concert venue just across the border called Iguana’s.  We parked on the U.S. side of the border and walked across to the club which was no more than a quarter-mile from the border check point.

Iguana’s was a fairly decent sized venue.  It had a main floor that could hold a couple hundred people and a U-shaped upstairs balcony that ringed the main room that could hold another hundred or so.

I was not new to mosh-pits, but I was new to mosh pits of this size.  The mosh-pit basically took up the whole main floor.  I got caught up in it as I tried to wriggle my way for a better view of the band.  It was actually kind of fun being bounced around in the pit for a bit.  If someone fell down, others typically helped that person back to their feet.  However, things took a turn for the dangerous when I started seeing people jump off the balcony in some form of insane stage dive right into the middle of the mosh pit.

Bad Religion were apparently not concerned about the safety of their fans.  They just played on.  I thought to myself,  “Someone is going to break their fucking neck.”  Just at that moment, I was bashed in the back of the head.  Some idiot had stage-dived off the balcony just above me and their foot bashed me in the head.  That was it for me.  I was getting out of the mosh pit.  Besides, I had lost Derek in the crowd.  I only “jumped into this fire” because he wanted to.

I found a bit of elbow room in the back by the bar.  I ordered a beer and was basically just waiting for the show to end.  The music sucked anyway.  As I waited, this hippie looking fellow with long, dirty dreadlocks staggered up to the bar across from where I was.  He was clearly wasted and just using the bar to keep himself from falling down.  

Then, for some inexplicable reason, these two skinhead thugs, shoved their way to the bar and started harassing this wasted hippie.  I don’t recall hearing the hippie say anything that would have provoked these two, but suddenly they started beating the piss out of him.  Being Tijuana there were no bouncers around to step in.  The beating continued for thirty seconds or so until the hippie finally collapsed to the ground.  The scumbag thugs walked off.  The hippie managed to lift himself back up to a standing position.  He was bleeding pretty bad.  Some girl stepped in and helped him a little and the bartender got some staffers to assist him out of the bar.

“Wow, what fun can be had down in Tijuana.  I can’t wait to come back.”  I said to myself.

Finally the show ended.  It was like the walking wounded as scores of people limped their way out of the bar.  When we stepped outside, there was an ambulance right by the door.  I overheard someone say that somebody had broke their neck.  As Gomer Pyle used to say, “surprise, surprise, surprise.”  Who would have guess jumping 20 feet into a crowd below would potentially break someone’s neck.

I was very relieved when I was finally back on U.S. soil.  However, that was not the end of my delightful experience.  Derek and I were driving back home up Interstate 5.  Now I-5 is five lanes wide and at 2:00 in the morning there is almost no one on the road.  Despite this, a car full of punk assholes drove right up to my bumper and stayed there.   They could have passed at any time and on either side of me.  But nope, they just stayed their and rode my ass.  I slowed down to some ridiculous speed like 40 miles an hour thinking they just needed to wake up and go around me.  Nope.  They just sat there honking and flicking their brights on and off.  Regardless, I was not about to budge from my lane.  After a good 4 to 5 miles, they finally decided to pass me.  As they passed, they laughed and mocked us smugly.

I am very fortunate that I did not have gun in the car that night.  I almost certainly would have used it.

That was just one of several bad concert going experiences I sustained since moving to San Diego.  It is also a great example of why I like The Blues.  Blues music is good-time music.  It doesn’t attract assholes.  It attracts fun loving, amiable people.  No one is out to get into a fist fight or date rape some chick.  Blues concert goers just want to get a good buzz going, have some laughs and tap their feet some good-time music.  

I would be lying if I said that I had zero positive musical experiences in San Diego.  There is one great Blues regular on the San Diego scene and that is the Bill Magee Blues Band.  Bill talks my language.  He’s a good ol’ fun-loving Bluesman who knows how to get it done.  He’s not some bad Stevie Ray Vaughn cover band calling themselves Blues.  Bill is the real thing.