The Bamboo Room, Lake Worth, Florida

My favorite place to hear live music is for sale. After running the club since 1998, the current management has decided to move on and no acts have been booked after the end of May.

I am talking about The Bamboo Room in Lake Worth, Florida.

You enter The Bamboo Room through the doors on street level. There, you give your ticket and proceed upstairs to the actual club. The room you enter is near original from when the building was constructed in the 1920s. Wooden floor, bamboo rods serving as paneling, exposed roof beams, wooden ceiling fans, and dim lighting. It’s all seating; you only stand if you arrive too late to get a seat. Tables and wicker chairs close to the stage, high tables at the back, bar stools by the bar. A waitress takes your order. The cocktail recipes date back to the Prohibition Era.

According to the stories, the club room that is The Bamboo Room has Speak Easy roots. And it’s easy to imagine such a history when you venture up that winding, badly lit flight of stairs. Whenever I enter The Bamboo Room, I almost expect to be asked for a password I don’t have.

At The Bamboo Room I have seen some amazing live acts.

I’ve seen Shemekia Copeland. Copeland’s voice is out of this world. She stepped down from the stage and walked around the room, singing without a microphone, and could be heard perfectly from every corner.

I’ve seen Janiva Magness. A late-comer to the blues, but what a power house she is!

I’ve seen JJ Grey. Performing without his back-up band Mofro, JJ Grey treated us to an intimate acoustic performance, fueled by cocktails on the house.

I’ve seen Eddie Shaw. Blues legend who played with Ike and Tina and who was one of the pallbearers at Howlin’ Wolf’s funeral.

I’ve seen Tim Reynolds of Dave Matthews Band fame.

I’ve seen Big Bill Morganfield, son of legendary blues man Muddy Waters, who is striking out on his own.

The Bamboo Room is an intimate club serving up some of the best drinks and some of the best music on offer. When you’re there, you feel the wings of history brush against your cheek.

One day, I will write a story that takes place at The Bamboo Room. It will feature ghosts of Lake Worth’s past.

Visit The Bamboo Room’s website here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Advertisements

Five Reasons Why You Should Go To Mississippi

Richard Pryor once said in a stand-up performance that no one goes to Mississippi on vacation. “Who in their right mind would say, Let’s go to Biloxi!” Well, Mr. Pryor, I haven’t been to Biloxi, but I do go to Mississippi on vacation. So I guess I’m out of my mind.

I first went to Mississippi in 2005. What brought me there was the blues. I discovered the blues in my teen-age years through Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin and I always wanted to know where that music came from.

Since my first visit in 2005, I have been back to Mississippi four times. Mississippi is a fascinating place in so many ways.

Here are five reasons why Mississippi is such a special place and why you should go there.

1 The American Spirit
During the first half of the 20th century, the State of Mississippi was one of the richest in the union. By the end of that same century, it was one of the poorest. King Cotton had passed away and his kingdom had crumbled.

When I first visited Clarksdale, MS, in 2005, the town was like a ghost town. There was little activity going on and if you wanted to have a meal after five o’clock in the afternoon you had to go somewhere else. There were a number of people working to get the town to come alive again – The Delta Blues Museum, Cat Head, Ground Zero – but overall it was slow.

Bomull_2
Cotton, Tunica, MS
Photo: EH Kern

On my visit last year, signs of revival could be seen all over Clarksdale. The early pioneers had been joined by others. Musicians, artists, writers, restaurants and cafés. Locals shaping their own destiny and people moving in from out of state. And tourists.

Clarksdale is not alone in this. Just north of Clarksdale is Tunica. Tunica was at one time the richest county in the United States, only to plummet to being the poorest. Today, Tunica is on the rise, too. Casinos have brought in money and Tunica is the third largest area for gambling after Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Median wages have risen and Hwy 61 is now a four-lane highway. And there are tourists.

The examples of Clarksdale and Tunica are examples of the American Spirit. No matter what hits you, you keep on fighting. It’s not a matter of how you fall. It’s how you get up.

2 The American History
Mississippi is what you could call a nexus. Here many of the threads and developments that shape the way America looks at itself and relates to itself come together. Mississippi was the scene of some of the most brutal fighting during the Civil War. Mississippi had some of the harshest Jim Crow-laws. Mississippi had some of the most violent Civil Rights-clashes.

If you want to know what makes the United States the United States, you will find the answer in Mississippi.

3 The American Storyteller
No one tells a story like a person from Mississippi. And they do it so well that you don’t mind having your whole day interrupted just so you can listen.

In Mississippi you will hear stories that involve William Faulkner, whiskey bottles and shotguns.

A blues musician and Vietnam veteran named Switch Blade will tell you the meaning of life.

A woman will preach love and compassion through Christ when you come looking for Pinetop Perkins.

And if you hang around long enough, you will be part of the story. That’s how I ended up participating in the recording of a blues album at a juke joint.

4 The American Music
To me one of the most important contributions of the United States to the world is music. It was music that originated in Mississippi that helped tear down the Iron Curtain.

There are a number of music genres that are indigenous to the United States. Of these genres the blues, country and rock and roll come from Mississippi. All of them stem from the musical expression of the African-American population.

Po Monkeys_4
Po Monkey’s . In front of the building is a Blues Marker. Markers of this kind are placed by the State of Mississippi at locations important to the history and development of the blues.
Photo: EH Kern

Can you imagine a world without blues, country and rock and roll? I can’t.

If you go to Mississippi you will find their origins and you will find how people play them today. Sometimes by blowing three trumpets at one time. Sometimes by playing the harmonica through your nostril. Sometimes by just grabbing your snare drum and sit in with whatever band happens to be playing.

Furthermore, the State of Mississippi is the birth place of Oprah Winfrey, Elvis Presley, Jimmy Rodgers, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, William Faulkner, BB King, Robert Johnson, Tennessee Williams, Jim Henson (and consequently Kermit the Frog), and many many more.

5 Moving Forward
Mississippi is a fascinating place. It has a controversial history and many things are waiting to be corrected. There is still segregation in Mississippi. Not racial segregation, but economic segregation that often run along the same lines. There is poverty and limited opportunities for young people, most often African-American. However, since I went to Mississippi for the first time in 2005 much has changed. And for the better.

Just the fact that the state slogan now reads The Birthplace of America’s Music says a lot.

If you want ideas as to where to go when you visit Mississippi, Book Riot can tell you what to do in Oxford, MS.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Sources:
Mississippi Quick Facts