Back in May, Dan Aykroyd was in town to grand marshal the Art Car Parade and emcee House of Blues' fundraiser for its educational/cultural outreach nonprofit arm, the International House of Blues Foundation. In our review of that night's show, starring Little Joe Washington, Rocks Off said we would remember that night as "the night House of Blues found its soul."
We also mentioned that while we were there, we heard the local outlet of the nationwide music/restaurant franchise was planning similar events. Turns out it was true, and the first one is tonight. It's free, too.
This evening HOB debuts "Blues Monday," a new monthly event HOB Houston general manager Mason Jambon says he hopes to fashion after the shows he saw in various New Orleans clubs during his college days, and dates back to conversations he had at the Aykroyd fundraiser.
"I talked to some of the local artists, and I made a commitment to those guys that we would bring some blues programming back to House of Blues," he says.
The idea of a monthly blues night took shape this summer, when HOB hosted a blues-themed party featuring Diunna Greenleaf during a national convention of arena and venue managers. But Jambon, who says HOB is also helping with the upcoming dedication ceremony for the Lightnin' Hopkins historical marker, thinks Houstonians will bite too.
"I think there's a market for that," he says. "Houston is very diverse, with an actual pretty good blues scene that we just need to help bring to the forefront."
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Veteran Houston duo Milton Hopkins and Texas Johnny Boy, who also appeared at the May benefit, headline tonight's show, with Trudy Lynn, Johnny Moeller and Mike Morgan also on the bill. With reduced prices on beer, bourbon and barbecue sandwiches, Jambon hopes to recreate the atmosphere of an old-time juke joint in the multimillion-dollar Houston Pavilions facility - as much as possible, anyway.
"I guess what we're trying to do is, in spite of where we are, once you walk through those doors, trying to make a transformation back to one of those traditional blues joints," he says. "We think that if we grow it, we can actually raise the profile of blues in Houston."
Jambon realizes that even with no cover, live music of any sort - but perhaps blues especially - is a tough sell on a Monday night in Houston. But he hopes the Blue Mondays will grow enough to where he can set up a revolving pool of local artists like Milton Hopkins, Little Joe Washington and Diunna Greeleaf alongside their counterparts from Beaumont/Port Arthur and New Orleans.
"Like anything, it may start off slow," he says. "It may never grow into a thousand person a night thing, but really that's not what we're going for. If we can get two or three hundred really good blues fans in the Music Hall, maybe expose some new people to the genre, then that's a good thing."