Leon Bridges walked into Lola’s Saloon, said hello to some friends, and went and stood at the stage directly in front of Quaker City Night Hawks’ Sam Anderson as the Night Hawks played a “secret” show during one of the weekly Torquila Tuesdays that Anderson and the “higher dudes” host. Not too long before Bridges hit the room, saxophonist Jeff Dazey had entered Lola’s and joined his friends on stage for a few songs. With fellow Night Hawks Andrew Skates (keys) and Dave Matsler (vocals/guitar) also back in town, it felt normal, like everyone was in the right place. Home.
It was less than two years ago when Anderson (vocals/guitar), Skates (bass), Matt Mabe (drums), and Austin Morgan (guitar) played every Tuesday night at Magnolia Motor Lounge, and were followed by Bridges playing a soulful solo acoustic set. The Magnolia all-star cast of area musos followed Monday nights at Lola’s with a similar lineup including Anderson, Bridges, Mabe, Matsler, Chucho’s Kenny Uptain and Katie Robertson, and The Longshot’s Kris Luther, and sometimes additional guests song swapping while Dazey played host/bartender.
Now, Bridges is signed with Columbia Records, and constantly touring with Skates in his backing band. Matsler has moved to Colorado but comes back often to play with his band. And Dazey is on the road with JJ Grey and Mofro most of the time. To many, it seems like their success came quickly, but for some of these guys it’s what they’ve been working toward the whole time they’ve played music.
The crowd at Lola’s was made up of several other local musicians and patrons who are regulars at local shows. Since it was a Tuesday, and not an advertised Quaker City Night Hawks show, the bar wasn’t as packed as it ordinarily would be. It was a nice, intimate feel. They opened with “The Last Ride of Miguel the Scared,” a fun up-beat tune that removed the blues I felt as the Cleveland Cavaliers had beaten my Golden State Warriors in game three of the NBA finals only moments earlier. The band moved into “Crack at the Bottle” next which seemed to be a good theme for the night as the longtime friends and bandmates weren’t shy about knocking back shots. The Hawks played mostly original tunes and sprinkled in some of the covers that have become staples of a normal “Torquila Tuesday” at Lola’s.
As always, it was a tight show. These guys are professionals and have been together a long time, and you can hear it in their music and see it in their performance. There were several times during the set that I considered leaving, exhausted and knowing I had to wake up at 7 a.m. for work the next day. However, every time I started to leave the band would play another song I had to hear. That’s just how these guys play; they always leaving you wanting more.
Even when Torquila isn’t a secret Quaker City Night Hawks show, it’s still the best show in town on a Tuesday night. Anderson, Mabe, and their various guests do a great job creating a fun weeknight with great music. They recruit the best talent in town and find new people to join in. Who knows, maybe you’ll see the next Leon Bridges get his/her start on Lola’s stage on a Tuesday night.