Tab Benoit and Kris Lager at City Winery

by Carl Abernathy on December 22, 2014

Tab Benoit (click to enlarge)
Tab Benoit
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Tab Benoit and Corey Duplechin (click to enlarge)
Tab Benoit and Corey Duplechin
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Tab Benoit keeps rockin' with five strings (click to enlarge)
Tab Benoit keeps rockin’ with five strings
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Tab gets goofy (click to enlarge)
Tab gets goofy
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Tab Benoit (click to enlarge)
Tab Benoit
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Kris Lager (click to enlarge)
Kris Lager
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Kris Lager  (click to enlarge)
Kris Lager
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The Kris Lager Band: Jeremiah Weir, keyboards; John Fairchild, drums;  Brandon Miller, bass (Click to enlarge)
The Kris Lager Band: Jeremiah Weir, keyboards;
John Fairchild, drums; Brandon Miller, bass
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Drummer John Fairchild of the Kris Lager Band (click to enlarge)
Drummer John Fairchild of the Kris Lager Band
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Tab Benoit broke a lot of guitar strings Saturday night at City Winery in Chicago. It was bound to happen. Benoit attacked his bluesy songs with a ferociousness that probably sent any would-be rock ‘n’ roll guitar gods in the audience scurrying back to their day jobs.

Benoit never slowed down after breaking a string and the audience barely noticed. His frenetic rendition of “Medicine” was the highlight of the set for me, but I loved his tender version of “Nothing Takes the Place of You,” too.

I try to see Benoit at the Rock and Bowl or at a festival whenever I hit New Orleans. He’s always phenomenal. Saturday night he was goofy, too, telling funny stories and joking with the audience members. There wasn’t anything funny about his music, though. Catch Benoit’s show if you get a chance.

Jazz Fest is in four months. This year I’m hoping to see him at a club and at the festival.

The Nebraska-based Kris Lager, who opened for Benoit, is a pretty wicked guitar slinger himself, and, yeah, he broke a couple of strings, too.

Lager’s band threw a lot of genres into their musical blender and it all sounded good. Even hip-hop. Drummer John Fairchild threw down some funny verses and Lager used his guitar to mimic the sounds of a record being scratched. It was funny, but Lager and his band have some serious talent.

Check out their new album, “Platte River Runaway,” which was produced by Benoit.

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Poke LaFarge (click to enlarge)
Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)

Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)
Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)

Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)
Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)

Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)
Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)>

Pokey LaFarge Band (click to enlarge)
Pokey LaFarge Band (click to enlarge)

Chloe Feoranzo (click to enlarge)
Chloe Feoranzo (click to enlarge)

Chloe Feoranzo (click to enlarge)
Chloe Feoranzo (click to enlarge)

T.J. Müller (click to enlarge)
T.J. Müller (click to enlarge)

Pokey LaFarge and Ryan Koenig  (click to enlarge)
Pokey LaFarge and Ryan Koenig (click to enlarge)

Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)
Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)

Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)
Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)

Adam Hoskins and Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)
Adam Hoskins and Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)

Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)
Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)

Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)
Pokey LaFarge (click to enlarge)

Pokey LaFarge and his band rolled into a rollicking rendition of “Knocking the Dust Off,” a jaunty mix of Western swing and Dixieland jazz to start their show Friday night at Thomas Duncan Hall in Lafayette.

Then Pokey dedicated the second song, “Back Home Again in Indiana,” to the Hoosiers in the audience. Needless to say, everyone was hooked.

LaFarge plays music that would have sounded great in the ’40s sandwiched between tunes from the country swing of Bob Wills, the blues of Skip James and the New Orleans jazz of Kid Ory. The appeal is universal. I’m pretty sure my grandmother, a Georgia mountain woman who was born in the 1800s, would have loved his songs. I know the hip young millennials who traveled from around the Midwest to attend the concert were grooving.

I enjoyed myself immensely. Pokey’s two solo songs, “Far Away” and “Waiting for a Train,” were mighty pretty. I preferred the tunes that hopped, though, especially “The Devil Ain’t Lazy.” Ryan Koenig danced around the vocals with his harmonica and Adam Hoskins answered on his guitar with mirthful licks.

In fact, the whole band was great. Bassist Joey Glynn made every song pop and the two horn players, Chloe Feoranzo on clarinet and saxophone and T.J. Müller on cornet, made me start counting the days until I head back to New Orleans for jazz fest.

Thanks to Friends of Bob, a local music cooperative, for booking the show.

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Jarekus Singleton gave me a bear hug after his show Saturday night at Carnahan Hall in Lafayette and I felt it all the way down to my bones.

I was ready for it, though, because for two hours Jarekus had been roughing me and the rest of the audience up with frenetic blues and squeezing our hearts with gorgeously sad ballads.

Jarekus never meant to be a bluesman. Growing up in Mississippi, he wanted to be a basketball star. And, in fact, he became one. He even scored NBA tryouts with the Pacers and the Cavaliers, as he details in “Keep Pushin’,” an autobiographical blues rocker. Then he got hurt.

We’re the beneficiaries.

I closed my eyes Saturday night when Jarekus played his ballad “Crime Scene” and, for a moment, I thought I was listening to blues great Johnny Copeland 30 years ago. Jarekus’ guitar licks and his vocals floated effortlessly … like a Michael Jordan jumpshot viewed in slow motion.

Then, just as the audience members relaxed, Jarekus slapped them with some nasty funk with a song such as “Hero.” The crowd rolled with it and hit the dance floor. Hard.

In fact, he delighted the crowd all night. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a big music star, but he certainly has the skills. Besides, you’re a middle-aged dude in the NBA when you hit 30. In the blues game, you’re just a pup with your whole career in front of you.

Thanks, Jarekus. Keep chasing the dream.

Friends of Bob, a local music cooperative, also deserves a lot of thanks for booking Jarekus and his band. And if you live in the Lafayette area, pick up your tickets for Pokey LaFarge on Nov. 21. It’s going to be another great Friends of Bob show.

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