Thursday, October 24, 2013

19 Oct 13 - The Claudettes

Hey, blogspot readers, back in September, SouthSide's good friend The Claudettes performed a debut appearance at the legendary blues club - Buddy Guy's Legends opening for Big James and The Chicago Playboys. Actually, pianist Johnny Iguana has performed there before but this was drummer Michael Caskey's premiere experience at this well known club and tourist attraction. How did it go for The Claudettes? Well, blogspot readers, she heard from the grapevine that the show didn't pan out too well for this local band and/or their performance ...that depends on whom you talk to about what happened. Since she wasn't there herself, this reviewer got in contact with Jeff Elbel, freelance writer for the Chicago Sun-Times to get his bird's eye view of happen that night and more.

The Claudettes aren't your ordinary blues band, blogspot readers. It's a concept type of band where the musicians, Johnny and Michael instrumentally play an upbeat vivacious blues sound while Tatyana, the bar server of Claudette's Bar, handles the managing side of this concept. The "bar" itself is the band's main gimmick that's owned by the mysterious and unseen Claudette who sometimes phones in during the set checking on the band and beer sales. So besides listening to music, the audience's interest is kept when she's doing things like straightening Johnny's tie ...sweeping the floor and/or selling things sometimes it's beer (at a discount price) or CDs (by other bands) or t-shirts and other merch. And according to Jeff Elbel, "...Johnny and Michael were really rocking it..." at Buddy Guy's Legend that night.

So, in his opinion, why the negative response from the Buddy Guy's staff over The Claudettes' appearance SouthSide asked. "...I think it's because they're trying to run a business with a rigid set of parameters..." as well as luring the tourist crowd and those who wouldn't normally visit a club like Buddy Guy's. Jeff who attended the show with his wife told this reviewer he had a clear view of the room and contrary to what was said to Johnny Iguana afterwards, "...people were having a great time..." even if they thought it was weird. And what about the rumor that people were leaving during The Claudettes' opening? That's not entirely true, blogspot readers. People however were leaving during Trombone Shorty's set because like the others, Jeff was waiting for this musician to wow him with something spectacular that never really happened.

"I went with my wife who's not 100% committed to music," stated Jeff who also added that she's good test of what and how the crowd reacted to The Claudette's Buddy Guy's performance, blogspot readers. In his opinion, he told SouthSide that she was entertained and felt the negative reaction to the band wasn't warranted. "...if there isn't a new angle, then everybody should be a Buddy Guy cover band..." he added, "...everyone has an angle..." citing there are more conventional blues bands like Trombone Shorty that have appeared on this club's stage. Yet, a band like The Claudettes isn't conventional to which he said to this reviewer that you sometimes "...have to step out of the box..." and that's what he likes about The Claudettes, blogspot readers. "...a band has to grow and evolve ...bring in new things ...and not be a nostalgic act ...I don't think Buddy Guy wants to be remembered as a nostalgic musician..."

So how Jeff would describe The Claudettes brand of blues music to someone who have never heard of this band before? He did admit to SouthSide that he's not as well versed in blues history as Johnny Iguana is but did state The Claudettes " very respectful of blues history and blues knowledge..." And by listening to this local band's music and befriending Johnny, he has come to learn of other blues artists like Otis Spann or Mose Allison saying "...I would not have heard of [them] without Johnny Iguana..." The Claudettes, according to this writer, also bring modern elements into their blues music in which traditional blues and indie fans both can enjoy.  In his opinion, he feels this band is carrying the torch of the blues tradition something the Legends staff should be appreciative of because "...they [the band] played to a group who aren't passionate about music..."

Then SouthSide asked Jeff - if he had to promote The Claudettes, what kind of lineup could the band be featured in. "...since their sound is based on different number of things, The Claudettes could be in lineup featuring an alternative band ...but wouldn't put them in a heavy metal or country lineup..." he replied. He could also see this band in the middle of a folk act lineup just to see how the audience would react to their performance. Jeff mentioned just how the annual Blues Fest features a wide variety of musical acts from soul to rhythm and blues and more he could see The Claudettes performing within rock or soul lineup besides blues. He noted there's a hint of Ray Charles as well as Raymond Scott especially in the title track of the band's new album. SouthSide mentioned how she could see the band performing in a film festival or doing music for a silent movie to which Jeff also agreed saying "...they would be perfect for that..." and would pass along the idea to Johnny.

What's his personal opinion about The Claudettes? Jeff stated they're one of my favorite bands. What he likes about them is that Johnny and Michael play at very unconventional venues outside what's considered the "normal" club scene around town. Besides venues like Tonic Room and places while recently on tour, The Claudettes have appeared at a Blockbusters in Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood, a Staples and even a bar like The Whistler (located in the Logan Square neighborhood) ...anywhere and everywhere bringing music to where the fans are. Jeff enjoys hearing two of Johnny's favorite musical styles - blues and alternative together as well as watching Johnny and Michael play off each other having a " tug of war..." during their set. And believe it or not, blogspot readers, Johnny has performed or recorded with legendary greats like Junior Wells, James Cotton, Carey Bell, Koko Taylor and many more. "...I like the fact they [The Claudettes] do things I can recognize ...bringing in R&B I can grow with..." says Jeff adding, "...I feel like I'm walking encyclopedia ...learning a lot thanks to Johnny and Michael..." Another great thing about The Claudettes is that he can listen to them all day and get work done. Lastly, blogspot readers, Jeff wanted everyone to know that they are "...great fun to watch..."

SouthSide highly recommends heading out The Hideout this Friday for The Claudettes' Album Release show featuring Ami Saraiya & the Outcome and Jenny Dragon. For more information, visit

Until next time, support your local scene,

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