Blues tunes fill Maintenance Shop over the weekend

Studebaker John, Chicago bluesman, performed to a seated audience at The Maintenance Shop on Feb. 4.

Katlyn Campbell

Saturday night at The Maintenance Shop was blues night, with both Studebaker John and Rob Lumbard taking the stage.

Blues/folk artist Rob Lumbard began the night’s concert sitting directly in front of the audience.

Lumbard was a great introduction for the night, having conversation with the audience between songs. The Des Moines native spoke to the audience about local Iowa venues he’s played at. The first few rows of people were quick to reply to him, talking about their experiences at other gigs.

What stuck with me most was how during his conversations with the audience, Lumbard spoke about how much he enjoys playing at The Maintenance Shop.

“Don’t tell the manager, I’d play here for free,” Lumbard said.

Lumbard played with what seemed to be a tiny bottle on his finger, but it was actually a clear bottleneck slide used for varying the vibration length and pitch of the notes he played. He also used a finger-picking method to play his songs on a resonator guitar.

Lumbard has gigged at many places in Iowa and is even a member of the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame and an honorary member of the Central Iowa Blues Society.

While only playing near 30 minutes, Lumbard’s set was a great introduction to the eclectic blues filled night.

Next up was Studebaker John, accompanied by his well know slide guitar techniques and harmonica.

Similar to Lumbard, John wore a slide on his hand as he played guitar. His guitar also had strings coming far out of the headstock, giving his image a sense of character.

Born and raised in Chicago, John spoke of the famous Maxwell Street, where he first became interested in music. Many of Studebaker John’s songs seemed to last well over five minutes, with guitar solos throughout each.

My favorite song of the night was “My Life,” lasting over 6 minutes. The lyrics, “I’m just trying to live my life,” repeated throughout, followed by an amazing harmonica sequence. This track came from his most recent album, “Eternity’s Descent.”

The deep vibrations of his bluesy, soulful voice sparked much applause from the audience throughout his set. Audience members hooted and hollered after the guitar solos too. One man, hyped up on beer and popcorn in the back of the venue, implored everyone to stand up and cheer during the set.

I was most impressed with John’s harmonica skills, which, at first, I thought was his voice going through a distorted microphone. Only until I walked closer to the stage did I realize the harmonica was clipped to a bullet microphone which is made to create a robust distorted sound; Many Chicago blues players are after this tone.

As a native Illinoisan, I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of Studebaker John before, but after this concert I can full-heartedly say I’ll be keeping up to date with his appearances in Chicago so I can see him again.