An evening with Ben Smith and Friends, at The Highway 99 Blues Club
As I sit in my red, vinyl bean bag chair, put my headsets on, cord attached to my turntable..
Although growing up on a wheat farm is healthy and creative, it can be quiet. I spent a lot of time just listening to nature. Grasshoppers chirping, grass and wheat rustling in the wind, an occasional bird or airplane flying overhead. Big cities were completely unfamiliar to me. I always looked forward to our occasional family trips across state to Seattle, WA. The waterfront was filled with amazing sights and smells. Musicians busking in front of Pike Place Market. Someday I was going to move to Seattle, and live in the Big City.
After I graduated from Washington State University, I followed my heart and moved over to the Seattle area. I never did become a Big City Girl. I still live in a rural setting. But it’s only a quick drive to the freeway, and off I go. A mere 25 miles to Seattle. That takes over an hour at times, because our traffic SUCKS! The traffic was a deterrent to me, for many years. However, now that I started ‘ROCKIN’ Through My 50’s’, I’ve just accepted it. I’m not going to let traffic interfere with my ability to enjoy my life through music!
I had never heard of The Highway 99 Blues Club, until I met Ben Smith, and started following him on Facebook. After Heart’s 2016 Tour completed, he started creating music opportunities in Seattle. The first one I attended was at The Highway 99 Blues Club. It’s “Housed in a 1909 brick building on the Seattle waterfront. Inspired by juke joints of the South and neighborhood blues clubs of Chicago.” A cool and unique venue. I loved it! Small, casual and intimate. I flew over to see Heart perform at The Royal Albert Hall in London, and now I’m sitting just a few feet away from Heart’s drummer. Crazy! I had a blast at that first Ben Smith and Friends Show. So, I always keep an eye out for future shows. Like I’ve said so many times, Seattle is filled with talented musicians. You just never know who is going to show up.
This past Saturday was another Ben Smith and Friends Show. The lineup up was incredible! Ben referred to them as Seattle’s Rock Royalty. Their talents spread from Heart, Pearl Jam, Guns N’Roses, film and tv…the list goes on. Ben Smith, Ryan Waters, Kathy Moore, Andy Stoller, Jeff Rouse, Shawn Smith, Brooke Lizotte and Jeff Angell. Google up each of their names, and you will be impressed. They played the first and third sets. The middle set was a local band Javelin. This was also their CD release party. What a wonderful way for these local, professional musicians to support new artists.
Six degrees of separation is alive and well in the music world. At the first Highway 99 show, I reconnected with one of my WSU sorority sisters. Her sister has been friends with Ben for many years. So, Lisa, Gina and I attended this show together. We sat at a small table, close to the stage and dancefloor. During the soundcheck, Ben walked by. “Hi Susan! Glad, you could make it!” And gives me a hug. My head still has a tough time wrapping around that I’ve seen him perform numerous times with Heart, and yet he knows me and sat at our table and talked for a while. It was wonderful to hear his description of the upcoming performance that evening. Explaining who the musicians were. While Heart is on hiatus, he and Nancy Wilson have put together a new band; Roadcase Royale. Their guitarist, Ryan Waters would be onstage that night. After Ben left, lead singer Shawn Smith walked by. We talked to him for a while and learned about his musical background. Impressive. I need to keep my eye out for his band named Brad.
It was time for the show to start. The club is packed, and I could feel that the energy was going to be great!
The first set was with Shawn Smith, Kathy Moore, Ben, Andy Stoller and Ryan Waters! WOW! For a band that got together for a one night performance? Unbelievable! Ryan blew me away. I wish I could include a video of his performance. It was like Jimi Hendrix in the house! He was just killing it on the guitar. I’m excited to see him perform with Roadcase Royale
. Andy was groovin’ with him on bass. A perfect match. Andy is also currently touring with Ann Wilson on her side project. So, there was a whole lot of Heart connection going on. Perfect since Heart originated in Seattle. It was an amazing set. Cameras were everywhere. Shawn’s voice, Kathy on guitar, Ben on drums..plus Ryan and Andy tearing up the side of the stage we were sitting on…AWESOME!
The second set was the young, local band Javelin. They rocked it out, too. I kept thinking that this was probably a lot like when Nirvana started out in Seattle back in the 90’s. They had lots of fan support, and even gave away free CD’s to everyone who came. What a way to have a release party!
The third set arrived. And this time Brooke Lizotte joined on keyboard. He also plays in the band Dreamwreck, with Ben. Both Jeff Rouse and Jeff Angell performed onstage throughout the evening, too. I lost track of who/when everyone played. There was so much talent happening all evening. It was crazy fun! And all in this small venue, tucked away from the beautiful Seattle waterfront.
Make sure and check their website to keep track of their event calendar. www.highwayninetynine.com
Also make sure and follow Ben’s music page. www.bensmithmusicco.com His band Dreamwrecks and Stonecutters perform frequently. Keep an eye on Roadcase Royale. Just WOW!
The ability to listen to this caliber of musicians, in such a small venue, is such a gift! And, you get an opportunity to talk to them, also. Which is what I am really enjoying about this whole ROCKIN” Through My 50’s experience. I’m meeting these musicians and their families/friends. Talking to them about their lives and their experiences. It adds an individualized touch and perspective. Musicians are real people, with real feelings and emotions. And pretty cool people, too.
Susan In Seattle