Across from Busch Stadium where the Cardinals, one of the oldest and most prestigious teams in baseball calls home, rests BB’s Jazz Blues and Soups, a two story blues bar almost as famous for it’s food as it’s longstanding reputation as a blues haven. On one busy Sunday night in December was the Baby Blues Showcase, an event dedicated to giving jazz blues musicians “under 30”, some successfully touring and others not having gigged, an opportunity to showcase their skills — and showcase they more than did.
Now in it’s 16th year, the event, sponsored by STLBlues.net and the Saint Louis Blues Society, works with two charities, Play it Forward, which has been successfully purchasing musical instruments for schools and children that cannot afford them, and a local food drive. Visitors could pay $15 at the door or bring five cans of food.
A young jazz band called The Animal Children kicked off the night with all-original compositions in the vein of Miles Davis or Charlie Mingus. Beulah Foehner and her band, the daughter of Saint Louis blues legend Sharon Foehner, played largely traditional blues songs for their first-ever gig.
Even on a sunday night, a healthy, excited crowd had filled BB’s, with people peering over the second floor balcony to the stage, tables and barstools were filled all along the venue’s long body.
“I got a problem with my woman”, wailed Jordan Thomas, lead singer of The Mojo Roots, a young and vibrant blues band popular throughout the region, “and I also got a problem with my wife!” he quips in true blues tone. The exciting four-piece band played Bobby “Blue” Bland, Johnny Taylor, and several originals
The Bottoms Up Blues Gang founded the set twelve years ago “because young band’s just weren’t really in here” said event organizer and BUBG guitarist Jeremy Segel-Moss. The band has, as Segel-Moss quips, aged themselves out of the showcase, but knowing it’s importance and significance to both the region and the city, they still faithfully organize and promote the event. One of the hardest working bands in the blues, Blues Gang does well over 200 shows per year “and this is the one show we put on that isn’t ours”.
After over a decade, “it is an honest-to-God tradition in Saint Louis,” Segel-Moss adds.
Past showcase alumni include popular acts Pokey LaFarge & Marquis Knox, who worked his long way through the audience from the stage to burst out the door — all while playing the guitar.
“This kind of showcase, focused on young blues artists, is actually kind of rare,” said Jordan Thomas after his set. “St. Louis has this rich history of embracing younger artists, and that’s really a big part of why the St. Louis blues scene is thriving right now.”
“Musically speaking, it just feels like home.”
Aaron Griffin and Matt Lesch performed before The Thin Dimes, who closed out the event with their folk-heavy Delta Blues style sound. Influenced by the likes of Son House and Mississippi John Hurt — but with a standup Bass and a healthy splash of Americana roots, The Thin Dimes are a young band the midwest needs to watch out for.
The Baby Blues Showcase, thanks in large part to The Bottoms Up Blues Gang and the Saint Louis Blues Society, set a progressive and prime example for the blues community at large, showcasing both young and up-and-coming musical acts that are bringing a new generation to the blues, while providing for top-tier causes like providing instruments to children.