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30 June 2011

Not the Third Wednesday, or There's Nothing Like Live Music

As we walked south on Chicago's North Clark Street towards Carmen Avenue and home, my companion said, "Let's hope this is the third Wednesday of the month," which it was not.  So, we made a little detour into a bar that we've only seen crowded at these times.

Every second and fourth Wednesday of the month, The Western Elstons infuse Simon's Tavern with a rocking roackabilly, a swinging Western swing and 21st century American country.  There's a lead vocalist and guitarist, a bass guitarist, a stand-up bass player, a drummer who some may say is a Buddy Holly look-a-like and a switchhitter playing both the guitar and the "pedal steel guitar."  All look like they're having fun playing oldies but goodies like "Maybelline," and "What Am I Worth (on God's green earth if I'm not worth nothing to you)?" in a whole new way.  The pedal steel guitar looks like two guitar necks with steel strings mounted on bars with air pedals below.  The very able guitarist (whose name I imperfectly heard as Joe P...) played it like a combination harp/organ/guitar with a steel bar and  I was skeptical that it would still be called a "steel guitar" until I did my research.  The pedal steel guitar looked older and well-used and maybe even too small for the player, but sounded great and figured in all the rounds of solos.  The band played an all-instrumental version of "Sentimental Journey" and while the whistling was apt (I see that the way to get a whistle's sounds onto the mic is to place the side of one's cheek to it), the steel guitar is what made the piece a signature Western Elston.  The diverse crowd too was having a great time.  One couple even found room for a tight, crisp two-step.  There was no cover, but it was pass-the-beer-pitcher for tips.

Recall: It was after a rollicking two-set night with The Western Elstons that our master barista slipped on his pant leg while disrobing and broke his arm.  Yes, isn't the name nifty and a delight for Chicago insiders, who would know that there is a Western Avenue and an Elston Avenue, which cross with a third avenue -- Diversey -- on the northwest side of Chicago.

There's live music at Books on First every Saturday night (except before holidays, like this coming weekend, 2 July which precedes 4 July, Independence Day on Monday).  You don't have to miss either The Western Elstons or Sauk Valley's best pass-the-hat live music in a coffeehouse setting.

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