BEST COUNTRY-MUSIC SHOW - 2002
Sunday nights at the Hexagon are a throwback to the halcyon hours of country music in the Twin Cities. Back in the day, the Flame Bar and Café on Nicollet Avenue was a national destination for big-time country stars: Hank Snow and Roy Acuff were among the country luminaries who took the stage at the storied venue. But the Flame lost its liquor license and closed in 1978. By then it had become a destination for prostitutes and tramps, who may have represented the hard-luck spirit of country music, but not its choicest clientele. No venue ever really filled the void left by the Flame, but the Hexagon has been hosting a boisterous open-jam session for the past four or five years on Sunday nights from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Two years ago the Country Doctors took over as the house band. Guitarists Dan Gaarder and John Griggs, bassist Regan Swedeen, and drummer Keely Lane provide the core of the lineup, but everyone is invited to take a swing at a couple of numbers. One fellow showed up recently with an old washtub bass and plunked out a few tunes. "We call it the big Sunday whatever," laughs Lane. You'll find stoop-shouldered septuagenarians filling in on bass and boomer mechanics from the suburbs taking the vocals. The talent level for this free showcase is a mixed bag, but the Country Doctors keep all the vital signs in order and the toes tapping. Women old enough to have caught Bob Wills live at the old Flame are liable to hook your elbow and drag you out on the dance floor. And when Gaarder lends his sweet-as-honey voice to a Harlan Howard or Marty Robbins classic, even the least sentimental sap will feel a twang of nostalgia.