IT’S NOT THE HEAT, IT’S THE TAB
It’s a cold dark evening in Colorado, the onset of winter approaching and the temperature hovering around 16 degrees. Heat and thrill seekers from all over Denver and beyond came to Herman’s Hideaway, www.hermanshideaway.com, Friday and Saturday nights to experience the scorching guitar licks from the legendary Tab Benoit and to celebrate Herman’s 26th anniversary. It is darker earlier now, and there is a full moon. Tab has a new CD out, "Midnight Train to Nashville," and for whatever other reasons, the place is buzzin’.
Denver’s own Wendy Woo Trio- www.wendywoo.com , opens, warming us up with her hot harmony. The crowd loves her, and in the spirit of making fun of names I yell "woo" bunches of times.
Tab finally shows up on the stage, but the crowd seems to have wandered off mentally. I whistle and yell to corral these cats into focus. He wears a snazzy silk shirt, tres chic, and he picks up the Fender and just shreds. The pace is fast, too fast, almost a blur. This is a cultural experience evoking the "Big Easy" way of life. It is classic "Laissez les bon temps roule" (Let the good times roll) and Cajun music- folk music imported from France. But this tempo is feverish, Cherie.
He ignites a song from his new CD, "Midnight Train to Nashville", and the bon temps is on. "Sac Au Lait Fishing" is a great song about fishing at some delightful creek called The Whiskey Bayou. His music has everything in it, and then some, like a huge pot of gumbo with barbequed gator. It’s hot, it’s foreign, it’s spicy, and it’s tasty.
I recently rented "Hurricane on the Bayou" from the Denver Public Library eFlicks, and Tab is the lead character- in a boat, and Merrill Streep narrates. It’s a documentary about Hurricane Katrina and the effects on the wetlands, and you can buy the DVD on his website www.tabbenoit.com. It’s tragic but fascinating. Even now, Katrina is something that happened that is so hard to believe and still seems so far away, like the Potato Famine. Or the Columbine Massacre here in Colorado. I couldn’t talk about that for three years without bursting into sobs. Even now.
Tab is a big deal in wetland preservation. He is a founder and president of the Voice of the Wetlands- VOW, www.voiceofthewetlands.com. In between songs he talks about the wetlands with out being too preachy, and the accent is sexy without being too southern. Tab is as hot as Tabasco, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. I am smoldering in the mosh pit, but I decide to roll with it. I start waving my hands in the air like I’m in church. "Amen!" I say. I’ve got the fever.
While Tab fires up "Put a Spell on You", I am thinking about those Cajuns and how they have a corner on the market when it comes to voodoo. Voodoo, food and soul music. He sings that song about drinking muddy water. It is suppose to be a sad, bluesy song, but every time he says he’s a-drinkin’ the muddy water, somebody cracks up. I don’t know why Tab likes to play in the frozen tundra that is Colorado, but I don’t question it. The Radiators have gone missing and I need this guitar fix, n'est-ce pas?
Tab’s wingman, Leon Medica, bass player extraordinaire and singer, wrote the song, "New Orleans Ladies", the one about the ladies "sashaying" by, and when they played it, oh man! Everyone was dancing and grooving. We all went ape. There are more songs about water; a river, a lake, the bayou, aha, Wetlands. He sings a song about the moon and a song about the birds knowing the words It’s a universal swamp thing.
Tab plays a couple solo songs and rips into the blues. He plays some songs from and a recent CD called, "Brother to the Blues." He sings about a woman who has "one foot in the city and one foot in the bayou." Yeah, yeah- sophisticated but with soul. I get you, Tab! He sing’s that song "Big Fun on the Bayou", about the jambalaya, a crawfish pie, the filet gumbo, and such, and now I’m thinking lobster.
"Isn’t he yummy?" Some girl asks me rhetorically. "Maybe he’ll take he shirt off," I answer anyway. It is sweltering on the dance floor, so I move to a table. I order another beer and the waitress asked me if I wanted to put it on my tab, and then she said something about putting ME on Tab. Tres amusant.
I realize it’s getting late and I don’t want to miss the Midnight Bus to Downtown. I make my way to the coat check room and grab my coat and plan to make my "big easy" get away. Alas, one heated glance from Tab and I am under his voodoo spell, hooked like a Sac Au Lait, drawn back to the flame, and I stay to the very last hot, molten encore.