Artist: Maceo Parker
Venue: Buskirk-Chumley Theater, Bloomington, IN
First show of 2017 (after a three month concert drought, ouch!) – and it was a hometown show, in my favorite local venue. The Buskirk-Chumley Theater (owned and operated by the City of Bloomington) is a great place to see a show: relatively intimate, good acoustics, decent sightlines, friendly staff, and (this is no small thing) you can buy tickets from them online without any stupid tacked-on fees. It’s a renovated movie theater (once upon a time it was The Indiana, and I recall seeing a late-night Beatles movie marathon there when I was in college, sitting up in the balcony… or was that at the Von Lee?) and it has a bit of that elegance.
I got downtown early enough to have a leisurely dinner. I hadn’t been to the Trojan Horse in a while, and it wasn’t crowded yet, so I had a gyros and a side of their amazing batter-fried green peppers. (They also have mushrooms and onion rings, or you can get a mix of all three plus jalapeno straws.) Battered and fried enough to be delicious but not so grease-heavy that it drowns out the veggie goodness inside. Mmmm.
After that, it was off to Blu Boy for dessert and to meet up with my concert buddy. Y’all, this place is a Bloomington treasure. Good coffee, decadent pastries, and amazing fancypants chocolates. There are only four tables inside (in the summer they have a couple of tables outside too); it’s a perfect place to write in your journal and watch people walk past on Kirkwood Ave. when you can get a table, though. I had a decaf Americano and an ice cream sandwich – two chocolate chip cookies (which they dust with cinnamon and salt – a tiny touch, but OMG so good) and a fat scoop of their own vanilla ice cream, made with local honey. SO GOOD. My other favorites there are the mudslide cookie, which might be the most chocolatey chocolate thing I’ve ever eaten, and the salted caramel brownie. It’s right next door to the Buskirk-Chumley, and in fact there’s a door connecting them so if you stop in for a pre-show treat you don’t even have to go outside in the weather.
My concert buddy had already picked up our tickets at the box office (also next door to the theater, on the other side) so after she arrived we hung out at Blu Boy until the doors opened and we could go in and take our seats. We were in row A – the first row of permanent seats, behind three rows of “pit” seating – on the aisle: great seats!
I will admit, I don’t know much of Maceo Parker‘s work, and I don’t know much about funk. But the guy played with James Brown and the guy played with Prince, and you can’t ask for heartier endorsements than THAT. In addition to Maceo (sax, vocals, flute), the band consisted of trombone, backup singer, bass, drums, guitar and keyboards – they were super tight. It was a high-energy, good-vibes, VERY funky show. Parker is a charismatic bandleader, and besides obviously being a terrific saxophonist he’s got a great voice and some pretty good dance moves. He played a little over two hours, spotlighting every member of the band at one point or another, including a super sassy “Stand By Me” sung by his backup singer (and cousin) Darlene Parker.
My only quibble about the show is that it would have been more fun if everyone had stood up to dance! I know I’m only 5 foot 1, but I still don’t like to stand up and block the view of the people behind me – but it was really hard to keep my butt in my seat a lot of the time. A few people were dancing, mostly along the sides of the theater; fortunately for me, more people got up later in the show and I was able to hop up and dance a little bit. I mean, this isn’t “sit in your seat and politely nod your head” music, people – this is the kind of thing that’s supposed to make your whole body move!
Anyway, a super fun show. He played a little over two hours (no opening act) and I left the theater feeling great, feeling like I wanted to dance down the street. In the midst of all the awful stuff that’s been happening in the world, it sure felt good to douse myself in booty-shaking, happy-making, life-affirming live music.
- Ticketing: Buy your tickets directly from the venue’s website – there are no extra fees and you can pick your seats from a map. They’ll hold the ticket at will call for you. It’s low-stress and awesome! (Unless you end up not being able to make it to the show. Then your only option is to pick up your tickets ahead of time and sell them or give them to someone. They won’t transfer them to someone else’s name at the box office for you.) If you’re picky about your seat, buy tickets as soon as they go on sale; they occasionally make more seats available at the last minute, but more often they don’t, so don’t wait around in hopes of something opening up.
- Parking: There’s a small lot directly behind the theater (enter from 4th Street); it’s metered but free after 5pm weekdays and all day on weekends. It’s probably full, though. There’s lots of metered street parking nearby; it costs $1/hour and meters must be fed until 9 pm Monday through Saturday (free on Sundays). I usually end up in the 4th Street garage, which is a well-lit, safe 3 blocks away and is free evenings & weekends.
- Seating: Some shows are general admission, but most have reserved seating. When I’m flying solo, I often go for W101 or W301 – these are over to the side a bit, but on the aisle, and due to the way the “pit” rows (which are non-permanently-attached seats, though sturdier than folding chairs) are slanted, you have an unobstructed view of the stage. Also, because those rows have 3 seats each, you can nab a single without leaving an open single. If the pit is priced higher than the rest of main orchestra and I don’t feel the need to be super close, I often take A101 or A301, which also have unobstructed sightlines and are actually slightly more comfortable seats. The front row of the balcony is also great – you’re not so far back or so high up that you feel like the stage is on another planet, and you’re almost directly over the soundboard so you get great sound. It’s a small enough venue that it’s hard to find a really bad seat, though!
- I go to the Bus-Chum a lot, so I’ll save more venue tips for later.
Next up: Joshua Bell, February 28