I got there at about a quarter after nine and the band was already cranking, the dance floor full. I broke out in a broad shit-eating grin that lasted all night; every one in the house was having a good time.
The Jukehouse Hounds are a collection of seasoned pros at keeping the audience happy and cranking out quality music. I don't think anybody in the house is having more fun than them so it is a win-win.
I had seen them before when they played the KEXP Shake the Shack Rockabilly Ball a few years ago. They know how to tear it up. The thing I really noticed about seeing their shows last night and before is that they tailor the performance to the audience. The LRH is usually filled with folks that like to dance country style, the Hounds made sure the tempo was just right for a little 2 stepping.
Release The Hounds!
Kelly Van Camp is the drummer, lead singer and head troublemaker. As I was paying my admission I could hear him hollering, I knew we were going to be entertained at the least. He has a beautiful voice and keeping a steady beat, he could add the harmonica...multi-tasking at a high level. He was choosing most of the tunes and setting the tempo for the rest of the boys. He mugged for my camera as seen below; I loved his energy and his passion for his art.
Robert Lee Mitchell was on the keyboards, he was channeling some great musicians last night; I think I heard Leon Russell, Stevie Winwood and maybe even Booker T. He was a real pro, alternately pounding and tickling the keys. He was the man that kept the band on the same page, giving instructions via voice or hands; letting the guitarist he could have another verse or letting the band know that the audience was having fun and we shouldn't stop now! He mugged for my camera too. These guys do not have any fun - at all.
Keith Lowe plays bass...barefoot. They were canvassing for tips and I mentioned to him that the reason the were not getting any takers was because the jar was too close to his feet. He then lifted the jar with his toes guaranteeing no one would get close to it for the rest of the evening (just kidding, it was filled by the end of the evening, well deserved).
Keith is really entertaining; very animated, a great thumping bass and a great collection of facial expressions. I remember seeing a screaming wolf, grimacing cheshire cat, insane lunatic...what a fun character.
The Hounds regular lead guitar was not in the house, which normally would have been a shame but not last night. Al Kaatz fits in so great with this band, another madman that plays with with skill and passion, but he was elsewhere last night. In his place was Seattle's favorite guitar player, we were so lucky to see Jerry Baptista at the lead.
Jerry, as everyone knows, is the biggest whore in Seattle, he will play anywhere, anytime when asked. I have seen him in a tiny cafe with the Davanos (Mr. Villas on Lake City Way), in a large honky tonk hall (The Tractor in Ballard) and in the ultra cool major hall (the Triple Door) with one of his other million bands, The Dusty 45's. He is a consummate pro, able to adjust to any band any condition...I could see him in a marching band. He would be great.
I assume he has either never been with the hounds or it has been a while; he had to learn a few chords on the run as they were rocking to an unfamiliar tune (at least with that band). Robert Lee was flashing gang signs to him for most of the evening, at least I think that's what they were. Jerry seemed like he welcomed most of theses missives. But it didn't take him long until he was spurning Roberts gestures and rocking with his usual confidence. He is fun to watch; very animated as he blistered out some great leads. He also sang lead on several songs. I have read comments on web sites about him, he is universally loved, I will have to join his fan club.
I was there for 2 out of the three sets. The first set was a rocking one. The pace was fast and furious. Jerry blistered, Robert Lee was killing the ivories, Keith was having a gas on bass and Kelly was singing and moving the band. It was really the best part of the show. I was on the edge of the dance floor and I was moving, sweating and smiling. I had to pace myself...the 8th Annual Elvis Tribute is at the Tractor tonight (1-7-12).
The second set was a little more tuned to dancing and audience participation. They played some requests; Beatles and Elvis and they did some great waltz's and 2 steps for the dancers. Don't Be Cruel was one of the best tunes they did all night. I prefer the scorching set they did first but I totally understand why the moved in this direction. This is what the people wanted. I think that they got the rocking out of their system with the first set.
