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Listen closely to the music in downtown Cape Girardeau this Sunday night and you might also hear the sound of opportunity knocking.
At Broussard's, Les Lindy Jr., a sideman with Bruce Zimmerman and the Water Street Band, steps out to front his own band -- Blues Gone Awry -- performing many of his original songs. Broussard's, hosting live music on Sunday night for the first time in many years, hopes to boost its business with blues-lovers.
Zimmerman and the Water Street Band have been playing blues and rock 'n' roll Sunday nights at Port Cape for the past 20 years. When Zimmerman decided to reduce his performing schedule to one Sunday night a month, Port Cape owner Doc Cain booked the country and Southern rock band Whiskey Creek to fill in the rest. Sunday was their first performance.
The four-piece Blues Gone Awry will play three Sunday nights a month at Broussard's. No band is scheduled at Broussard's on the first Sundays. Lindy, who still plays in the Water Street Band, didn't want to compete with Zimmerman. "The old man of the river is still the best around in my book," he said.
Lindy recently played harmonica onstage with Zimmerman and fiddler Steve Schaffner in the production of "Big River" at the River Campus. He has been playing blues harp with Zimmerman's band for eight years and has been thinking about forming his own for the past five.
"I'm a songwriter, and I needed a band to be able to do my own songs and to play the old-style blues," he said, referring to the music of James Cotton and others who play Delta blues.
Three Southern Illinois musicians complete Blues Gone Awry. Guitarist Dave Parrish most recently played with Southern Illinois blues legend Big Larry Williams. Drummer/vocalist James Barnes has a three-octave range and will be playing drums in a church Sunday mornings before playing the blues Sunday nights.
The band plays one funk set each night when Lindy, who shares the vocals, sits down and lets Barnes hold forth. "That's the awry part of the Blues Gone Awry band," Lindy said. "We're a little twisted."
Bassist Mike Alderfer, originally from Chicago, completes the lineup.
Parish, Barnes and Alderfer had played only a few jobs together when they invited Lindy to join. In December they played a couple of weekend dates at Broussard's and the Christmas Hoot benefit. Everyone sees Sunday nights as a chance to establish the band and the club as a blues venue.
"It's kind of a name recognition thing," Broussard's co-owner Hunter Clark said. "We need time to build it up. But they are really good."
Clark said he's long wanted to bring in blues bands but the turnout for them has been small. When Cain chose a country and Southern rock band to replace Zimmerman's blues and rock repertoire, Clark saw an opportunity to attract the blues audience he couldn't have before. "I didn't want to compete with Doc. He pretty much had it sewn up," Clark said.
Blues Gone Awry will play from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Sundays, starting a half-hour before the kitchen closes to give the audience a chance to eat before the music starts. Clark said it's happy hour all day Sunday at Broussard's and that won't change when the music starts.
Parrish said the blues is a bigger draw in Cape Girardeau than in Carbondale, Ill.'s more student-oriented clubs. "Cape's more of an adult-oriented audience," he said.
Clark is anxious to see where the Sunday night crowd goes and whether it might increase. "Before they were all shoulder to shoulder in Port Cape. They had it wrapped up," he said. "I don't know how many customers want the blues and how many want Port Cape."