Damn, it is amazing what music can do for the soul, and there is nothing like live music. Seeing the musicians up close, watching their hands, seeing the artist in action is a thrill for me. I needed some comfort music this week and Knut and his boys provided just that.
The place was cooking when I arrived at this venerable neighborhood bar, The Little Red Hen is a dancing bar, the bands that play here are sure to get your feet moving, your butt swaying and your rockin' bones quaking. Knut Bell and The Blue Collars are one of the house bands here, they are the definition of a dance band.
My regular readers will know that I love Knut and his fellow babies, I have attended many of their shows and reviewed several times. I never get tired of seeing them; they are entertaining, fantastic musicians and deliver all with humor and awesome style. You can read some of my previous posts here:
oh and here too, they played at The Georgetown Carnival with some of my other favorite bands: http://liveseattlemusicintheclubs.blogspot.com/2012/06/georgetown-carnival-featuring-banzai.html
Last night was no different, they rocked in their usual style even as one of their crew was playing hooky. Kinny, the amazing steel guitarist was playing at the Puyallup Fair. For those not familiar with Seattle area goings-on, it is our county fair; lots of good music, deep fried foods and thrill rides guaranteed to make you void whatever you just had from the fryer. Quick note; never ride the roller coaster with a small child behind you, you may end up wearing it...
Here is a link to the fair, I always love the marketing images, always fun. http://www.thefair.com/puyallup-fair/
The staff at at the Hen is always the best; they are all smiles, deliver my favorite adult beverages with great speed and accuracy and are pleasant and friendly at all times. Shorty, the door guy recognized me as I approached the door and greeted me warmly, he offered me a Koozie knowing I am a sport and always support the bands. I always buy an item if the band has something for sale. As Knut said later, "be sure to buy something, we are just poor hillbillies". Here is a pic of some of their fine swag:
Here is a pic of one of the sweet girls behind the bar, I forgot to ask her name, if you know please add to comments below. Here is a link to the Hen: http://www.littleredhen.com/
With the loss of Kinny and his pedal steel, Grady, the stellar lead guitarist, was left to fill in the holes. We talked early on and he was ready to perform. I always love to witness Grady and his beautiful instruments in action. He plays this stunning Fender Telecaster, a gorgeous white guitar. It has a white body with a pearl pickguard, a dark neck and headstock. It makes for a striking combination. He is a big guy and at times it looks small in his hands, but he knows that guitar like we know the back of our hands. This evening it would prove to be a bad little Tele, more on that later.
Grady is a awesome musician and a truly nice guy. I have been lucky enough to get to know him over the last year. I am what you might call a super-fan...I am the weird annoying guy that stands way too close to the band and sings along with the words. You've seen me before, what a turkey was your thought...that's me. Grady couldn't help but notice me at their shows, he always had a genuine smile for me. We talked a lot on Friday eve, it was nice to get to know a little more about him. He is a country boy from a little town near Lewiston, Idaho, bet he bucked a ton of hay in his day.
Knut is a picky and demanding guy, you can tell it from the dance floor. He wants the best out of his sidekicks, wants to put on the best show he can. He has been known to ask a musician to move on if they are not working out in his eye. The band displays his scrutiny on every song, they are tight and well practiced. There is a reason Grady is in Knut's fold, he is a great musician.
Another integral part of this band is Jim Matthews, he is the marvelous but stoic bass player. I was standing off to the side watching him and he and I chatted briefly. He plays a beautiful vintage bass, he told me it was a 1966 model (sorry I didn't get the make, my eyes were not good enough to read the label on the headstock, I am sure I will get it soon). Laying down the bottom, Jim is steady and almost motionless except for his hands. He keeps the band honest, a cool musician.
Lewis Warren has been the most excellent drummer for some time now, he keeps one eye on Knut and one on his set. Knut like to mix it up, play requests and is a change machine...a drummer with him has to be on his toes. Lewis is a perfect compliment to Knut and the boys. I took one strange pic of him in his happy place, he does have a head..
The big man in the middle is the real star of the band; Knut is a force on the stage, a presence that is hard to ignore. His basso profundo voice is the envy of many of a would-be country singer. Low and velvety, it sounds like a sip of a top-shelf single malt scotch might taste. It is deceptively simple, he makes it look easy, but he has had lots of practice. It helps to have a nature-given awesome voice and a wonderful personality. I never tire of watching him; his humorous delivery, confidence, imposing size, and killer pipes always make for a good show.
Knut is also a humble and thankful guy. If he mentioned KEXP once, he mentioned them a hundred times. They have a great relationship: he loves them, they love him. His marvelous music is played regularly on the Thursday eve country show; Swinging Doors hosted by Don Slack (6-9 90.3fm or Kexp.org live or the streaming archive) and on the Friday evening rockabilly show, Shake the Shack hosted by Leon Berman and Mike Fuller (6-9 90.3fm of Kexp.org live or the streaming archive). Knut has written many tunes about his passion for Leon and the station: "there was steel pipe, steel pipe flying everywhere", lyrics from Haybales is one among many (Leon is a Steel professional).
Leon and Mike also noted the show in the concert calendar on Shake the Shack that evening, a mutual love thing.
Here is a link to Kexp: http://kexp.org/Default.aspx
Knut also makes sure to give his mates props, constantly giving the nod to Grady, Lewis, Jim and Kinny (when he is there). He even gave me a shout-out from the stage, a sweet nod to the peeps that love him.
The show was killer as usual, the dance floor was always packed and Knut in his usual style thanked the dancers after every song. He is the dance king.
As always there is one guy who is a little too exuberant in his passion during a dance. I watched one guy who fried every partner he had. One girl that sat next to me came back from an excursion with this cowboy, she was woofed. She won't make that mistake again. I doubt he had any repeat customers. He is not represented here; not pointing any fingers (that I can be blamed for).
About three quarters through first set I noticed Grady trying to make some adjustments to his system. Apparently his guitar was cutting out, I didn't notice but he did. He was testing every cable and connection to no avail. He ended up deciding it was his guitar. He told me that he thought it was a lose connection in the toggle switch he recently had performed work on. He needed a new guitar. With no backup he had to phone for a replacement.
After what seemed like an eternity, stretching out the usually short break, I saw Grady leave the stage, phone in hand. He returned with another awesome instrument, this one also a member of the Fender family; a Stratocaster. I know the tone is different between this guitar and the Telecaster. This Strat seemed to be a little more of a tenor, the Tele being of a lower, more baritone flavor. It could have been the way he had it set-up, or the way it was being amplified, but I found it different than his other guitar. I know nothing so don't read much into what I say, just an opinion.
The rest of the second set was marvelous, I made sure to stay up close so I didn't miss any action.
I was in good company last night, Mark Pickerel and his lovey partner were there, dancing and imbibing. He and I sat next to each other at the bar, enjoying the show and watching Grady turn a simple country tune into a psychedelic rocker. We laughed as even Knut was wondering what was going on.
Live music is the best antidote for what ails you. I lost a close family member earlier in the week; Knut, Grady, Lewis, Jim and the folks at the Hen know how to sooth a troubled soul.