The Hideout is its own unique brand of honky tonk. A house upon entrance. Walking up on its porch you pass under a lit-up Heileman Old Style Pilsner Sign. Every honky tonk has one in Chicago. If it isn’t hung outside advertising Chicago’s Beer, it sits as a backdrop on stage – like it back-lit Dan Whitaker at Coles earlier. Past the 90’s black and white 8x10s a church pew is opposite a long bar top counter. Knick-knacks line the walls. Posters of days gone by. Early Devil in a Woodpile prints date back years. PBRs are on special and it’s a buck for a water. In tension with the good vibes you can feel the manifestation of old heavy dark energy. The patch on my jean jacket keeps it from piercing between my shoulder blades and through my chest. It gets as far as my skin – and itches. My neck blotches up.
The woody back area of the bar reminds me of The Vultures old jam space. Wood paneling makes the room feel warm. Its nostalgia harkens to old family photo albums – Pops sitting on a tweed couch smoking a cigarette. Baseball T with his hair in his eyes. I follow the mounted Marlin, Jack, and Salmon on the walls to a table that sits underneath a Tuna fish. It’s carved up with obscenities. More than a doodle, a fifties cowboy greaser steps a Dame.
Devil in a Woodpile is a trio. Resonator guitar, stand up bass and washboard. A washboard? Alright, however this goes. I beat the rush to fill the room. As sardines crammed in a can, we all feel at home with the mounted fish.
No sooner do I discount the bands percussion, I’m hooked. It’s like strange rag-time delta mishmash. Then it’s blues hillbilly. Then it’s 30’s style clarinet country. Another Hideout residency project that Bloodshot Records couldn’t pass up. I can’t tell who’s the brains to the movement – vocalist, Rick Sherry taps into a new character with every song while guitarist, Joel Patterson, makes us all want to sell our instruments. They throw each other melodies like a pigskin in the park. Bassist, Tom V. Ray doesn’t even crack a smile – he’s seen it before and his job is to keep the possessed heartbeat thumping. Sherry ditches the thimbles and washboard to play to play the harp, to play the clarinet, to return to the washboard. He’s between sitting and standing. The Spirit of Real Country Music has a yang to its ying and The Devil in a Woodpile summoned it. It sleeps in the Louisiana bog and Sherry taunts it. It makes up the Appalachian mist. It came through in the blue cigarette smoke speakeasy’s. Sherry bridles it. A rehearsed outro plays with tempos, dies off and is countlessly resurrected keeping a us cheering for coming on five minutes.
Woodpile exits. I need a rosary.
The room gawks at the towering Lawrence Peters four-piece. Peters has nothing but a snare drum. The vibe left by Woodpile is caught and saddled by him counting in a “four on the floor”. What was Blind Willie Johnson is now Ray Price. A young acoustic player isn’t a part of Peters’ regular line-up. The Honky Tonker lets us know that nobody on stage is. He’s casual and confident. As The Hideout’s full-time bartender he’s heard all the country bands cross that stage – stealing what works. Like I’m going to steal his stand-up snare playing. I’ve never seen a lead snare and it’s aesthetically pleasing and the most important instrument to his sound. Songs of classic content. Break another heart why don’t ya? Peters’ was crowed Chicago’s king of country with the city’s best of music awards. It’s a no-brainer. Like Jones or Price, Peters can croon. It’s rather effortless. Now I want to see Peters at The Palomino, The Times Change(d). I wanna see a split bill with Andrew Neville and the Poor Choices. Calgary’s Mike Dunn can open the show. It would leave The Jasper Legion unrecognizable and dry.
A final snare crack ends the night. The crowd meets the dissembling of the outdoor stage and hangs around to reminisce. 20 years of indie, rock, experimental, blues, jazz, songwriter, funk, and Real Country Music. Lawrence is among the smokers. He seems like a brother to the turnout and treats me in kind.
A quick excusal back inside and I’m in line to use the washroom before taking off. A faint glow to my right is a shrine. Pictures and a dim light.
Paul ‘Sterno’ Baumann. July 31, 1961-August 8, 2006.
Daniel T Blue. October 4, 1957 – January 2, 2013
Here’s to you boys. And to another 20 years.