Last night was another gig with Johnny Neel and the Criminal Element, but not just another gig, a show at the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar on Printer's Alley downtown. This place is kind of like the honky-tonks on Broadway, but hidden away in the dark alley. It's sort of the place that the out-of-towners go after they've visited Nashville three or four times and think they've found a good local spot. It's a New Orleans themed bar with live music every night and beads and such. There was a great vibe, friendly staff and a cool layout with a balcony that made me feel like I was looking out over Mardi Gras itself.
The Criminals seemed to be right in their element, so to speak, with the demands of a tourist dive. They found the perfect mix of originals, covers, and songs made up right on the spot. The crowd seemed to like it, even if it wasn't exactly what they might have expected. The songs they made up were everything from swingin' New Orleans style shuffles to deep bluesy blues, and the originals spanned each of the three volumes. It was clear that they were having fun. While they knew the crowd would clamor for a certain amount of recognizable covers, they were still able to put their own spin on such classics as "Get Back" and "Whipping Post". They were also able to space out and jam which always delivers some of the best C.E. moments.
This the other unique part of the weekend. Along with Old Union the night before, this was a show from a band I see a lot but under different circumstances. To me it felt like an out of town gig. One where we show up to the bar (for the first time ever for me), get to know the staff, and play to a room of complete strangers. By the end of the night, everyone who was expecting just another honky-tonk country cover band was in love with this crazy, funky, wild-ass hurricane that blew through this little boogie bar.