Last night, my son took me to a Robert Cray concert. If you don’t know him, it’s worth your time to check him out:
The concert was held at Harrah’s Casino in the Voo Doo Lounge. Before heading out there, Ryann, his girlfriend, went to dinner with us at the best barbecue place in the US…. Gates. Baird and I LOVE Gates bbq. It’s cooked perfectly everytime, and we like the sauce because it is a vinegar recipe…. and it is hot… In my opinion, it ain’t barbecue unless it clears your sinuses. Plus, it was the first Gates experience for Ryann. She likes her barbecue sweet… molasses base sauce…. but since eating at Gates….. she still likes it sweet.
(Just a note: Actually, barbecue has nothing to do with sauce. Barbecue is how it is cooked. Anything that is barbecue, has been slow cooked in a smoker. When you cut open the meat, you can see a ring just below the surface of the meat that is a little discolored from the rest of the meat. That outter part is the smoke ring. Real barbecue has a smoke ring. If you are cooking outside on your deck using charcoal and wire rack…. that is grilling… not barbecue. Barbecue requires a smoker.
When people think of barbecue in most of the country, except in Kansas City, Memphis, and parts of Texas, they probably think of sauce. And most of them think the sauce should be sweet. A sweet sauce recipe uses molasses as it base. Gates and Arthur Bryants… another KC cultural icon because the restaurant sits across the street from where the sports stadium used to be, but while the stadium was torn down and the Chiefs and Royals moved south, Bryants is still there and presidents have eaten at the rickety tables there… both serve sauce with a vinegar base. I like sweet, but prefer the Gates sauce due to how it works so well with the meat.)
Since she had class that evening, Ryann took us to Harrah’s and dropped us off. We were early, so Baird and I walked around to investigate the place first, then got ten bucks in singles… five for him and five for me… and hit the penny slots. I actually won some money…. for awhile… then the odds caught up with me. Baird won because, although he didn’t win any money, he only spent four of his dollars while I spent all five of mine. By the way… I have never seen so many people with walkers anywhere except when I worked at the Good Samaritan Towers, an apartment complex for independent living senior adults. Yep…. seniors putting their hard earned social security checks to work for them… I was a little disturbed by that…
Finally, since the doors to the lounge were open, we decided to go in and beat the rush. We went in at 7… and were the first ones there. We had GREAT seats! Fourth row, five seats in from the end aisle. We hung out, had a beverage and caught up with what was happening in our lives. Eventually, the first band came on. They were a three piece band with a style that tended towards southern rock. They were good, but when Cray’s band came on, three measures into the first song, you could tell why the first band led off.
Between bands, Baird and I went outside on the deck for a few minutes. I noticed when people began to gather, how old the crowd was. Just before Baird and I went outside, I said, “Baird, I’m sorry… you seem to be the youngest by at least 20 years…” By the way, let me get it out of the way… I hate it when middle-age people get drunk…. I am offended by their idiocy! At one point, I asked Baird, “How many first dates you think are here tonight?” I swear…. I got sick of the couples making out in the middle of the crowd! I told Baird that the guys were doing that here, so they could fake their virility before they had to prove it…. hello little blue pill…..
When we were on the deck, a guy pointed into the darkness and said, “Hey… I just saw a coyote, or cougar, or something…” Nearly in unison, Baird and I turned to him and said, “No, the cougars are inside….”
All this might seem a little catty, but we were kind of irritated by the crowd by this point. Two women behind us insisted on talking through about a third of Cray’s set… Really? Look, why don’t you go find a radio and talk there…. Plus, when we came back to our seats, the row in front of us… four of whom were really drunk and acting like they were 16 again… had shoved their seats back so far we felt like we were flying coach to somewhere in northern Iowa. One guy kept putting his arm around the woman next to him and hitting my leg….. and then saying “Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo” through the first half of Cray’s first verse of each song.
The music. The Robert Cray Band was INCREDIBLE! The drummer and Joe Pugh, on keyboard, had to be in their 50’s, and their musicianship is masterful. Pat Cousins the bass player had long, thin dred locks, and was really smooth. Every so often, I would hear Baird start to laugh in appreciation of Cray’s ability. Baird plays both guitar and bass, so his understanding of how remarkable is the skill of Cray is a little deeper than mine. We both love the subtleties of live music at the highest level… We are amazed by it, and we love to watch musicians play off each other. Blues and jazz are especially built on the premise of a shared musical conversation. I really can’t explain how much joy I had sharing the experience with my son!
Thanks Santa Baird…