Another Tale - The (mostly) Non-Music Side of the Bar (Lurrie Bell Part II)
It was also an evening where a lot of things happened; some were meaningful, some were amusing and some were just various other things.
I entered the bar on Chicago's near-north-west side and looked for the stage for the music. It was a long, moderately narrow place with several sections in it. There was no stage. After questioning staff members I learned that the front area, by the entrance door was where the performance would be. I offered a staff member to help him move small tables and the chairs from the area, but my assistance was not desired. A few minutes later I offered the drummer assistance in getting his equipment in from his car and he also declined my offer of help.
I chose - what looked to me like the best seat in the house - and it was a good choice.
A middle aged (close to my age, but a few years younger) woman sat down behind me (relative to the stage) and we began chatting. She was D, the wife of 34 years of the drummer Willie "The Touch" Hayes. D initially told me a lot about Willie including that he was a cousin of Magic Sam (the most Incredible blues guitarist-singer who tragically died of a heart attack in December, 1969 at the age of 31).
D was and is a warm, caring person! She clearly was devoted to Willie and his (Lurrie's) band, the blues and living a good life. We talked about a lot of things. It sounded to me like they needed to work hard to get by, both working regular jobs, while Willie was also deeply devoted to his music.
As the music started, a couple brought a second bar stool and sat on the other side of me. It seemed apparent from the start that they were devoted, somewhat experienced blues fans and did not live in Chicago. I discovered that they lived in West Lafayette, Indiana, where I grew up. We talked further as the evening progressed.
The bar had no cover charge. As the music began I felt sad and embarrassed as a few people left, leaving a lot of empty space for a most wonderful artist to perform for. Within a few minutes mostly young people began streaming in and I realized that there were going to be plenty of people there. It seemed though that plenty of the audience, mainly towards he back of the bar were at best only lightly interested in the music. They were here to see their friends on a Saturday night.
As the evening went on a number of people looked at my book: "Bitten by the BLUES: The Alligator Records Story by Bruce Iglauer and Patrick A. Roberts. That felt very good! I hope that some of them and others will buy the book; a favorite of mine that I am still reading.
There was a group of perhaps 6-8 people sitting just inside of the bar entrance. Several of the women danced enthusiastically. As one in particular got wilder and wilder and drunker and drunker I feared that she would puke - but fortunately that never happened.
The first 25 minutes or so of the music was fairly standard, low key, beautiful, but not the Lurrie Bell that I dearly love. The remainder of the evening was musically dramatically different as Bell played consistently wonderfully, seemingly in a trance, sharing his artistry most incredibly. For the next 1 - 1 1/2 hours I was engrossed in the music, while taking in all else that I saw in the bar. Quite a few of the songs were standards that I mouthed the words to - but the spirit - was much higher than the (excellent) songs alone brought forth.
As the bar got crowded, a woman and then a friend and her began dancing - getting more and more out of control. The more exuberant woman banged into me twice, with no apparent acknowledgment that she was invading my space, without cause. She began seemingly pushing her friend closer and closer to where Lurrie was.
The doorman was not visible, checking id's or smoking where I could not see him. I tried to warn the women that they were close to colliding with Lurrie Bell. They were oblivious, as they pushed the speaker and microphone wires away from the performing area into the main part of the bar.
Finally, I said to myself, that this was a disaster waiting to happen. I called out to the two women, who were oblivious to me. Finally - I grabbed the woman closest to Lurrie and pulled her away from Lurrie thereby also pulling her partner. As soon as they were several feet away from Lurrie I let go. Immediately, I heard words like: "Don't touch me!" A third friend came to their aid and began yelling that I had no right to touch her friend.
I calmly explained why I had done what I had done. I heard back: "We come here all the time and dance and it's okay". and increased protests including that I should be arrested and thrown out of the bar. Initially the staff was tied up in throwing out an obviously disturbed man from the bar. I then talked calmly with the bartender and others explaining my actions. I was told that I should have contacted security or a bartender. I explained how it wasn't possible at the time and apologized. The three women soon disappeared from my sight and I never saw them again.
A little later when a man was leaving the bar he thanked me for what I had done. D, my neighbor, who was briefly away when the incident happened, spoke strongly with the bartender in support of me. She also told me that one of the women accused her of being racist. I asked her if she was purportedly anti-Black or anti-White and she wasn't sure which it was.
Later on a woman of perhaps age 30, with dark hair, and a visible belly button ring, began dancing slowly and erotically (in my estimation) for quite awhile. Then a man who was close to 70 years old, but looking quite dapper and fit began dancing with her. Their dance evolved into clear - fully clothed sex of various types as the dancing evolved.
It seemed obvious that they were going to hook up outside of the bar. Then, after much conversation and more dancing the woman moved further back in the bar leaving the man. I later saw her leaving the bar alone. The man was happily socializing with others as the evening continued.
A young man was clearly thrown out of the bar, for not readily apparent reasons. He was initially quite animated and then I could see him standing outside of the club. A security member later told me when I asked him that the man had presented an expired ID card. He was then asked to provide a second piece of identification and got belligerent and was thrown out because of this.
At one point two very thin, quite young, very nicely dressed women began dancing quite exuberantly together. They clearly had imbibed a little. Suddenly they went crashing to the floor, spilling a drink and were gone.
A female Santa came in, pulling up her "beard" - as it slunk down, exposing more of her face. She socialized with a lot of people, posing for pictures and dancing at various times with several men and women.
Later in the evening a woman came in who was wearing shades, a hat and had several other distinguishing characteristics. She was shapely (not at all thin). I asked her if she wanted to leave her book - one she obviously wrote in - on the bar, and she thanked me and did it. She also then took off her hat and it was put on the bar also.
She danced a lot by herself at first. Her close to sweat pant bottoms slipped down as she danced exposing her rear end moderately significantly. I asked her if she was aware of it and if she was okay with it. She thanked me, pulled the pants up the first of multiple times and told me that when she danced, they dropped a lot.
In the remaining time before the music concluded she danced with several others with a lot of energy. She also talked at various times with various people around her, while clearly being alone.
It was quite an evening! At the end, as with before the show and during the intermission, the musicians talked with various audience members. The people in the bar seemed to vary from people who were mostly closer to the band really enjoying the music while others mostly further back seemed oblivious to it.
The crowd thinned and when the music ended I said my farewells to quite a few people who'd been around during the show. For the first time in my life, I complained about my bill - saying that the bill was too low. $16 for all the Sharps non-alcohol beer seemed unreasonably low in price. I left a huge tip. I thanked several staff members and left into the cold winter night.