Saturday, July 5, 2014

Kenny wins

In which we give credit where it is due

This guy* at the Beer Barrel Saloon on Thursday (‘The world’s longest bar’) is why I’m thinking about this. A Jerry Lee Lewis wanna-be, I described him, although I don’t know -- maybe he is happy to be just who he is, Kenny Kidd, afternoon entertainment in a dim saloon on a little island in the middle of Lake Erie, playing with his wife on the bass and a new guy on sax and ‘the best drummer I’ve ever played with.’ His pompadour was scary high, small animals could be in residence, and his sleeveless shirt and white cowboy boots and practiced accent -- Jerry Lee would be proud -- all part of an act designed for the nostalgic folks sitting in any dim old bar. What kind of musician is he, I wondered? Competent, maybe? He played with speed and enthusiasm, with the rare ability to hit licks with an empty Bud Light can and bring the crowd to -- well, applause and laughter. His voice was a mixed-up homage to Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee and others, whose names he dropped with frequency and alacrity, stories of meeting them and playing with/for them, road stories and stage stories. I’m not judging their veracity, who knows? I couldn’t even tell how old he is, with the stage light slightly demonic with its flashes of red and slightly seizure-inducing in its pulsing white spotlights. His bass-playing wife was introduced with obligatory teasing TMI. The sax guy was new and looked slightly bored, or appalled, or resigned. The drummer beat his way through Wipe Out as the closing number to a set -- at three in the afternoon -- and I wondered if he was counting the measures until it was over, or if he was able to lose himself in the noise and the beat, even if it was the ten-thousandth time he’d played it, at any time of day. God knows I've thought about it too much since then, their competent talent for playing somebody else’s music for a crowd of a couple/three dozen at the longest bar in the world, and wondered how happy it makes them -- they’re not staring at a computer screen in a cubicle, or on their feet for hours at Walmart, or punching buttons on an assembly line. Maybe they are fucking bloody brilliant, doing what they love for three sets a day, all summer long. Maybe I owe Kenny an apology, or at least a chorus of ‘Don’t Be Cruel.’ Because on Monday, I won’t be on that island. He will.

Kind of like that hot felon going around social media last week

Arrested on charges of unemployment, / he was sitting in the witness stand / The judge's wife called up the district attorney / Said you free that brown eyed man

* Did not Google him on purpose until after I wrote this to preserve purity of impression.

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