I should mention that I saw a truly fabulous set of shows at Fitzgerald’s on July 4th. They have a party on the 4th every year, called the American Music Festival, with a tent with a stage outside, and bands playing all day. It’s worth checking out if you live in the area.
I actually had to work the morning of the 4th, which was unfortunate. But I got home in the mid-afternoon and my wife talked me into going to Fitzgerald’s, with the kids, to see a western swing outfit called the Hot Club of Cowtown. These guys were excellent. Girl fiddle player plays in Bob Wills style, but with a hint maybe of Stefan Grapelli. They did an instrumental version of Faded Love, which is originally a Bob Wills song. They played it so well the crowd fell silent — it brought tears to your eyes. They asked for requests, and I was able to bribe my 8 year old to go up and ask for Bubbles in my Beer, which they played. They also did a nice one called “Silver Dew on the Blue Grass Tonight”.
Cowtown was followed by a zydeco-type outfit called Geno Delafose & French Rockin Boogie. I danced, sort of, with my two oldest daughters (4 and 6) to this stuff. I just sorta flung them around. They dug it. Let me state candidly that it is my considered opinion that zydeco, which really does all sound exactly the same, is nearly useless where the listener is sober. Starting at mildly buzzed and ascending on into the higher realms of inebriation, it becomes a valuable enhancement to the natural inclination to rhythmic bodily movement. So I derived what enjoyment was to be had from Monsieur Delafose and his colleagues.
As an aside, I will note that I drank bourbon and ginger ales throughout this extravaganza. I highly recommend this nutritious and flavorful drink. I suggest you get your friendly barkeep to give it to you in a large glass, in this case a plastic beer mug, with a lot of ginger ale so it is somewhat dilute. This method enhances the drink’s natural thirst-quenching qualities, while not getting you so blotto so fast that you are rendered useless as a caregiver to small children. (Please pass on any memorable experiences you may have with this delectable cocktail. The Summer is young.) (My Mom used to drink these. Maybe three of them a year. She insisted on Old Grand Dad and crushed ice. I had Makers Mark. And ice schmice — just go easy on the ice.)
After this set, we brought the kids home. The two oldest pleaded to be allowed to return with me to see the magnificent instrumental surf combo Los Straitjackets. I glared with the mean glaring eyeball, I raised the mean arched eyebrow, and said in my meanest voice that I was not going to miss one second of this show for them, and if they got tired or didn’t like it, they were stuck there till it was over. They accepted this with a noble stoicism. I am either the worlds worst Dad or the world’s greatest, but I took them. They were the youngest people there by about two decades (ages 8 and 6). I got them two solid plastic lawn chairs, put them backside-front facing the stage, about ¾ of the way back, and told them to stand on there until receipt of further orders from me. They were able to see OK thus elevated. I positioned myself in front of them, to block anyone or anything which might come hurtling out of the crowd. They watched the whole show without whining and seemed to like it. The oldest kid is actually a fan. He recognized several songs. The Straitjackets come on in Mexican wrestling masks, their trademark, and talked in staccato, unaccented Spanish. They played a set of very tight, catchy, instrumental rock’n’roll tunes. They played my kid’s favorite, “Calhoun Surf”. They also played my favorite, “University Blvd.”
The Straitjackets were joined onstage on several numbers by the staggeringly cool world famous Pontani Sisters. These gals are more than just go-go dancers. They are apparently part of a burlesque revival, as they put it, of a “PG ” nature. (Also here.) (They have a go-go robics video, too.) The Sisters danced up a storm. They had multiple costume changes, including arab-type garb for the song “Casbah”. They had cowboy hats and lassos on one western number, which you’d recognize if I whistled if for you, but I can’t recall what it’s called. (Is it by Aaron Copeland? They played it when Gary Hart spoke at the 1988 Democrat convention. Whatever.) The Pontani Sisters are new goddesses for the pantheon. They are returning glamor to show business. If you heard it here first, trust me, this isn’t the last you’ll here about them. Yeah, baby.
The Ancient Chicago bluesman Eddie Clearwater was onstage for a while, too. But that was at the same time as the kids needed to urinate, so I pretty much missed it. He sounded pretty good in a Chuck Berryish sort of way. I think he played a more rockish and uptempo set to fit in better with Los Straitjackets. (Another confession. I hate blues, at least as it is practiced in Chicago today. It is like a reality theme park for white people from the suburbs. The entire scene (I am stealing this line) is basically 50 guys playing 12 songs. It is not only dead but mummified. OK enough about the blues.)
My old pal Eric showed up at the show. He is the uber-king of fans of the Straitjackets. He, lucky duck, saw them last year with Peter Zaremba. He introduced me to the Straitjackets. I am even deeper in his debt today, because at the show I was dancing too vigorously, drunkenly and sweatily to the mighty sounds emanating from Los Straitjackets — thus causing my glasses to go flying off. He saw where they went and rescued them. Woo hoo. That merited a high-five, you betcha.
We went back to my house for a nightcap, sweat-sodden and happy. And the kids? They collapsed into bed and slept like stones.
All in all, a worthy celebration of the liberty, creativity, chutzpah, dynamite babes, dynamite tunes, and totally awesome wonderfulness which is our true blue home, our own native land, our beloved America.