Friday, May 25, 2012

Griffin's Hines Farm Blues Club - Revisited

On Saturday May 19th, 2012 I drove out to Hine's Farm to see Carl Weathersby. I haven't been to Hine's Farm in a long while and I felt I was overdue for a double shot of ribs and good old blues music. Sadly, I've had better. Here's why, with spoilers.

Half Rack of Barbeque Ribs
In spite of having been to Hines Farm on several other occasions, I always have to find the place all over again every time I drive.  It's easy to spot as you drive by; the barbeque grills are in front of the main building right next to the road.  I parked and enquired about tonight's barbeque.

"It's eatable." The chef responded.  He was quite right.

I got half a rack, no sides and assuaged my hunger.  The ribs were good.  Not spectacular, not great.  Good, and certainly worth the price.  Feeling much better, I perused some of the antique playbills still up on the wall.  This is one of the best parts about Hines Farm - the history.

Old Playbill - Peg Leg Moffett

Buddy Lamp and Shake Dancers

John Lee Hooker
None of these bills have a year on them, but take a look at the picture of John Lee Hooker , who passed away in 2001 at the age of 83.  I'm guessing that this playbill is pre-WWII.

Afro-Cuban Dancer
Clearly Hines Farm had more on the menu than barbeque.  I'd like to see a return of the Hoochie Coochie dancers, but these days we have licensing, labor unions and health inspections. We're civilized.

Buddy Boy Slim
Given the warm weather and clear sky, the venue was outdoors.  While there is still a bandstand in the back, it's too rotted out to use.  The musicians set up at the back door.

Bull Halsey
Here's the opening act.  The name got lost in the P.A. system, but I believe that this is Bull Halsey.  The band was a mediocre opening act.  They did the obligatory three to five blues standards.  Once they got started into a song, they played tight enough, mainly because the bass and the drummer were on very good terms with each other.  The harp player should have played a little more - I think he had the chops for it, but he also acted a little tired.  Well, none of these men are spring chickens.

As I remember this, they played one number and started praising and promoting the headliner, which tended to turn me off.  I want music.  I don't need any crap from the current band about how great the headliner is going to be.  Generally when that happens the headliner isn't so great, and it happened after every single song that this band played.

There was a nice crowd, but it was a Toledo crowd.  They won't be moved by pleas for applause or appreciation. 

Nice Size Crowd
Finally the opening act finished and with one final hoorah for the headliner, they departed.  The headliner band started setting up.

Set Up Time
The best part about setting up a blues band is that the equipment is minimal, unlike a rock band or a bunch of head bangers where the drum kit has 146 separate and distinct pieces.

The headliner band played three numbers, building up the headliner between each number.  The lead guitarist wasn't bad, and the drum and bass were tight.  What started getting to me were the constant announcements about the headliner, Carl Weathersby - who kept failing to show up.

And now, straight from Bad-News-Blues Alley in Chicago, we are all very fortunate to have the one, the only, the man who needs no introduction... Carl Weathersby!!!

Who still isn't showing.

Okay, launch into another number and wait.  After three numbers, Carl finally showed up.  I did a double take.  His outfit looks like hospital scrubs and the man moves like his feet hurt.  He lacks energy, and when he plays a few riffs on his guitar it starts to show.  Carl isn't a young man anymore, and as I watched him I started to wonder just how many Saturday nights the man has left in him.  I think he might be wondering the same thing.

Headliner Carl Weathersby
By the second song I'm beginning to think I'm late for the door.  The third song is a decent dance number and the audience got up... some went to the dance floor, some headed for the parking lot.  The evening was young and there is still time to go down to Mickey Finn's Pub and get a cold one or two.  I ambled out.

My gripe here is not about Hines Farm, which has a hit or miss reputation.  You pays your money, you takes your choice, and that goes for both food and music.  Knowing that right up front, I'll return to Hines Farm.  My hard spot is with a headliner who is late in arriving and who didn't bring any chops with him.  I waited through an opening act that could have been a lot better, should have been a lot better - and had to work like hell to reach mediocrity.  Then I had to listen to the openers build up the headliner.  Then I waited around for the bands to switch spaces.  Then the headliner's band spent all kinds of time building him up, until finally, finally the man shows.  And he just isn't all that good.

Maybe he was once.  Maybe he'll be better tomorrow.  Maybe he'd sound better if I were half in the bag, but I wasn't and he didn't.

Oh well.  Chalk it up to one for the team or something.  The next act will be better.

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