It”s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … and, perhaps a bit too soon. Chris and I, along with our array of “usual suspects,” fought the too, too early onset of shopping, and business-type, must-attends this week. We took in two very cool concerts, both with thematic locales quite far from the North Pole.
On Thursday night, our group of music lovers made it all the way to “Starkvegas” for a performance by a rockabilly musician, Unknown Hinson. He is a created persona whose appearance is a bizarre combination of vampire-chic and a really bad Elvis impersonator. Coal-black, glued-on, eyebrows and sideburns add to a very sinister look.
The cave-like Dark Horse Saloon was the perfect venue for an act that seemed at-home under a dingy, low ceiling. Cobwebs and extension cords hung inches over his head, and disappeared into mysterious and shadowy square holes.
The crowd was decidedly college-aged, with only the exception of our somewhat older crew. However, this show attracted an audience from all over Mississippi. Along with the mini-skirted co-eds, were lots of camouflage-clad young men. Especially popular were baseball-type hats worn backward. (That fooled no one. These boys were easily visible, even in a darkened bar.)
I met a dirt track racer from Tupelo, and a professional student who may have been in college since I was a teen.
We are fans because of Unknown Hinson”s quirky lyrics like, “You”re too pretty to do such ugly things,” and, “I”m not afraid of your husband.”
However, in person, we were astonished by the artist”s extraordinary musicianship. The Vox speakers spewed chords so amazing that, for a moment, I though he may be channeling Jimi Hendrix. Audience members held up camera-phones like lighters at a 70s concert.
(You know this is a guitar-player extraordinaire, when Caleb Childs is in attendance, and has squeezed himself to the front of a crushing crowd.)
The next evening, we traveled all the way to the Trinity Café, on Main Street, in Columbus. This is a tiny restaurant with a warm, tropical motif and a cool house band.
It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. However, as soon as we mentioned our destination, all other plans changed.
“I”ll meet you there,” friends kept saying. We left, and went ahead to grab a table. Be warned, there are few, and they fill up fast.
The café is owned by Nathan Best and his wife, Sherry. They offer a small menu with a decidedly Jamaican flavor. That spark of jerk spice was welcome on a cold November night. Thick hamburger patties resemble nothing found in a fast-food outlet, and the exotic, fruit-infused iced tea is too good to miss.
But, another real draw here is the wonderful jazz. On the night we went, Nathan led a trio that began with an intimate blues-club sound, often merging into a big band resonance. They played favorites, like a sultry “Summertime.” The music drifted from the recognizable, to free-flowing improvisations. Nathan sings, but not often enough. His voice has richness and depth, and perfect pitch.
You know this is the real deal when Larry Priest and a group of musicians have pulled their chairs close to the band and are immersed in the music.
I guess that”s my new criteria for good music … judge it by which of our excellent, local musicians are in the audience.
Soon, it will be time for carols and auld lange syne. But, until then, I will keep warm, thinking of two balmy, musical evenings.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
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