Open space on the Tiger’s stage

by David McGee

Open space on the Tiger’s stage

As I enter the Blind Tiger for the first time I first notice the guts of pumpkins being torn out, courtesy of “Doc” Don Beck. Immediately after sounds flow from the stage where Charlie D sits in his own world, connecting to the guitar in his hands. Free-flowing and mellow waves of sound come and go through his set and are the perfect way to open up this Open Jam Band.

To make things even better the Tiger is giving out pumpkins to carve, complete with stencils, stabbers, saws and scorers to ensure that even the most elementary pumpkin enthusiast can produce a showstopper. But in spirit of the Tiger, it is not a competition and just something that has been going on for years and will continue for more to come.

“The pumpkin carving is something we’ve been doing for the regulars and staff for as long as I can remember,” said John Player, our friendly bartender, “it’s just good fun for the neighborhood.”

As the carving knives start slashing into orange globes all around to create menacing skulls and a White Rabbit illuminated by tea lights, the Fabulous Mullets, house band extraordinaire, step onto the stage and energize the growing crowd. With a funky bass, big-riffin’ electric guitar and splashy cymbals punctuated by fresh snaps of the snare, you have some great guys to sit in with anytime you need a band on which to jump in on.

“We have them here every Monday to play whenever someone wants to sit in. It gives the guys and girls playing at home some backup bass and drums,” said Player.

After some thrumming bass and wide-open wailing on the axe, the Fabulous Mullets did a rendition of “Voodoo Chile” by Jimi Hendrix. While following along the usual course of the song, they make it their own with a meandering weave of sounds clearly unique to the performance happening on this night alone. That’s what makes Open Band Jam so great. You won’t hear the same thing twice and the music always adjusts and evolves with the musicians as they come and go.

With the pumpkin shelf filling up and the Tiger getting busier, next comes a rendition of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” performed with an enthusiasm generally reserved for a personal favorite. The chords are big and bold from the electric while the cymbals glint and jump under the sticks. All that’s lacking is some harmonica and even that isn’t missed until after the song has been blended into some restyled crowd-pleaser.

The Blind Tiger has a great Monday night scene with impressive musicians showing up for Open Jam Band. With an old-school bar mantra that doesn’t take excuses or accept whiners — clearly advertised on the wall — this type of neighborhood holdout is quickly being replaced by trend-following and franchised versions that don’t know your name or ask about the family when you walk in. With the Blind Tiger you can still expect to get some honest advice and reflections from the bartender and whiskey is lined up in the front of the well. Good music, fair prices and a place to carve a pumpkin over some suds, what more can you ask for on a chilly fall Monday?

Open jam at the Blind Tiger in Greensboro, held on Monday nights, gives both amateurs and seasoned veterans of the scene a chance to throw down on one of the Triad’s most famous stages. (photo by David McGee)