Saturday, April 9, 2011

Front & Center at Chan's: Junior Watson

4/2/11  Arriving at Chan's after the first set, our lateness was punished by a sub-standard seat assignment in a dark corner with nearly zero visibility of the stage. Frustrated but not deterred, my companion and I managed to elbow our way to an upgrade for the second set--front and center seats directly in front of the stage. I am still not sure how that happened in such a crowded room, but it did. In all my years of listening to live music in a concert setting, I've never been quite so close to musicians. 

Matthew Stubbs, who had been  playing lead guitar during the first set, stepped aside to play bass, making room for Junior Watson, legendary Canned Heat guitar player. Watson was accompanied by the talent of Sax Gordon on the tenor saxophone. 

I was so close, I could read the set list and reach out and touch the neck of Watson's copper-colored mother-of-pearl Harmony Stratotone guitar; and I was 6 inches from the open end of Gordon's sax. I was privy to on-stage-only exchanges like "I'll give you a cue" or "It starts on a five."  During one energetic song, Watson's pick went flying right to my feet. I nonchalantly handed it back. For the first two songs, I just starred, looking from one to the other as they astounded me with their skill and ability to read off of each other.
Soon into the set, Watson asked if there were any hippies in the audience, gaining immediate rapport with several of the over-fifty set. From there, he proceeded to share some very intimate and compelling stories that spanned his 40 years of sex, drugs and rock and roll.  All this was punctuated by some very skilled guitar-playing, perfectly acompanied by the other musicians.  I have heard Gordon several times but I have never heard him play quite so passionately, without holding back and perfectly complimenting Watson's intense riffs.
Up close, I was only able to focus on one musician at a time and unable to take in the full sound of the entire band.  I started to feel too close for comfort.  Toward the end of the set, I moved a few seats back and found my personal feng shui, where I was able to more fully enjoy the concert, listening to tunes such as "One Night with You," and "The Pleasure's All Mine."   It was great show and the crowd responded with a standing-o and were rewarded with a fine medley, led by Watson. The band found their space immediately; it took me a little longer.

In leui of my own video from this night, here's a clip of Watson's performance from another night. 

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