Saturday, July 10, 2010

On the Waterfront

Our owners and much of the staff Hit the Highway south last weekend for Portland's Waterfront Blues Festival. There are dozens of stellar blues festivals around the world, but we'll put Portland right there among the elite with Chicago. The line-up is second to none, the locale is gorgeous, and Portland is one of the best cities in the world to spend a few days. Everywhere we looked, we saw and heard artists and musicians who've played our club, and many who play here regularly. Among them: Reggie Houston, Janiva Magness, Jimi Bott, Kolvane, Moreland & Arbuckle, Chris Thomas King, Dudley Taft, Bobby Rush, Duffy Bishop, Capt. Leroy & the Zydeco Locals, David Vest, Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Donna Angelle & the Zydeco Posse, Mingo Fishtrap, Jim Mesi, Karen Lovely, Kevin Selfe & the Tornadoes, Jim Wallace, Mz. Dee, Lisa Mann & Her Really Good Band, the Sultans of Slide, Lloyd Jones, the Twisters, Walter Trout, Son Jack Jr. & Michael Wilde, Bill Rhoades, Terry Robb, and of course Robbe Laws Bigger Blues Band (featuring our founder and talent buyer, Steve "Big Sark" Sarkowsky).

We're not sure that people think of the Pacific Northwest when they think of the great blues regions. Naturally, we all think of the midwest with Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit; the south with Memphis, Texas, Louisiana. That's the history, the roots, and in most cases a pretty great present. Don't overlook the PNW, blues fans. Many of the players around here have crazy chops and the pedigrees to go with it. We've done some digging and it seems that after Chicago, whose publicly subsidized (and awesome) blues festival draws around 650,000 every year, Waterfront Blues Festival is probably the second largest in the U.S. Also, the fans at this year's event raised $650,000 and donated 100,662 pounds of food for the Oregon Food Bank.

Here is a pretty comprehensive guide to blues festivals around the land: We've always found that there's nothing like a music festival to influence the personal travel schedule. A lot of the great blues fests are hosted in "minor markets" or places we don't otherwise consider vacation locales. Which makes this notion that much more appealing.

For those in the Northwest, next weekend is the great Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival which is perfect for anyone who likes a weekend camping trip and a kick-ass festival. This year, they've got Little Feat, Buckwheat Zydeco, Curtis Salgado, and much more.

We don't mean to be an infomercial, so we'll stop with the details. But we definitely recommend clicking on the links above to check this stuff out. Nothin' but good times await!

Peter Damann, who books Waterfront and plays a mean guitar (at our place many times, the pleasure is ours) and Erika Olsen who runs Winthrop (photo by Terry Odor):

Ed trying to be classy at Waterfront (photo by Erika Olsen):

Big Sark, beating his skin(s) at Waterfront (photo by Jef Jaisun:

Friday, April 16, 2010

The BBQ Lunch Shack

The Highway 99 Barbecue Shack!
Fri - Sat - Sun, 11am - 3pm

Menu starting Saturday, April 17

1/4 lb. Angus Cheeseburger w/ Chips, Cole Slaw and choice of 20 oz. Coca-Cola beverage

1/4 lb. All-Beef Frank
w/ Chips, Cole Slaw and choice of 20 oz. Coca-Cola beverage

1/2 Rack Barbecue Ribs
w/ Chips, Cole Slaw and choice of 20 oz. Coca-Cola beverage

------ adding next week -----------

Pulled Chicken Sandwich
w/ Chips, Cole Slaw and choice of 20 oz. Coca-Cola beverage

Beef Brisket w/ Chips, Cole Slaw and choice of 20 oz. Coca-Cola beverage

Jambalaya w/ Cole Slaw and choice of 20 oz. Coca-Cola beverage

Patio Seating. Great for when you're in a hurry! Pull up to a space up front, order, and we'll get you fed and on your way real quick!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Recap: A Celebration of Life

