The fact that alcohol sales stay steady, or even spike during difficult economic times says volumes about the way many people cope, even if the escape is only 'temporary'. Others opt for excercise, vacations (even if they only get them deeper in debt), or a host of other diversions.
Last weekend, I got a serious boost simply by driving 15 minutes from my house to the Medina Ballroom, and watching a Minnesota musical institution.
Some might say that by laying that term... institution... on the Hoopsnakes, I am over-inflating their legacy. I'd beg to differ, simply because of the mileposts they represent in my life.
I first saw these guys when they were members of the original Lamont Cranston band. Bruce McCabe was the boogie piano man with the urgent voice, Jim Novak the steady beat, but Charlie Bingham was the draw for me. His guitar tone, ripping solo work, and cool stage demeanor immediately struck a chord (sorry) with me. We were 16 year old kids sneaking into a legendary Twin Cities nightspot to see a band that was waaaay cooler than anything played on mainstream radio.
When they made their split with legendary singer/harmonica player Pat Hayes, they became the Hoopsnakes. I was in college then, and would catch them at 5 corners whenever I came back to the cities. Charlie's guitar work was still the draw for me, but they were also doing different things with their song structures, Bruce was writing personal lyrics that were in step with the times... it was great stuff, and you never went home feeling dissapointed.
Fast Forward a decade or two. Two life-long buddies of mine and I went to see the guys play at Medina a couple of years ago. From what I understand, they only do a few gigs a year these days... due to different home bases, different lives, and the like. One or two of those gigs are at the ballroom every year, and since that first show we go every time they book. They add a few songs, do new arrangements on the old ones, but the set list isn't why I value these nights so much. Every time I see the Hoopsnakes, it seems like they realize what a special gift they have; they truly seem to get tighter with time, and Charlie even smiles a few times.
Maybe it's because they are the polar opposites of the fabricated, musical fast-food American Idol set; guys who actually play tunes that are about their lives, the lives of their fans, and the musicians that set the table for them. Or maybe it's more basic than that. When Charlie cranks up his Telecaster, closes his eyes and steps into the spotlight, it takes me back about 30 years to when I was 16, a rebellious kid sneaking in to see a band that really mattered. Music mattered. It still does.
Thanks for the night of escape guys. I'll see you next time you come around.
(Copyright KARE 2009. All Rights Reserved.)