Discovering Live Music

In May I declared my keyword for the remainder of the year would be “play” … a one-word reminder to myself to have more fun.

Part of that fun includes seeing more live music, which I did. During the summer tour season I saw acts I had seen before, like Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts, and performers I had never seen, like George Strait, Paul McCartney and Dave Matthews.

Now I am stalking more of the non-hit acts, especially blues bands, and checking out the smaller venues, which I prefer to arenas and stadiums. Back in the 1980s I hung out at slightly-bigger-than-a-hole-in-the-wall bars like the 8x10 club in Baltimore, where I saw numerous blues bands. It turns out that some of those bands are still around and occasionally play in my area and others I didn’t see back then are also passing through. And my current venue of choice is usually the Birchmere, bigger and more comfortable than the 8x10, but still sporting the perfect vibe for music on the fringes of mainstream.

Last week I saw the double bill of Tommy Castro and Coco Montoya. Awesome show! Both performers are great guitarists and singers and each is backed by some amazing musicians. Each band did an extended jam during their set, featuring solos by each band member. Tommy Castro’s band jam was a 15-minute version of James Brown’s “Sex Machine.” Really! It started and ended with that one-chord song, but meandered in the middle through hot solos on keyboard, sax, trumpet, bass and a killer drummer.

Tommy Castro a few years ago (some of the band members are different now):

The next stop on my little musical adventure is another double bill: The Nighthawks and the Billy Price Band. Price is legendary in Pennsylvania and the Nighthawks are local legends in here in the DC area. Back in the day, I saw each of them twice. One of my Nighthawks nights was an alcohol-fueled New Year’s Eve and one of the Billy Price nights included a surprise appearance by his personal friend Billy Joel. On January 1st, I’ll find out if those bands are still as good as they were in the late 1980s.