Little Joe Washington Is A National Treasure
Photos by Mark Britain
For more pictures from Saturday night, see our slideshow here. Aftermath is still trying to get our heads around what we witnessed at Saturday night's benefit for the International House of Blues Foundation in House of Blues' Bronze Peacock Room. In a way, it was one of those "you had to be there" experiences where time might as well be standing still while it's going on, but once it's over the whole thing seems to have taken only a heartbeat or two. Although we have beaten the drum for Little Joe Washington plenty of times in the past, the diminutive, dreadlocked local bluesman took less than an hour Saturday night to convince us he is the funkiest person on the planet, although he may not actually be from this planet. And this time he did it sitting down. Augmenting his regular band with a three-man sax section, Washington and crew opened with Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime," a peculiar choice (or maybe not) that nonetheless set a driving clip for what was to follow over the next 45 minutes - a ferocious, frenetic bout of call-and-response push-and-pull that made Aftermath glad we weren't standing any closer to the stage. Although it was kind of hard to see Washington from the back of the packed Peacock, we like our eyebrows just fine the way they are and weren't really in the mood to have them singed off.
Although seated, Washington indulged his usual over-the-head guitar theatrics as the saxes honked and squawked away and the thick-as-a-brick rhythm section of Chris Heinrich (bass) and Kevin Blessington (drums) did what they could to give this roiling and pitching musical frigate - here toward gospel, there toward Ornette Coleman - some sort of anchor.
Toward the end, we edged up a little closer and caught a glimpse of Washington trying to bring the set toward some sort of halt - he'd shout something into the microphone, wave his hands over the keyboards with a flourish and attempt to walk offstage, but the sold-out crowd would not let him leave. Saturday's crowd may or may not have shown up to see Dan Aykroyd, but no doubt they stayed for Diunna Greenleaf - who greeted Aftermath with an elongated cover of Sly & the Family Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay" that oozed sensuality and, to say the least, made us wish we'd shown up a little sooner - Little Joe and closers Texas Johnny Boy & Milton Hopkins. And although our brain is still reeling somewhat from what we saw and heard, we will remember Saturday as the night Houston's House of Blues - which is reportedly planning more events like this - found its soul. As for Little Joe, he can still be found at Boondocks every Tuesday, at least according to the bar's MySpace page (and provided he shows up). Missing him would be a grave, grave mistake.
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