Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Gimmick and Grit: The Blooze Brothers at the Double Down Saloon

by +
Eric Foemmel

When I was kid and approaching my teens, before cable television, the UHF channels used to broadcast The Blues Brothers once a year.  It seemed that every kid knew the scenes and dialogue of that movie by heart.  We would laugh as we recounted the scenes while at recess.  Not only did
John Belushi and +Dan Aykroyd pay tribute to the great blues artists of Chicago and Harlem, they apparently planted seeds in the imaginations of kids watching that movie.   I can see it in my mind: The sweat drenched Reverend James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, fervently and repeatedly asking from the pulpit, “Have you seen the light?”  I had no idea he was asking us kids watching the movie this important question until I saw the +Blooze Brothers in Las Vegas at the +Double Down Saloon on March 15th, 2015.

This was a five-piece band with three guitarists, a bassist, and a percussionist: Brett Cohen on guitar; Derek James on vocals and guitar; Marky Z on vocals and bass; Anthony Raya on vocals and drums; and Goldtop Bob on guitar.  Four of the younger members of this band were in their mid twenties or early thirties, wearing untucked white dress shirts with black ties, shades, and pork pie hats.  These young men delivered blues and soul tunes with great harmony, a punk rock punch, and bit of gravel in their voices.  They had the gimmick down, but they were not impersonating the Blues Brothers.   As they said during the show, they are keeping the memory of John Belushi alive.

They sang many of the songs I remember in the Blues Brothers movie such as Soul Man and Give me Some Lovin’ by Sam and Dave, Boom! Boom! by John Lee Hooker, and I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Waters.  These young men played their guitars over their heads, threw out fast leads, and owned their gimmick.  They lived up to the name of their band, and the audience was dancing to their music.   I could almost imagine that they were kids from the same orphanage as Jake and Elwood.

In addition to a great gimmick, what this band has is a tremendous amount of grit that is distilled into one unassuming member of the band, guitarist Goldtop Bob.  He sat on the stage behind the rest of the band.  While subtly rocking and swaying in his seat to the music, he delivered leads and riffs just where it was needed.  He added color to the songs as the boys belted it out.  The way he presented himself on stage, he could have been sitting on a porch deep in the swamps of the Mississippi Delta, or he could have been strumming his guitar on the stoops of tenement buildings in Harlem or Chicago.  Yet, tonight, here he was at the Double Down.   

Goldtop Bob is a seasoned blues player who seems to have been through the lean times any traveling musician must face.  This is apparent simply by looking at his Goldtop Les Paul, which he has owned since 1967. Bob’s Les Paul has been through the gauntlet showing chips and small nicks.  He showed my friend, Luke Metz, and I his guitar while sitting at the bar after the show.  Bob has had to make serious on-the-spot repairs on his Les Paul without proper tools and replacement parts.  He was flat broke, hungry, and had a busted guitar.  If he did not fix the guitar and play, he would go hungry for the night.  With a butter knife, a hand drill, and a hammer, he constructed a guitar bridge out of a piece of maple wood from his father’s workbench.   He knows the wood in that bridge is one-hundred-ten-years-old.  Other repairs around the pickups use snipped tin that was once part of a barn roof in Mississippi.  Various and sundry nails and screws hold this portion of the guitar together.  As Bob said drinking his whiskey at the bar, “It looks like hell, but it plays well.”  Here is a link of just Bob playing his Goldtop Les Paul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5skTBMNj9b4

The renditions of soul and blues that these five musicians put together have a great balance of showmanship and true musicianship.  The younger members, wearing the apparel of Jake and Elwood, blend their stage presence with the legitimacy of Goldtop Bob.  Just as Belushi did before them, they incorporate the concept of an entertaining Hollywood blockbuster with genuine content, which makes it an interesting show to watch.  

They will be playing and hosting the Blooze and Booze Sunday, which is a free show every third Sunday at the Double Down Saloon.  You can check them out on their facebook page  

Double Down Saloon
Address: 4640 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89169
Phone:(702) 791-5775
Hours: Open today · Open 24 hours

Eric Foemmel 
Dr. Foemmel's House of Cheer
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Location: Las Vegas 4640 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, NV 89169, USA