Big James and the Chicago Playboys LIVE @ 45th Anniversary of Kingston Mines 05.18.13
This time last night (it's 4am as I write this) I was enjoying live music at a place I wouldn't have thought I'd be after countless hip hop shows I've attended over the years. That place: Kingston Mines — a famous Chicago blues and juke club on the north side, celebrating its 45th anniversary after opening its doors in 1968.
Now, not that I'm not a fan of blues or anything like that, but there's been enough hip hop or R&B shows over the years to catch to keep me busy. The only other classic club in Chicago I've previously frequented was The Green Mill (and one of those two times was because Childish Gambino walked in there after his set across the street, but that's a whole 'nother story).
Anywho, I instantly warmed to the idea when one of my high school buddies who was in town (longtime GWHH readers may remember him write about sports on here as 'The Sage') suggested Kingston Mines after 3am. "Sure, why not?", I thought. There's no way I wouldn't like a blues club; after all, it's the soul of Chicago's music scene that dates back decades. And so much soulful hip hop and R&B derives from blues. And I could tell my dad about it — he's a Chicago blues expert who runs the Twitter account @ChiTownBlues49, after all. Naturally, Papa Tibs has been to Kingston Mines when he was my age.
Eddie Shaw and The Wolf Gang LIVE @ 45th Anniversary of Kingston Mines 05.18.13
As for my night, I was instantly floored at how much energy was in the Kingston Mines. It was 4am, but it felt like the night had just begun. People everywhere, shoulder to shoulder, many dancing and others at the bar. People of all kinds — college kids, 30 somethings, white-haired Uncle Drew characters, and even a brave soul with a Detroit Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom jersey (he shouldn't have even been let in).
The Mines are set up to have two stages with acts alternating between the two spaces, giving people two different environments to experience the music. The bigger room of the two allows for more dancing (which is what I walked into... aside from the old guy in the 1930s gangster suit) and that's where we saw Big James and the Chicago Playboys. This Vine won't do it justice, but they played off on a funky hip hop beat with the singer repeating "Say You Will" like he was Kanye West.
Soon after in the other room, our group grabbed a table to enjoy the more soothing sounds of Eddie Shaw and The Wolf Gang. Eddie Shaw, presumably the fella in the ole sailor suit, had a raspy voice yet soulful way about him. I couldn't understand much, even when he addressed a group of guys for not having any ladies with them in between songs (high comedy), but he and The Wolf Gang kept the good vibes comin'. When you got someone wielding a guitar with three necks, you know you're already in for a treat (see the photo above).
Simply put, last night was reinvigorating to step outside the element of a hip hop show and take it back to the roots. Experiencing live Chicago blues is a must for any Chicago music fan. Blues is once again not only a drawing point for some of today's biggest hip hop artists and producers, but also representative of the melting pot of our hometown. You can't get a blues experience like the one Chicago still has to offer, and in many cities, you can't get a blues experience at all! Whether it's Kingston Mines, the Quiet Knight, or The Green Mill (for some some comprable jazz and swing), get a group or get a date together and you'll be in for a lively, cultured experience. So how bout that to finish off a busy night early Monday morning of Old School Sundays?!