BEST BLUES BAR - 1998
The ideal blues joint would be located in a blue-collar neighborhood like, say, the Frogtown section of St. Paul. It would have a downstairs bar jammed with hard-drinking regulars and other local characters, and a long, darkened stairway that leads up to an expansive room where enough beer and sweat have been spilled to bow and varnish the floorboards. The stage would be of decent size but not too high, tucked diagonally in a corner for maximum acoustical thrust. The tables and chairs would be comfortable and unpretentious, with enough of them not to jam up a hundred or two patrons but not so many as to interfere with the dance floor. There would be a back room away from the stage, better-lit and kitchen-like, where the beer would be served in a hurry and customers could linger and chat without competing with the music. And last but not least, the music itself would consist of an occasional big star mixed with a fairly steady procession of diamonds in the rough, workaday veterans from the kindred bars on Beale Street, Bourbon Street, and the West Side of Chicago, all hungry enough and in love with the blues enough to take the drive up to Minnesota and expand their audience for a weekend. Oh yeah, one more thing: this ideal blues joint would have a large billboard out front, depicting a saxophonist honking off the final chorus of "Born Under a Bad Sign." And beside his sweaty visage would be the words The Blues Saloon.