The night began respectfully low key, with no pageantry or fanfare, as Son Jack Jr. & Michael Wilde played an impassioned and tasteful set of back porch blues. The Highway 99 Dance Band (Scotty Harris , Lissa Ramaglia, Andrew Cloutier, Justin Kausal-Hayes , Tony Gable) warmed things up with their cozy blend of west coast swing and classic soul. The great Kim Field sat in for a tune to close their set. Then Jimmy Holden got on stage and commanded everyone’s attention with a heartfelt monologue during which you could hear a pin drop as easily as a tear trickle. He comfortably slid into a slow groove with a makeshift version of his band featuring Danny Hoefer, Butch Harrison, Tony Gable, and Steve Sarkowsky. Lady A sat in for a couple tunes as well. From there, modern day jazz legend and one of Seattle's favorite sons, Michael Powers, demonstrated that an electric ukele can rock the house indeed. Michael arrived solo and assembled his band tonight on the fly - with Tony Gable, Andrew Cloutier & Paul Richardson - and they sounded like they've played a thousand shows together. Michael & Co. blew the roof apart with a set-closing instrumental version of James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)." At this point, Highway 99 owner Ed Maloney delivered a rousing and heartfelt toast to Greg. In the last five years, Ed has possibly spent more time with Greg than with his wife. Add an acute case of stage fright and fear of public speaking to his heavy heart, and clearly, this was a difficult moment for him.It was from the heart, he fought the tears back by removing his glasses to avoid eye contact, and in the end we all raised a glass.

Next up, Bump Kitchen (Tony Harper, Everett James, Mark Bittler, Dave Broyles, Joe Bevens, Tom Mazzuca) re-channeled the energy in the room into a bumpin' dance party. When they closed their set with a raucous version of Bill Withers' "Use Me," Greg's widow was dancing in her booth. Then, Teri Wilson & Suze Sims of the Red Hot Blues Sisters did their thing with a pick-up band anchored by Steve Sarkowsky behind the kit, with Nick Vigarino, Greg Lyons and Tony Gable sitting in. For their closer, the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There" the sisters were joined by Lee Oskar.

The showstopping set was delivered by Lee Oskar & Friends, comprising Scotty Harris, Lissa Ramaglia, Andrew Cloutier, Tim Lerch, Paul Richardson, Tony Gable, and 2009 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees Harold Brown & Lee Oskar. Suze Sims sat in on percussion. Ed Maloney snuck in there and slapped the bongos during "Low Rider."

As the show was coming to a close, the great Jon Goforth and Steve Banks showed up straight from their gig at the Snoqualmie Casino. They knew the proper show as over but they wanted to jam, so they grabbed Jimmy Holden and played an hour-long set of sweet, casual grooves with drums, organ and sax.

In addition to all who played on this special night, there were many great musicians in the house who didn't get stage time but who just came down to support and honor a friend. Among those folks were Patty May, Jeff Herzog, LJ Porter, Flo Braxton, Greg Roberts, Robin Moxey, and Mark Whitman.

Rich Clark from Triamp Productions donated the backline, without which an event like this is not possible to pull off. For the non-musicians out there, backline means drums, guitar amps, bass rigs, keyboards, and guitar stands. By setting the stage with backline that everyone will share, the musicians only need to bring their instruments, turning the stage over from one band to another does not require breaking down one drum kit and setting up another (20-30 minutes), replacing amps and so forth. This allows for a more continuous flow of music with much shorter breaks, which means more entertainment in a shorter time for the audience, also allowing for more musicians to get stage time. Rich's contribution here can not be overstated.

Scotty Harris, on two days notice, stepped up as bandleader. Herding dozens of musicians to execute a stage production schedule like this one normally requires a whole lot more lead time than two days. We could have done this event a few weeks later with a more reasonable and rational time frame to pull it off. But we wanted to raise money and get it into Greg's family's hands before this weekend's burial, to ensure they wouldn't have to go out-of-pocket for anything. It wasn't easy, but Scotty was up to the task and he pulled it off marvelously.

It was a Wednesday night, always a tough night to get people out of the house. This thing was put together in five days and nobody saw Greg's untimely passing coming. With the help of many kindred spirits spreading the word via telephone and Internets, most noticeably our friends Chollo Willsin and Michelle Burge, 141 people donated a total of $3208 to the Thompson Family. Terry Gottlieb from American Music, who had graciously donated his time to run sound and production, threw down another $500. Ed Maloney hit the ATM and matched it from his personal bank account, bringing the total funds raised to $4208, which was given to the Thompson Family at the end of the night.

