Janis Joplin once said “Audiences like their blues singers to be miserable”. In light of this I was pleasantly surprised on Friday night when I went to Café Portico to watch The Blues Train UK and the cheerful singer started to hand out maracas and told the smiling crowd to join in, writes Emma O’Neill.
The Blues Train UK is a four-piece band whose love of the Blues oozed just the right amount of joy over the soulful lyrics of Muddy Waters, Robert Johnston and John Lee Hooker. There was standing room only for the gig at Café Portico – a warm and inviting venue where the lighting alone makes you want to have a deep and meaningful conversation with whoever you’re sitting next to.
The café is tucked away in The Terrace on Grantham Street and a little hard to find – but that just adds to the appeal. It makes you feel like you’ve discovered this gem on your own; a little secret to be shared between clued up locals and curious visitors who investigate the sounds of live music coming from an alley behind so many chain restaurants and bars.
The bar staff at Café Portico were the friendliest I’ve encountered in Lincoln so far – and they must be good negotiators too, as they managed to chat to the kitchen staff in order to create a vegetarian meal not on the menu to accommodate my strange non meat-eating ways. The owner of the café (found out who he was after the night) was also mingling with the crowd and asking visitors if they were having a good time.
The food was what I’m starting to call ‘very Lincolnshire’- a term my Aussie palate has defined as anything fresh, delicious and hearty which goes well with red wine. So I wasn’t surprised when I discovered Café Portico was a member of Tastes of Lincolnshire, a group which supports locally sourced produce. The dessert was amazing and made me forget (temporarily) about my maraca duties – as a chocolate liqueur sauce with meringue and ice cream tends to do.
As the band glided through their smooth set, you could tell each of the members – who claim in their bio to be ‘old enough to have money for some good gear, but not old enough to need to draw from their pensions’ – were all bluesmen. Not because they were miserable, although they did squeeze out those sad blues lines with gusto, but because every now and then they gave each other little smiles that seemed to say “Look at all those smiling people playing maracas” and “How fun is this?”
The next music night at Café Portico features The Newbridge Jazz Ensemble and is on Friday 30th March at 8:30pm. The ensemble is a local band performing songs and standards from the jazz era, including a mix of Jazz, Swing, Latin and Samba Bossa Nova. Amongst other artists, Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock and Dizzie Gillespie inspire their music.
For more information go to: http://blog.cafeportico.co.uk/