The Little Red Hen is a great place to see music. I have mentioned that they are a neighborhood bar. There were guys on the dance floor that had come straight from the office; still in white shirt and tie. I have been there a couple of times now and I recognize many in the audience. I love that. I wish I could just walk there but 5 miles is not bad.
The large dance floor is right in front of the stage and the stage is just 18 inches off the floor. The ceiling is low so it has a very intimate feel. The best place to watch the band is along the rail adjacent to the dance floor. Here you get a great look/listen to the band but also get to watch the dancers. I am not a dancer, if I lift my foot, I fall down. So I am always amazed at great dancing; the movement of two bodies in sync is just beautiful to watch. Country dancing is fun to watch as it takes some practice and it has some cool rituals. When the band is playing a waltz or 2 step the dancers move as one around the floor counter clockwise. When it is packed they share tiny spaces moving and bobbing their heads to the beat.
Last night there were several wonderful dancers. I absolutely fell in love with one couple as they moved as one around the dance floor. Megan wore a cute mini-skirt and patterned hose, her beau wore aback t-shirt and a fedora, a tattoo creeping up the back of his neck. I watched them closely as they were 2 feet in front of my face. They looked at each other in the eyes; coordinating movements, planning, executing, sometimes intently and purposeful, sometimes joyful and lost in the moment. I approached them and told them how much I enjoyed watching them dance and asked if I could take a pic, here it is below. Thanks Megan!
One more thing about dancing, ok 2...when people dance they lose most of their inhibitions; there was so much joy on the dance floor and of course the Hounds knew how to keep 'em moving.
I have been there a couple times and there is one very old gentlemen who is always there and dances to almost every tune. He is not moving like he once used to so in between songs he just stays on the dance floor and waits for the women to come to him. He dances with all the cutest girls in the place...(note to self, you could do a lot better if you looked a little more pitiful). I just noticed he is in the top picture too, watch those hands mister!
My buddy Mark and I stood at the edge of the dance floor all night and we had a gas just like everybody else.
I want give a plug for Shake the Shack on KEXP 90.3, Fridays from 6 to 9pm. In it's 25th year and under the guidance of Leon Berman, it has become a world wide phenomenon. You can stream every show from their website. I use Audio Hijack to record the shows and play them later. Leon just did 3 hours of surf and you can still get it on the site (KEXP.org). Leon has one of the largest collections of surf music in the world, we are so lucky that he shares this with us.
I play this stuff out in the middle of the lake when the sun is blistering at the height of the summer (Eastern Washington, sorry Seattle); Surf, Rockabilly, R&B, Honky-tonk and other great stuff all at the touch of my I-Pod. His cousin, Mike Fuller is his co-host and sometimes fill in. Mike did last night's show and it was his usual great stuff. He listens to music day and night searching out the good music. He listens to Australian radio via satellite so he always has some obscure rockabilly collection and he is constantly on the prowl for music to alternately assault and assuage his audience. You must give it a listen; it is available right now at KEXP.org.
One more thing, I have new music in the house;
- Joe Ely, Satisfied Life; his usual great Texas inspired original honky tonk and country.
- Ry Cooder, Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down; always have loved Ry, never a dud.
- Blvd. Park, In the Parlor; great original music. Moved here from Sacramento, if you get a chance to see them do, they are really fun to watch playing with passion and skill.
- Robert Earl Keen, Ready For Confetti; still exploring but I love his voice and delivery.
- Dave Alvin, Eleven Eleven; truly a great disc, I saw the Blasters in 1982 and have loved Dave and his brother ever since. This is a must for any Alvin fan, one of his best in years.
- Last but not least, The Surf Coasters, Misirlou 10th anniversary Best; I have had this on order for two years, finally found it used. I am listening to it now as Shigeo Naka shreds his guitar, these guys have been broken up for years but they are still one of my favorite bands. Period.