Blues for Blue Cats
Blue Cats' run as an Old City rock and dance club officially ended Monday night, when owner Gary Mitchell announced that he's moving all scheduled shows at the club to his new venue, the Valarium, in the old Electric Ballroom building on Western Avenue.
"We've been remodeling the building [125 E. Jackson Ave.], and that building is just whipped," Mitchell says. "It'll take closing it to do a good, thorough remodeling. It didn't make sense to keep it open and try to remodel when we had space to accommodate bands more comfortably and that's more convenient and more accessible."
Blue Cats opened in 2000, and has hosted concerts by The Melvins, Hank Williams III, Superchunk, Yo La Tengo, GWAR, Shadows Fall, the Drive-By Truckers, and Will Oldham, as well as countless headlining and support-slot shows by local bands. Mitchell says he'll keep the Blue Cats name and incorporate it into his planned warehouse entertainment district around the Valarium. Mitchell also owns the old Braden's warehouse building next door to the Valarium and a large surface parking lot south of both buildings.
"Blue Cats is not going away," he says. "We've got equity in the name. I want to use it for one of the smaller spaces there for local and regional acts."
The rescheduled shows include the Doc Rock for Charity concert with The Vibraslaps, Second Opinion, and The Remedy on Friday, Feb. 1, the Led Zeppelin tribute band Zoso on Friday, Feb. 8, Bay Area New-Age rocker Vast on Thursday, Feb. 21, and former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell with Will Hoge on Thursday, Jan. 28.
Mitchell plans to hang onto the Blue Cats and Tonic spaces in the Old City and re-open them this summer as a dance club. (Matthew Everett)
Maggie Longmire's ambitious new recording project, Granddaughters: An Americana Opera, debuts Saturday night at the Laurel Theater. The show will feature many of the large cast of musicians drafted for the song cycle, just released on Longmire's Cotula label.
Longmire, best known as one of the lead vocalists for country-swing/honky-tonk band the Lonesome Coyotes, co-wrote the songs with her brother, John Longmire. The pair conceptualized Granddaughters as a tribute to their family's roots in Campbell County. The veteran musicians scheduled to help Longmire on Saturday are multi-instrumentalist Jay Manneschmidt (also the recording engineer for most of Granddaughters); Don Cassell (mandolin); Cecilia Miller (cello); Kathleen McGregor Williams (upright bass); Danny Gammon (fiddle); Peggy Hambright (accordion); J.P. and Kate Reddick and R.B. Morris (vocals); Jay Miller (drums); and Amudhan Venkateswaran (tablas).
For Saturday's show, they're collectively called the Free Soil Farm, the same name Longmire gives her more compact back-up unit. The music runs from a rustic sort of chamber music to pure Appalachian ballads to a couple of hoe-down tunes. If there were a single, it would be "Harlow Hips," a gorgeous jazz number about a flamboyant-but-tough old dame who was Longmire's great aunt.
Longmire remains committed to helping her old home county find its way in a post-coal future. As a member of the Campbell Culture Coalition, she plans to participate in the second annual Louie Bluie Festival in June to celebrate string-jazz legend Howard Armstrong's origins in the area.
The Granddaughters premier starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $13. (Jack Rentfro)
Serious as a Heart Attack
The American Plague's new album, Heart Attack, is available for pre-order from Feedback Symphony (feedbacksymphonymusic.com) at the low, low price of $5. The disc, with 11 new songs and an image of a human heart floating in formaldehyde on the cover, is scheduled for release on Feb. 14. The band will preview some of the new songs when they open for junkyard bluesman Scott H. Biram at Pilot Light on Thursday, Jan. 31. (M.E.)