'Vintage' vs. 'classic': hitting the jukebox at Matt's Bar with Sonny Knight

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Sonny Knight, left, and Eric Foss at Matt's Bar

Truth be told, I would’ve recommended Matt’s Bar no matter who I was scheduled to meet. It has been about five months since my last Jucy Lucy, and I was just thinking I was due for another. As it happens, when you interview anyone involved with Sonny Knight & the Lakers, there can be no more perfect place for it. The band has a song called "Juicy Lucy," after all.

I hooked up with Sonny and Eric Foss — drummer for the Lakers, Secret Stash Records kingpin — for lunch and a little jukebox heroics on Wednesday. Upon arrival, I made note of the song the jukebox was dishing out. “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. Nice. I knew it was a good sign. Next song? “Chattahoochee” by Alan Jackson. Dammit.

“This is probably my favorite jukebox in town," says Sonny, who's also here to give Matt's an autographed copy of his 2014 album I'm Still Here. The general manager at Matt's says a CD version provided by Eric will be added to the jukebox arsenal. 

Eric settled into the booth, as Sonny and I discussed the pros and cons of mobile phones (it was agreed they are a pain in the ass). Over a couple of pitchers of Premium and Lucys, we talked about the band’s current tour, Friday's Secret Stash Records Revue, jukeboxes, and the differences between “vintage” and “classic."

Sonny Knight & the Lakers have been touring their throwback soul/R&B show around festivals in Europe and Scandinavia in recent months. 

“Paris was like … I’ve never seen so much graffiti. Throughout Europe, really," Sonny points out. "Finland was nice. I understand Minnesota a little more after being there. I couldn’t wait to get back home. Even when I was driving trucks [years ago], I knew it then. Minnesota is it, man. I went all over this country, but it was wonderful to be back here.”

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Sonny and Eric study the jukebox at Matt's Bar

“Back here” will be celebrated in grand fashion Friday at First Avenue for the Secret Stash Records Revue, where Sonny and the seven-member Lakers will be joined by Wanda "Queen of Soul" Davis, rising soul singer PaviElle French, and others. I asked Eric if there will be any surprises concertgoers should be on the lookout for in the Mainroom.

“Be prepared for non-stop music ... literally. Once we start, it won't stop, so come ready to party hard," he says. "Also, we are working on some collaborations that we are very pumped about. I don't want to give it away and ruin the surprise or anything, though. We're also doing a pair of covers that we wouldn't normally do in a Sonny Knight & the Lakers set. They seem much more appropriate in this setting, and have been sounding amazing in rehearsal. We've got lots of new material as well.”

Finishing our Lucys we discussed the weird intersections where Matt’s and Sonny Knight & the Lakers seem to meet. When something is real and authentic, you just know it, be it a burger or music. While there are plenty of other places in town that make Jucy Lucys (Eric calls some of them “Boutique Jucys”), but Matt’s is Matt’s.

“You don’t wanna change nothing about it," Sonny says. Sonny Knight & the Lakers is much the same. It feels lived-in, it’s a familiar sound, everyone is welcome to it, but not everyone is going to get it. Says Eric: “You can even dumb it down. Matt’s isn’t ‘vintage'; it’s a ‘classic.' We hope what we are doing is a classic sound. People tell us that’s what we sound like, and we enjoy it." 

“This music, It is what it is. It brings everyone together” Sonny adds. 

What makes a great jukebox? It ought to have some Sonny Knight on it, of course, but maybe that “lived-in” quality comes into play as well. "I come from a different era," Eric says. "I didn’t come up with a lot jukeboxes, you know what I mean?”

Sonny did. “There used to be a lot down in Mississippi, the old jukeboxes," he recalls. "One of the tunes I heard was Bobby Blue Bland ‘That’s the Way Love Is.' We used to go this place down in Jackson [MS], and I would play it every time I was in there. Jammed it up."

Finishing up our fries and beer, Eric and Sonny pumped some of that Secret Stash money into the jukebox, and served up Matt’s a healthy selection of Miles Davis, CCR, Sam and Dave, Joe Cocker, B.B. King, and Marvin Gaye. It really is a pretty good jukebox, and today it has 100 percent more Sonny Knight & the Lakers on it than it did on Wednesday. Or, it should. Someone should check.

Secret Stash Records Revue feat. Sonny Knight & the Lakers

With: Wanda Davis, Pavielle French, Maurice Jacox, Black Market Brass, Cameron Kinghorn.

When: Friday, July 31

Where: First Avenue.

Tickets: $17-$20


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