All we wanted to do was raise money for the Thompsons, show the family a good time at a time when they could really use one, and celebrate Greg's life. And with everyone's participation and contributions, together we did it. Not bad for a bunch of like-minded blues and jazz lovers on short notice. Some photos:

Nick Vigarino w/ Suze Sims & Teri Wilson

Michael Powers, Andrew Cloutier (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Lee Oskar & Suze sims (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Bump Kitchen (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Lady A (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Kim Field, Scotty Harris (photo by Erika Olsen)

Teri Wilson (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Scotty Harris (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Jimmy Holden Band (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Ed Maloney (photo by Jef Jaisun)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gregory Lloyd Thompson Memorial

First, here is a link to where you can donate to Greg's surviving family:

Gregory Lloyd Thompson Donation Fund

Funeral Services:
Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church
Saturday, April 10th, 2010 11am
126 15th Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98122
click here for directions

Southwest Mortuary
Friday, April 9th, 2010 2pm-7pm
9021 Rainer Ave. South
Seattle, Washington 98118
(206) 722-3675



4pm doors, 6pm show

On Monday morning, we lost a dear friend, our head sound engineer and member of the immediate Highway 99 family. Gregory Lloyd Thompson was with us from the very beginning. For anyone who frequented this place, Greg's smiling face and contagious energy was a delightful fixture. His presence in our lives was a blessed gift.

Greg's work in the Pacific Northwest music community transcended the small world in which we dwell. During the last 35-40 years, he has run audio and visual production at every theater, ballroom, church, festival, club, and even a few dumps and dives.

On Wednesday, April 7, we host an event to honor and celebrate Greg's life. Many of the area's finest blues and jazz musicians have volunteered their time and creativity to play a concert event for all of us who wish to gather in a social environment, one in which Greg has graced with thousands of his hours during the last five and a half years.

American Music has volunteered to run the production and the Triamp Group has donated all the backline (drums, amplifiers, keyboards, etc.). Sam Marshall has graciously offered Wednesday night - previously booked with him and his trio - for this event.

GREG THOMPSON, A CELEBRATION OF LIFE will raise financial support for Greg's surviving family. With his untimely passing, the Thompsons sure could use some help. The admission for this very meaningful occasion, one which will offer brilliant and inspired performances by many of the Seattle area's top musicians who've owed part of their great sound over the years to Greg, is whatever you can donate to the Thompson Family. Nobody is keeping score or demanding anything. Just come on down, enjoy a wonderful evening with good folks, and give what you can. 100% of the funds raised will be given directly to the Thompson Family.

It just isn't possible to describe the impact Greg, his character and demeanor, has had on us. We will always love and miss him. We will always be better people as a result of him.

Please join us on Wednesday for an evening of fine music, remembrance, A Celebration of Life, and support for the Thompson Family.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Greg Thompson

Our head sound engineer, Greg Thompson, passed away this morning.

He had a mild heart attack on Friday, at which time we began circulating an envelope among staff and regulars, figuring he'd be out of the hospital within a couple days and we'd have raised enough to cover his weekend pay and send him and the misses to a nice dinner with whatever was left over. On Saturday, he slipped into a coma and after around 40 hours on life support his family made what had to be the most difficult decision, the one they knew Greg would want them to make.

Greg was with us at Highway 99 from the beginning, and his pedigree of running and installing sound around Seattle is legendary. Surely, it was our pleasure to have him. He neither drank, smoked, nor used. At work, he almost exclusively ate gumbo, but he was most happy when we had BBQ on the menu. He was more reliable than a morning sunrise and nobody - we mean this, nobody - ran a better board in a live environment. More than all that, Greg was absolutely the most upbeat, energetic, positive, straight shooter we've known. In the Northwest, where passive aggression prevails, we noticed these qualities in him as much as we enjoyed them. If you walked into a room he was in, he'd find you and say Hi. Didn't matter who you were: a musician he's done sound for, a dishwasher in a club he's worked at, security guy at a festival he did production on, a volunteer at a church where he did a sound system install (Greg did more than a few of those), he'd find you and make your night with his huge smile, wide eyes, the above-the-head wave from across the room accented by the big slap of a handshake once he got to you - it was genuine and that's why it made your night every time.

The Highway 99 Blues Club community will surely be doing something to honor and celebrate Greg, and to extend some assistance to his surviving family in the immediate future. More info on that is forthcoming. For now, if you knew Greg or even just knew his face as a fixture behind soundboards across the Great Northwest, please think of him, reflect on how fortunate you are to have been blessed with his presence in your life. At least, that's what we're doing at the moment.

