City Slang: AntiFreeze before the freeze

Jan 6, 2014 at 10:13 am

This Monday morning, people are taking snow days left, right and center and planting themselves firmly in front of a warm fire and an old movie, cupboards safely stocked with comfort food. On Friday night, we knew that a storm was a-coming, but it was still a little ways off and what better way to prepare than with some live blues at the Magic Bag in Ferndale?

The AntiFreeze Blues Festival has become an annual tradition at the Bag, taking place on that first weekend of the New Year when there’s generally bugger all else going on. For that reason, though not that reason alone, it’s a blessing. Outside, we’re walking around with snow up to our assholes. Inside, the Bag is cozy and the music ranges from awesome to perfectly listenable.

Erich Goebel & the Flying Crowbars play fairly standard blues, nothing spectacular but certainly fun to hear. The band has a blast and the throwaway licks come thick and fast. A closing cover of Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing” is a welcome highlight, the song sounding particularly thrilling given the thick blues treatment. Importantly, Goebel and his boys warm up a quickly defrosting crowd with aplomb.

Rattlesnake Shake offers a whole other level of “thrilling” though. The band is basically a tribute to Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, featuring the Muggs plus guitarist Brett Lucas. More blues-rock than blues, these guys wake everybody up with an energetic set, complete with awesome renditions of tunes like “Oh Well” and “Black Magic Woman.” Lucas and Danny Methric compliment each other perfectly, one picking up the rhythm effortlessly when the other gets to wailing. The sets ends way too soon, but by the end we’re well and truly toasty.

The Bobby Murray Band is less thrilling, but certainly a welcome addition to the bill. First of all though, it’s near-impossible to ignore the fact that Murray looks a LOT like Gilbert Gottfried. Every time he steps near the mic, I’m expecting him to bark out a tasteless joke, and then it’s kinda disappointing when he doesn’t. He can play the guitar, mind. Murray has worked with Etta James for many years but the Detroit resident/California native impresses many with his solo project. It’s suave and swinging, classy and fun. His band is immense, and the tunes hit the mark most of the time.

And then there’s headliner Ana Popovi?, a Serbian blues guitarist and singer now based in Memphis. Man, I wanted the local bands to blow her away, but honestly, that’s not the case. Popovi? is a master of her craft; an incredible player and a beautiful singer who feels every note down to her very soul. Her own songs are instantly likeable and the covers (there’s a Stones tune in there) she makes her own.

Rattlesnake Shake rocks harder but, when it comes to who won the night, Popovi? and the Shake share the honor. We can only hope that Saturday was as good.