Last night my partner and I went to hear a blues band called The Blueswater at a small local venue. The evening kicked off with the singer performing a Skip James number (before the rest of the band joined him) with just a guitar on his knees and a bottle neck. He did it really well. The band followed up with a load of my favourites – numbers made famous by Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and the like, numbers written by the God, Willy Dixon.
We'd been to this venue before, and at the bar prices are astronomical. We smuggled in our own beer.
The music and the smuggling reminded me strongly of my misspent youth. I became quite nostalgic, except for two factors. First, everyone was over 50; second, no one was dancing.
Years ago, at Crawdaddies, the Marquee or the Station, everyone would've danced their little socks off. What has happened to my generation?
Then the band played a number from Dr John's 'Gumbo' and I remembered seeing Dr John live in the Racetrack in New Orleans. He had a dancer on stage with him and he kept an eye on her, and on the audience – he was actually playing for the dancers.
The next time I saw him play live was in Bristol. This time only a handful of us got up and boogied on down to the front and danced. But sure enough – we were who he was watching and playing for. When the set was over going back to my seat I caught some disapproving glances and a few remarks about showing off, and spoiling someone else's view. Sad, I thought – can't they see Dr John wants to be danced to?
So I thought last night, as we sat at our tables and applauded politely that in one respect at least we knew better how to behave when we were young. Early blues music, played properly, has a wonderfully heavy, seductive beat. It's downright rude to sit still.