God Bless You, Greg.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The I-5 Houseparty

Among all the types of shows and events we host, our favorites are the ones which juxtapose a line-up of musicians you wouldn't ordinarily see on one stage together, the kind of once-in-a-lifetime occasion that makes us all say to ourselves, something that usually ends with, "...and I was there." The I-5 Houseparty is a show we did last year and again this year, where top blues and r&b players from Seattle and Portland - two markets which are normally competitive with each other - play together in a rare offering of musical goodness. These stellar musicians are joined not just by a love of the same kinds of music, but by that golden roadway of the West Coast, Interstate 5. From Seattle, multiple Washington Blues Society award winner The Crossroads Band held down the fort like The Band in The Last Waltz. Out front, Portland's Terry Robb and Jim Wallace tore it up. Our new friend Dmitry Kraskovsky took some marvelous photos and we'd like to share them with you:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

RIP, Lil' Dave Thompson

Lil' Dave Thompson, 1969-2010

It is with sadness and a heavy heart that we report what many of you may already know. Lil' Dave Thompson passed away Sunday morning, the result of an automobile accident outside Augusta, Georgia while touring with his band. Nobody else was seriously injured. The band was driving home to Greenville, MS after the final night of a long tour which concluded in Charleston, SC. The van struck a hole in the road, veered into gravel and lost control.

Dave and his band played our club in 2009 and 2008. Our experiences with him were simply first class. He was a professional, dignified, and friendly man.

Our friend Peter Dammann who runs Portland's Waterfront Blues Festival wrote us today: "Dave was a great Mississippi bluesman and wonderful soul. Had him at Waterfront Blues Festival in '02, and saw him again in Arkansas in '07. So sad to lose one of the young standard bearers of this music."

Ed Maloney commented as well: "Dave was a stand-up and good-natured guy who always had a smile on his face. He enjoyed a good laugh, but not at anyone's expense. He was a gentleman. Dave Thompson was the kind of guy you spend some time with and walk away challenging yourself to become more like him."

Lil' Dave is survived by his children: David Jr. (20), Danielle (19), Shequeena (18), Shirleiah (16) and Destiny (13); sisters Patricia, Barbara Denise (twin sister), Jennifer and Pasty Thompson, Zenovia Henderson and Rose Marie Richmond; and brothers John, Sam, Elijah Allen and Tyrone Thompson.

The funeral for Lil' Dave Thompson will be at 2pm, Saturday, February 27 at Bell Grove Mission Baptist Church, 1301 BB King Rd., Indianola, MS 38751.

A support fund has been set up by Dave's family. Contributions can be sent to:
Community Bank
P.O. Box 28
Indianola, MS 38751

Contributions can also be wire transferred to routing # 084204301 for the benefit of Dave "Lil' Dave" Thompson c/o John Thompson.

Direct mail can be sent to Dave's family at:
John Thompson
P.O. Box 512
Moorhead, MS 38761
email to John Thompson:

Finally, to celebrate Dave's music, his video for "Something Come Over Me" is available for free, courtesy of the Thompson Family, by clicking right here.

Heaven's House Band has gained a wonderful man and one helluva guitar player.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Well, not exactly to the day... but within a week, this totally non-blues, non-musical thing happened. Mike Tyson was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the boxing world, at a time when the world generally knew and cared. Then, an undisputed heavyweight boxing champion was a singular hero to all. Ali, Holmes, Norton, Liston, Louis, Marciano... Today, there are so many more t.v. channels and things like mixed martial arts and ultimate fighting have carved up what used to be the boxing audience. Anyway... point is, celebrating the underdog is not a bad idea. Relative unknown James "Buster" Douglas shocked the world twenty years ago, at once reminding us anything is possible (then) and how f**king old we are (now)...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2009 In Review

Yeah, yeah, we're a little late on the '09 wrap... the year came in like gangbusters. On January 2nd, the Robin Moxey Band blew the place apart. We hired a gang of monkeys to put the roof back on the dump and were ready for the next night with Chris Stevens and Jack Cook. During the year, we hosted 286 shows and 136 artists played here (not including Jam For Cans when 35-40 artists graced the stage on one magnificent evening). We enjoyed the fine music of artists from fifteen states and three countries, including a nice showing from Louisiana, Oregon, California, Tennessee, Texas, the marvelous province of British Columbia, and artists from Chicago, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan, Rhode Island, and whichever other locales we may have missed in this exercise.

