Who doesn’t love the blues? Not the kind most of us get on a Monday morning, but the music genre that has its roots in the deep south of the early 19th century and has influenced hundreds of musicians ever since.
With its basic 12-bar chord progression and repetitive narrative lyrics, it’s a sound that comes from the heart and soul. There is a certain amount of gut-wrenching sadness in the blues, but it fulfils one of music’s most essential requirements: it makes you feel something.
Not only are the blues the foundation of many other genres like jazz and rock ‘n roll, but it lends itself so well to collaborations and jamming between like-minded musos. If your blood runs blue, you can get a regular fix of this magic in action at Mercury Live, on the second and last Thursday of every month.
The Bluestown Sessions have been running regularly since September last year, organised by Charlene “Charlie” King, herself an accomplished blues singer, songwriter, promoter and all-round hard-working tireless champion of the blues.
The venue, Mercury, is of course also something of a legend, a decades-long supporter of the local music scene. Everyone who is anyone has played that stage, and crammed themselves into the tiny, dingy backstage area with its graffiti-covered walls, tatty couch, guitar cases and bottles of Jagermeister.
There have been nights when we have packed in there like sardines for some of the biggest names in South African music – and some internationals too; and others when it takes on a completely different atmosphere and vibe. Like for the Bluestown Sessions.
We went along for the first time two weeks ago, and found it set up as the perfect environment for the music: the room was filled with chairs and tables with red and white checked clothes and candles. We took one right in front of the stage, where we drank one too many double Jack Daniel’s on the rocks and filled the air with smoke from our cigarettes. For me, this is the best way to enjoy the blues.
The format of each event is loosely structured. An opening act is followed by the house band taking the stage, joined by a number of guest artists.
On our night, that first band was Ballistic Blues, an incredible bunch of boys – and when I say boys, I mean exactly that – apparently they finished high school just last year, and I predict they will go far. The house band comprises Kevin Floyd (ex. DORP, current Kevin Floyd Band, Charlie King Band) on guitar, Rob Stemmett (Boulevard Blues Band, Kevin Floyd Band, Charlie King Band, The Thunderbirds, The Zoot Suits, and more) on bass, and Pieter Heyns (ex Free Falling, current Kevin Floyd Band, Charlie King Band) on drums.
The guests included Doc John (a legend), Redeye Riaan from Crimson House Blues, the incredible Tony Shine who was born to be a front man in a band, James Kibby, Graham Burton, Sannie Fox from Machineri, and Zoltan Tibor Szabo-Taylor getting up to blow the harp throughout the night.
Every single one of them blew us away with their talent, especially when you know in the back of your mind, apart from the guest band, all the guests were playing together for the first time, unrehearsed. A lifelong lover of the blues already, I am now firmly converted to these evenings where I intend to a regular fixture, front and centre.
Tonight’s Line-up includes Black Dog opening, and guests Anton Marshall (Long Time Citizen, Three Bored White guys, Three More White guys), who’ll be putting aside his double bass for a bit and singing some songs, and Annah Mae Blair. Check out the Mercury Facebook page for regular updates.