One of my favorite things to do in Memphis was to listen to original music in a smoke-free intimate venue. The Folk Alliance is in Memphis, and, of course, Memphis is a great music town, so there were plenty of venues to choose from. Luckily for me, there were two in walking distance from my home. I knew there had to be some places in Baton Rouge that offered such an environment, and I set out to find one. In one of the local magazines (I can’t remember which one), I saw a calendar event for the Red Dragon Listening Room. Hmmm… this just might be the place.
I found some information on their lineup on the internet and this article. I liked the sound of it. My co-worker is a musician, so she decided to go with me on my maiden voyage to the Red Dragon. My friend Dee texted me about meeting for a drink and listening to music yesterday, so I told her where we were headed. She wasn’t so sure she wanted to go but when she listened to some You Tube videos on the headliner, she decided to give it a shot.
We drove up to the Red Dragon at about 7:30. It’s a dive from the outside. Parking on the grass in the back and there are a few parking spaces in the front. Given the fact that this is a theatre-type performance, all patrons were arriving at once. People were smoking out back, greeting each other and standing in the short line to give up their $20 for an evening of original live music. I felt like I was on an adventure. I had no idea what to expect…. well…..except music…. I knew to expect that.
The old bar room – signs on the wall suggested it was formerly Lillian’s Tavern – looked much the same as any bar room you’d typically see in a seedy part of town. Wood paneled walls were covered with beer and alcohol logos. Neon lights and Christmas lights brought a little charm to the dimly lighted venue. But, there was a permanent stage up front decked out with retired, seasoned guitars. Seating was primarly old sofas and some odd assortment of chairs including old movie theatre seats. Our seats were assigned, and Chris, our host pointed out the white hand-written cards that marked the spots out butts would occupy on the old comfortable blue sofa. When we sat down, I got the feeling we were in some sort of old-fashioned rocket ship with comfortable seating, and we were all anxiously awaiting the journey. I wasn’t far off.
What I love about live original music is it is so intimate. Everyone arrives on the heels of their own private drama that is going on in their lives, their cell phones firing and connected and their minds on their current obsession. As the show begins, the artists start to reign in my attention, and, eventually, at some point, I get seized by the wave of creative energy and float away into a magical land that takes me out of reality for a brief moment in time. For me, it really does feel sort of like a spiritual journey where the artist – who is creating this musical experience along with us – takes us on a quite enjoyable tour of their soul. Their words and music paint pictures of their emotions, their experiences and their lives in general. The featured artist last night was Ad Vanderveen who is from the Netherlands. He was accompanied by Kersten de Ligny on a harpsichord and a guitarist whose name I didn’t catch. Each song he performed had its own story, and he told the stories and then performed the music as we drifted away on a pink cloud of song.
Faithful to Love – One of my favorites from last night – Ad Vanderveen & Kersten de Ligny
We had the opportunity to mingle with the artists and purchased autographed CDs during the short intermission. We spoke with Rod Chidester who was the opening act for the night. He’s from Baton Rouge and coordinates the music at Rocco’s. There are a couple of Rocco’s locations, but the one that is in the space that formerly housed Phil’s Oyster Bar has live music. He told us that live original music in a concert-type setting is featured at the Red Dragon, Rocco’s, Spanish Moon and Mud & Water. There it is… I have my list.
Rod’s music was really cool, too. The $20 that patrons give at the door goes exclusively to the headliner, and a Jaggermeister bucket is passed around for donations to the opening act. I loved the lyrics to a couple of his songs so much I wrote them down. One tune was the ironic tale of a junkie who holds up a convenience store, kills a man and ends up on death row. In today’s world, the death penalty is administered through lethal injection. His refrain of “A needle stuck me in this place, and a needle’s gonna get me out,” painted a weird picture of that man’s final ironic journey. He crooned about a woman that ” had a face like DeNiro, she drove a car from Japan, She never wanted a hero, She online wanted a man.” I loved that one.
We had a blast socializing with the patrons, listening to the music and hobnobbing with the artists. I can’t wait to go back. They don’t serve anything there. I think someone brought some homemade fudge and some brownies for us to eat. Next time, I’ll bring some sofa snacks and maybe a beverage or two or some really good decaf coffee laced with half and half. Hopefully, there’ll be some more friends that would be interested in a musical rocket-ride to oblivion. In the meantime, I’ll be checking the event calendars for those local music venues and marking the dates. Now I know where to go to get my fix.