Jimi Hendrix once said that the blues are easy to play but hard to feel. And how right he was. Technically, the blues can be broken down into a simple formula: twelve measures, three chords and a five-note pentatonic scale for soloing. Guitar players basically just need to know a box pattern they move around the neck, depending on what key the song is in; the nuts and bolts of blues guitar can be learned in a weekend.
Opening a blues club isn't nearly as easy, and Denver has seen a lot of them come and go. For a long time, Brendan's Pub had the blues market cornered from its basement spot at 1642 Market Street (that spot's now Pat's Downtown). But it didn't last long when it moved a few blocks north to a renovated pawn shop at 2009 Larimer Street; that address now belongs to the Marquis Theater. And the Blue Note Lounge, in the basement of the 1770 Sherman Street Event Complex, was also short-lived, which wasn't all that surprising since it was only open on Fridays.
And now Blues on Blake (1925 Blake Street) is giving it a try in the former Laughing Dog/Dugout spaces. This slick new club is a far cry from the old Brendan's; while that venue could get downright rowdy, Blues on Blake is a refined spot where waitresses wearing skintight black dresses and high heels serve up wine, filet mignon and Kobe sliders.
Blues on Blake
The room almost feels too nice to be a blues club, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it's still got that new-car smell, and doesn't quite feel like it's been worn in. That's going to take some time, just as it takes time to really feel how to play blues guitar. Like Charlie Parker said, "If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
If you want to hear how it's done, Blues on Blake is bringing in bands Thursdays through Saturdays, has pianists on Sundays and open-mike jams on most Tuesdays.
Club scout: Last summer, Le Rouge closed after the club's owners got into a nasty fight; the space at 1448 Market Street is now set to reopen Friday, January 30, as Lavish Restaurant and Lounge. And Bill Ward has found a new home for Slim 7, the Larimer Square club that he closed in August (Troy Guard's new restaurant, TAG, is taking over the space). Ward is looking at a late-February opening for the club's new incarnation, tentatively called Seven; it will definitely be in the former Bene Gourmet Pizza spot, at 2623 East Second Avenue. Ward's plans call for Seven to be open seven days a week and serve food; he's waiting on a green light from the city to extend the patio.
On Tuesday, January 27, Portishead DJ Andy Smith will spin a set of northern soul during the monthly Mile High Soul Club hosted by Tyler Jacobson and Dogboy at Rockbar (3015 East Colfax Avenue). This is a rare chance to catch a DJ of this caliber in such an intimate space, and one of just two U.S. dates the London-based Smith is doing this time around.
For more local action, the guys in the surf/garage band Get Three Coffins Ready recently started Grindhouse Tuesdays at 3 Kings Tavern (60 South Broadway), where they're spinning soul, R&B, surf and garage tunes and showing grindhouse flicks.