I’ve know for a few years now that my job is way cool, but sometimes the severity of the way coolness can be overwhelming.
First, I’ll not make the assumption that all readers know what I do: I book and promote live Blues shows at the Boulder Outlook Hotel. A little history; when hotel owner, Dan King, first started booking music in the hotel’s restaurant, he had a kitchen tenant called Skinny Jay’s. Some artists would say, “Welcome to Skinny Jay’s!” on the mic. I asked them to please change that to “The Outlook,” as the tenant had nothing to do with the music, and I didn’t want the name recognition falsely placed. Then three years ago, Dan took over the kitchen, and named the restaurant Blues & Greens (local food, live music). I’ve spent the last three years introducing bands with “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Blues & Greens.” I gave that up a week ago. Because of my earlier insistence, everyone refers to us as The Outlook.
I’m coming up on five years at this wonderful Home of the Blues, and am daily grateful that I decided very early on that we needed a weekly “Blues Letter,” as now, all those shows have been documented. I was genetically blessed with a good memory, but we’ve had so many barn-burners here, that even my near-total recall is tested (Blues Letter archive here).
One memory that’s always fresh: we had a jam in March of 2010 that included the Tommy Castro Band, Jason Ricci & New Blood, The Insomniacs, and local Blues greats, the Delta Sonics (who are going to the 2012 IBC for the Colorado Blues Society). Blues Revue contributor, and area resident, Mike Cote was there, and here’s what he had to say about that night.
What a night! And one of many. Anytime Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, Prodigal Son of the Outlook (that’s his full name around these parts) is in town, magic ensues. Bob is one of the most generous musicians I know, and without fail brings up local musicians to sit in. Like Boulder resident, Otis Taylor. Or Austin Young, Taylor Marvin, Zach Bahn, and Tony Golden (then 15, 16, 9, and 9 years old respectively) Yeah, we have those kinds of nights. Bob’s family.
The Ronnie Baker Brooks Band was in the region and had a couple of nights off, so they came to the hotel to relax. Fortunately for us, one of those nights was a Blues Jam, and our audience received a thrilling surprise. Even Jelly Bean Johnson got in on it! What a night.
Speaking of Ronnie, last December, he flew in to be the headliner for my 4th Annual Blue Star Connection Birthday Benefit, an event to raise funds for the charity (http://www.bluestarconnection.org/). We had the Delta Sonics backing him and along with several other musicians, legends Otis Taylor, Lionel Young, and Eddie Turner stopped by to make it a birthday party I’ll never forget. Since the hotel wasn’t full, we were able to stretch the curfew a bit. By an hour and a half.
One amazing night in August of ’09 had the Zac Harmon Band booked for their inaugural Outlook gig, and Jimmy Thackery just happened to by staying at the hotel with the night off. Zac invited Jimmy up early in the second set, and neither Zac nor the audience would let him leave. Again, what a night.
My cool job has also brought me travels. On Memorial Day Weekend of 2009, I flew to Dallas for 23 hours to attend a Blue Star Connection Fund-raiser/Birthday Party (Don Ritter of Category 5 fame) with an all star lineup: Bob, Diunna Greenleaf, Jonn Richardson, Zac Harmon Band, Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King, Sean Carney, Albert Cummings, Tommy Shannon, George Rains, and I know I’m forgetting someone...sorry, Someone. Last January I embarked on a nine-day road trip to Memphis with the Lionel Young Band (complete blog entries here), and they prevailed at the 27th Annual International Blues Challenge. Great memories created with great friends.
And what great friends I now enjoy thanks to this cool job. Isaac Stern once said, “Everywhere in the world, music enhances a hall, with one exception: Carnegie Hall enhances the music.” Fair enough, Mr. Stern. However, there is no hall on earth that enhances the music like listening to it with friends while it’s being played by friends.
I have this cool job because of a friend. In early 2006, I went to the Outlook to hear my friend since the early 80’s, Bob Margolin (I told you he’s family). He was with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith for the sold-out show. He came back a few months later, and that’s when I was introduced to Dan. Within months, I was developing a promotion plan and writing the Blues Letter for the relatively new venue, and now, only five years later, I’ve amassed a lifetime of memories and friends.
Unfortunately, in amassing wonderful, beautiful friends, we sometimes have to face the grief of losing one. And more. The Blues community in general, and the Colorado Blues community specifically, have recently suffered a heart-breaking loss in the tragic death of 35-year-old John-Alex Mason. John-Alex was not just a friend, but a damn good friend. We remain stunned and grief-stricken. John-Alex passed away just days before Gary Allegretto was flying in as the Artist in Residence for the CBS’s Blues in the School program. Gary was to be John-Alex’s musical guest at the Outlook the night he flew in. Instead, he recruited the Rob Wilson Band and performed a fantastic Tribute Concert to John-Alex. Gary and I had dinner together before the show. We’d spoken via phone a few times, but those conversations had been primarily regarding updates on John-Alex’s condition. When we finally met, we spent a lot of time talking, and a friendship was borne of unimaginable grief. Gary later sent me an email reminding me how much John-Alex loved introducing people and witnessing a separate, autonomous friendship develop. I hope he’s pleased.
Just a month before John-Alex’s passing, we lost Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. He’d last been at the Outlook just five months before, and I’m beyond grateful that I was able to spend some real time with him on that day. The summer before, Robin Rogers (who only played the Outlook once) was on what turned out to be her final tour. She was with Debbie Davies, and although I only had a day or so to spend with her, I loved her instantly, so her death hit hard. No one wants to embrace heartache, but we hurt because we love. Once the shock and raw pain begin to subside, smiling is in order, for the best thing we can do for our friends is to keep the celebration of the friendship alive in our hearts and minds, as they will always be our friends.
Of all the great live Blues I’ve heard, none of it would be quite as beautiful and soulful without wonderful friends swaying and foot-tapping in the same room.
To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson (replacing the masculine noun and pronoun with the feminine), “A woman’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of her friends.” Indeed Mr. Emerson, indeed. Yeah. I have a cool job.
~Honey Bee Sepeda~