Johnny Winter: Jesus Of The Dirtbags

Something was once related to me that was hilarious. And wrong. Truly rip roaring, knee slappin’. But almost racist.


And it was this: there are more dirt bags per capita at a Johnny Winter show than in any other place in the world.  This was told to me on the floor of a Johnny Winter show. So to be fair, we we’re factored in that quick formula.


This came to mind when thinking on yesterdays They Might Be Giants blog, which is the collected face of joy and communion. Smiles and whoops and people high fiving strangers (I guess. Strangers are weird). Versus the Johnny Winter show which is the face of drunken sadness and imminent violence. Not jumping as much as steering into oncoming traffic, socially.


There is joy, of course. It’s not The Walking Dead. Though clearly you can find every character of the perceived apocalypse within this crowd. It’s an odd vibe. Bikers and late night bakers and trippers and purists and dealers all came to commune.


For joy is watching someone born to do what they are doing. Johnny Winter is The Blues. Whether your taste is the classic Chess sides or BB King, you can not watch him and not feel ghosts and hear trains. Not songs about trains; the steel tumbles down the rails on some endless night and it works into the spinning of the Earth and the crashing sea. Monumental. Absolute purity.


And this sound brought people from all around. Another type of communion, but not of the group variety. We were there to watch the Man.


If God exists, the only proof I could cobble together is the deity strength Irony that had to be cosmic intervention. Cause he wasn’t simply a white dude. He’s was the whitest dude alive. And he played the blues with a weight that played against the idea that any music belonged to any culture. Then destroyed by too many middling white rappers, but fuck it,


The Johnny Winter classic’s (Still Alive and Well, Johnny Winter And, Second Winter) were barn burning Rock and Roll records. Inventive writing, twisting of traditions and baked in the very bakeable 70’s scene. Johnny and his talented brother Edgar (whose White Trash is the only ‘funk’ I could deal with) twin albinos in flashy clothes and capes. They were very much comic books heroes except they’re music was not kid stuff.


When I finally got to see Johnny live, it was….something. He was slight and pale. Like even for an albino. It was almost like his big ass dragon tattoo got a smaller tattoo of a white guitar player. It was disheartening, actually,


Then he played. And his playing was a wild animal, snarling, beyond training. His voice came like an ancient blues side, with every creak and crack authentic. It was like seeing a ghost of a great blues man, and with every sip, the veil thinned.


A Johnny Winter show was like a transcendent experience. With shivs.


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