The List
Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne, The Twisters, Wes Mackey, Handful of Luvin', Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps, Terry Evans Band, Nathan James Trio, Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, Maria Muldaur's Garden of Joy Jug Band, Candye Kane, Craig Caffal Band, Debbie Davies, Magic Slim & the Teardrops, Eddie "Devil Boy" Turner, Sammy Eubanks, John Nemeth, Moreland & Arbuckle, Tab Benoit, Travis Matte & the Kingpins, Horace Trahan & the Huval-Doucet Band, Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Rockin' Jake Band, Leroy Thomas & the Zydeco Roadrunners, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band, Dikku Du & the Zydeco Krewe, The Red Stick Gamblers, Mark St. Mary, Chris Thomas King, Harper, The Bottoms Up Blues Gang, Lil' Dave Thompson, The Insomniacs, The Essentials, The Strange Tones, DK Stewart & the Soul Survivor Horns, Robbie Laws Bigger Blues Band, Kolvane, Lloyd Jones Struggle, Rick Welter Band, Jim Wallace, Bill Rhoades, Duke Robillard, The Scarlet Tree Allstars, The Highway 99 Dance Band, Sourmash Stevedores, The David Samuel Project, Son Jack Jr. & Michael Wilde, Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin' Daddies, Dana Lupinacci, The Red Hot Blues Sisters, Hot Rod's Rhythm & Blues Revue, John "Scooch" Cugno's Delta 88 Revival, Chris Stevens' Surf Monkeys, Purty Mouth, The 1Uppers, Maxwell Street Revival, DoctorfunK, The Randy Oxford Band, Nearly Dan, Memphis Radio Kings, Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers, Vince Mira, The Sam Marshall Trio, Miguel Salas, Bill Brown & the Kingbees, Lee Oskar & Friends, Brothers of the Empty Tomb, Little Bill & the Bluenotes, The Crossroads Band, The Curtis Hammond Band, Felonius Funk Orchestra, JD Hobson, Sonic Funk Orchestra, Soul Provider, Westerly, Joey Jewell, The James Howard Band, Lady A & the Baby Blues Funk Band, Two Sheds Jackson, The Kim Archer Band, Cee Cee James, Dudley Taft Blues Overkill, The Blues Orbiters, Karen Smith, Alice Stuart & the Formerlys, Ravinwolf, The Mary McPage Band, Chester Dennis Jones, Ratfish Bone, Howlin' Hound Dog, Hard Money Saints, Nasty Habits, Little Ray & the Uppercuts, Billy Dwayne & the Creepers, Golden Robot Army, Satellite 4, Michal Miller, Snake Oil, The Fat Tones, Wired, The Bouchards, Paul Green & Straight Shot, Strange Jerome, Dan Tyack & the Gospel Revival, Gravel Road, Mark DuFresne, Steve Bailey, Hot Roddin' Romeos, Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers, Kissing Potion, Kim Field & the Mighty Titans of Tone, Type A! Band, Nick Vigarino's Meantown Blues, The Starlings, Soul Deluxe, Mark Whitman, Bill Mattocks, Country Dave & the Pickin' Crew, Robin Moxey, Miss Mamie Lavona the Exotic Mulatta & Her White Boy Band, Sugarsmacks, Captain Leroy & the Zydeco Locals, Gertrude's Hearse, The Roy Kay Trio, Marshall Scott Warner, Squirrel Butter, Eldridge Gravy & the Court Supreme, Swamp Soul, Jack Cook, Mark Stewart & the Bastard Sons, Jason Ricci & New Blood, Tony Coleman & All the King's Men, Alvin Youngblood Heart, Seth Walker, Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King. If our keyboard forgot you, our heart has not.

Whew! What we're most proud of is our ongoing commitment to homegrown music. At the risk of being a bunch of stat geeks, we did the arithmetic and found that while continuing to grow as a nationally recognized music venue whose stage has been graced with many of the world's finest and most accomplished artists, winners and nominees of W.C. Handy and Blues Music Awards, Grammies, Oscars, Blues Hall of Famers and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees... still, in 2009, 64% of the artists who played here reside in the Seattle metropolitan area. On the 2010 calendar so far (we're booked into May), depending on which month we're looking at, that number sits between 70 and 80%. Very few music venues on the national landscape can say this. We can say this, and we're proud of it.

Thanks for a great 2009 and here's to an even better Twenty Ten!

(below, Kevin Selfe tries to give Murph a guitar lesson)