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A bit of a deviation for me as I don’t generally write about musicians, but I wanted to share the tale of our little road trip last night, down to Callahan’s Music Hall in Pontiac, to see Ana Popovic.

I used to go to concerts all the time, back when they were affordable. I saw The Who for $8.50 and Bruce Springsteen for about 12 bucks so I can’t see paying $50 or $75 or $100 or even more to see second-rate talent. Seriously, Kid Rock, who I wouldn’t walk across the street to see for free, is getting $5o/seat for an April concert here in Saginaw. No thanks, amigo!

Everyone used to tour, and everyone used to sell tickets at a price that normal people could afford without resorting to eating oatmeal three times a day for a month. Those were very different times and I really enjoyed sitting in a darkened theater in an altered state of consciousness while bands I enjoyed cranked out some good jams on stage.  From little halls like the Orbit Room in Grand Rapids (where I saw the late Warren Zevon) to Cobo Hall to the Pontiac Silverdome, I got around some.

I was motivated, for reasons I won’t disclose, to again join the ranks of music aficionados and decided to brave the frigid weather, drive 90 miles, and see a fairly obscure  Serbian blues guitarist last night. It was a weird and surreal experience.

Ana Popovic - Callahan's Music Hall - 01/31/13 (©2013 Richard X. Moore)

Ana Popovic – Callahan’s Music Hall – 01/31/13 (©2013 Richard X. Moore)

Callahan’s is, to be charitable, tiny. I figure that no more than 150 people were crammed into what I understand was once a Ponderosa Steak House. Having been forced to buy general admission tickets after the reserved seats (all 40 of them I’ll bet) were sold out, we sat up front, stage right. When I say up front, I mean just that. I rested my feet on the edge of the stage while I set my coffee (yes, coffee – that’s how much times have changed!) on a speaker. I could have leaned forward and smacked the keyboard player across the head had I been so inclined.  We were practically deaf about 18 seconds after the music started.

While Popovic’s brand of blues is a bit more modern than the traditional blues I prefer, she was, in a word, electrifying. Her band was tight and nearly every note and transition was perfectly in place. I was sitting no more than about 10 feet from her, close enough to see every movement of her hands as she moved effortlessly up and down the fretboard of her well-worn Stratocaster. I could hear the influences of some of my favorites in her music; Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Luther Allison. Considering how little money she had to be getting for this performance, I have to believe that she was playing for the sheer love of her music. She played with energy and joy. Tammy was particularly impressed by the fact that she played for two hours in four-inch heels. I can only imagine how difficult this might be.

I shot a little video with my phone but we were so close to the action that the audio came out sounding like a handfull of ball bearings being violently shaken in an empty coffee can. I did manage to find one video online of reasonable quality (recorded in 2011). She performed this song, One Room Country Shack, early in her set last night. It’s  an old blues standard by Little Johnny Jones (1924 – 1964) that’s been recorded about a million times.

I find it very cool that  the blues, a purely American art form, can take root in the heart of a girl born in Tito’s Yugoslavia, half way around the globe. Music must be a universal language, and Ana Popovic speaks it pretty well.

 

 

 

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