Blues on 6th

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Posted April 19, 2006 by Hearsay in Music

Contrary to popular opinion, I love the blues, I really do. James Hinkle, Holland K. Smith, Rocky Athas – they’re all awesome. Every one of ‘em works his ass off and serves up the blues the way it was intended, with great honesty, integrity, and originality.

James could play a ukulele and still conjure up the gospel-y vibe that informs most traditional blues. (Remember: The instrument doesn’t make the bluesman. The soul does.) But as most of y’all know, most of what passes for the blues here in town is – and has for years been – derivative shtick, nothing more than pilfered Stevie Ray Vaughan riffs, silly rock poses, and thinly veiled attempts to purge white guilt. For years, the Cultural District’s 6th Street Grill hosted a lot of blues acts, but for every Rocky Athas that took the stage, there were 10 Rocky wannabes. The owners weren’t to blame for the watered-down fare. In fact, they should be applauded for their philanthropy. No, blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the scene … or lack thereof.

Even further, you could blame blues purists across the globe for promulgating the myth that the style of music is only guitar-based shuffles about mistreatin’ mamas, hell hounds, and whiskey. I’m sure that if Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, or Robert Johnson were around today, he’d either be playing garage rock or rapping. The reason their music sounds the way it does now is that their instruments, perspectives, and recording devices were primitive. House, Jefferson, Johnson – all of them would be appalled to discover that some of us have taken their organic, evolving, beautiful music, put it in a bullet-proof glass box, and hung it on the airwaves like a Renaissance painting on a museum wall.

Yes, I stopped visiting the Grill a long time ago after enduring about three months of blues-like noise interspersed with honest-to-goodness blues music, and I’m confident that other than a few shows by Rocky and some other serious pros, I didn’t miss a damn thing. Enter: 6th Street Live, the new incarnation of 6th Street Grill. Owned by a small team of middle-aged professionals (known collectively as the fun-time multi-genre group Six Feet High and Rising), the new joint will look somewhat nicer and be way more musician-friendly but sound pretty different. Co-owner Daniel C. Hernandez is a lawyer, and, like the smart guy he is, he’s aware that more of the same on 6th Street will spell doom. One of the most significant changes on tap: Instead of bands calling to get gigs, Hernandez and company are going to actively seek out performers. “We saw a great opportunity to pick up the Fort Worth music scene,” Hernandez said. “It should be bigger than it is.” The club will remain open intermittently for already- scheduled performances and will open for full-time business in a few weeks.

… On Thursday, the North Texas Legalization of Marijuana group will host “Fire It Up,” a block party/rally at 1024 Springer Ave., in Fort Worth, from noon ’til 6 p.m., featuring live music, games, competitions, information, and informal lectures by cannabis and hemp advocates. For more info, call 817-740-9700 or e-mail Tommy-Deadhead.Thompson@netzero.com.

Contact HearSay at hearsay@fwweekly.com.


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