19th Street Red
March 17, 2004
BY JASON SONGE
You'll normally find 19th Street Red sitting on the end of Canal Street by the streetcar tracks. He provides stripped-down blues for tourists, those going to lunch, and those returning from lunch(God bless 'em).
On Wednesday afternoon, though, Red played the Blues for revelers awash in Parasol's St. Patrick's Day block party. With a broken bottleneck on one finger, he performed with a Texas twang that was a continuous nod to Stevie Ray Vaughn. He used a harmonica, and a tambourine was fastened on top his kick drum to shake every time things got poundin'.
Red conveyed authenticity with his vocals and gear. His raspy voice carried moans and affirmations, while a rusty amplifier with a wire cage filter looked like it was from the '30's. He also had a suitcase buried in his open-ended kick drum--probably just to secure it from slippery-handed passerbys.
Blues doesn't normally go with the party atmosphere, but a bunch of people set up camp and danced to Red's music. He was set up twenty feet from Parasol's back entrance, which was just enough distance between him and the baby boomer dance music blasting through the streets. Red added to his Blues authenticity, possibly indirectly, and played next to a three-legged dog tied to a Volkswagen bus. Red wore a white Cowboy hat over his red hair, along with black sunglasses and beach shell necklaces that covered his open-shirted sunburnt skin.
The visual stage was set, and his music didn't disappoint. Those without a lover nodded their heads in time with the kick drum. The lovers used the kick drum as a raw anchor to ground against each other to. The only scar on Red's performance was when a drunk man got a little too into his head nodding and fell right over onto Red's Guitar case, which was full of tips and CD's. Nothing was damaged, but Red's wine spilled, to which he said in an angry tone, "That sucks."
Red wasn't re-inventing the wheel, but inventive musicianship wasn't that important because he was earnest with relatable tales of drunkenness, adultery, and lost love.