Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Meet the Newest Member of the Tab Benoit Fan Club

Newest member? That would be me!

OK, you are hip and savvy, so you already know all about Tab Benoit, the bluesy Cajun who calls himself a drummer--even though he is currently featured in Guitarist magazine.

Sure he's from Louisiana, but he gets around. Maybe you caught his performances in Wolf Trap or Rams Head. Either way, you probably have Medicine in your iPod rotation. And really, who wouldn't?

But as for me, I am a new arrival into the "Tab Club."

Beer brother Lou, a great friend and Blues and barbecue aficianado, tipped me off that his favorite artist, Tab Benoit (pronounced, ben waa, but then you knew that, too) was playing at The Hamilton in DC. Lou has never led me astray in all these many years, so I jumped up and snatched a ticket before they sold out.

Lucky me: Standing Room Only. Barely made it!

The Hamilton is a "DC" place, the kind of place a person from out of town pictures when they think of DC. The young, well-dressed, highly educated lobbyists, lawyers, and staffers fill the bar and restaurant for a nice time in a trendy place just a block from the White House. The basement is a live music venue that seats I dunno, 200? There's not a bad seat, even standing in the back I had a great view and access to the downstairs bar.

I parked my Harley right in front, and strolled in wearing my jeans, t-shirt, and biker jacket. The suits parted and made way as I moved to the stairs heading to the underground lair.

More about the venue: Eat * Drink * Listen at The Hamilton

The opening act, DC's own Anthony "Swamp Dog" Clark rocked the house and  set an awesome stage! He's a master with the Blues harmonica. I will definitely look for another opportunity to catch Swamp Dog and the band live again soon. Meanwhile, I will enjoy this Video of Hoochie Coochie Man

From the moment Tab took the stage, he was in entertainment mode. His banter with the audience was extraordinary. Loyal fans were expecting this, and prompting him. If you have 8 or 9 minutes to invest, this video of his Bowling Monkey story will give you a good idea.

The entire time I was at the concert, I was texting friends, especially Lou. I sent snippets of lyric and little notes about the music. Lou gave me some ideas for songs and stories to request. Tab heard lots of suggestions but was highly selective in his responses.

"My fever's high, my nights are long, bring me my medicine, baby!"

I am not as familiar with Tab's repertoire as you must be, dear reader, so I had to take video notes with my tablet. Then I used my notes and the web to construct a play list. There were 14 songs plus an encore.

1. It's alright. Bluesy version
2. Fishin' on the Bayou. Cajun
3. Travelin' South. Blues cover.
4. Slow R&B number, "Turn on the Love lights, before I go blind."
5. Fast rockabilly tune "Why people like that?"
6. "Can't wait to get back home." Slow dance tune. He bends notes with voice and guitar.
7. Fuel for my Fire, a ZZ-Top-esque rock tune
8. Louisiana Woman. Cajun. One foot in NYC, the other in the bayou.
9. Medicine. LOVE IT
10. Fast and Hard instrumental.
11. I watch the sunrise. Slow dance. 
12. Find my girl. Slow R&B. Searching from Bourbon Street to the Esplanade
13. Make a Good Gumbo. Fast and Fun
14. It's alright / bayou girl / Hot Tamale baby reprise. Fast version
15. (Encore) Melissia

He broke three strings during the set, sipped Courvoisier to soothe his vocal chords, and obviously had a good--no, GREAT--time with the crowd and his band. So glad Lou tipped me to this talented artist. Tab is All That! 

And I am in the Tab Club!