red lights

Confessions of a
Street Photograper

Buddy Guy
Outside Buddy Guy's Legends
Chicago, IL
Jan. 27, 2002
Buddy Guy's Legends
Buddy Guy's Legends

Observations and Photo by Barry Brecheisen

For years, come January, Buddy Guy has always played a series of sold-out shows at his near legendary club, Legends. I've also been told many times that during these shows he makes his way outside and plays in front of his club - on the sidewalk and road. Flowin' every soulful blue note into the Chicago night sky. Every January I tell myself I'm going to get my ass out there and get the shot and take in the street carnival outside. Buddy Guy The problem with January in Chicago is well, it's freezing outside. Not the time of year you want to be hanging in the cold for hours as you attempt to unglue your eye away from the frozen camera's eyepiece. As luck would have it, or a very forgetful Mother Nature, this year we are having an unusually warm winter. It's scary how nice it's been. I'm talking in the mid 60's. T-shirt and shorts weather up in these parts. If this is what they warned us about global warming then bring it on. Sorry, coastal cities.
It's Sunday the 27th of January and it's the last night of his month long stint of sold-out shows. This is it. I do it now or forget it. I jump into my old gray Honda Accord, pushing aside the McDonalds Quarter Pounder w/cheese wrappers, and arrive at 754 South Wabash with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Dressed in a black hat, black coat and a green camera bag slumped over my back, like a Siamese twin begging to be freed, I'm ready and willing to wait it out, to fight back the bitter cold if necessary! Sacrifice for art! "Always worst...the last night, you know," a rather brazen and burly bouncer tells me as he gives me the once over. I take out my camera to give him a heads up of my intentions. I plant myself below the blinking marquee leaning the camera bag on an empty Sun-Times newspaper bin. Hopefully, not looking like the beggars and the ones selling "Street Smart" appearing every ten minutes or so looking for small talk and a buck or two. I'm just hear to get the shot. Readjusting my seat, I could still hear the Windy City blues of John Primer. The arms of time slowly move forward as people meander in and out of the club. The club is heating up fast. My ass is cooling quicker. It looks like a sauna in there with the windows completely fogged up and me trying to swipe away the moisture to get a better look. Only bouncer boy throws me a javelin stare and I sit back down. I glimpse at my watch, it's now almost 10:30 pm.
It's amazing how popular you become just by holding a camera in your hands. One guy tells me a joke about his definition of a new asshole. He doesn't know that I now have my own definition. Another girl, tall, pretty and a little on the drunk side has made it her quest to get me inside. I'm not sure if she meant the club, though. Sudden silence descends as John Primer now sneaks by pushing his equipment to a van around the corner. I'm starting to realize the real show is here!
Shortly before it hits 11, I start fumble with my equipment in anticipation. Two guys who have had a couple too many are now pacing around me hoping to score a pair of cheap tickets. Harmless I guess, but I warily keep my distance. Avoiding eye contact as not to be associated with them in case there's trouble.
I didn't come here to get my ass kicked to the curb. Sure enough, they make some smart comment to a Legends employee, out having a smoke and security is quick to the scene. About 20 minutes into his set, I'm feeling the Windy City come alive as it picks up a bit on the corner. "I love Buddy more than anyone, but I can't take it in there anymore," I hear a couple mumbling as they swiftly exit the club. Shortly followed by a hippie couple who firmly plant themselves, along with what they grew at home, just to the right of the front door. "You remember 22," the bearded earthy guy explains to another concerned patron out for a smoke. "Buddy came on and we all did shots," as he continues. A pale-faced girl starts gurgling sweet nothings down her mouth and eventually pukes on her boyfriend's shirt. "Get it out, it's okay," states the surprisingly understanding young man. That's it, no more fast food for me.
I recognize the sounds of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" filtering through the walls. It's only an instrumental, but there's no mistaking that catchy riff. Buddy soon changes gears from psychedelic British blues for a little Memphis soul on Eddie Floyd's "Knock on Wood." Suddenly more people filter out of the club as a few extra bouncers emerge from the wood work. My hearts starts pumping as I raise my camera. Peaking out the front door surrounded by security it was easy to spot that trademark smile. Dressed in a black pin-stripe suit and an an orange t-shirt Buddy, looking pretty cool, pulls away from the pack, only to walk right onto his tour bus. He didn't miss a note as ticket holders swarm the bus. I he going to finish the song in the bus? It's only a temporary detour, of course, as Chicago's reigning blues guitarist reappears down the steps and back out onto the street. Acting like a man possessed by the ghosts of Hendrix and Muddy Waters, Buddy followed wherever his crying guitar notes would take him. Seizing the moment, I run ahead and fire off a couple shots as smiling fans look on. He turns and is escorted back into the club. That's it - it's all over in a couple of short minutes. Back inside I can hear a reprise of "Sunshine of Your Love" as I catch my breath and start breaking down my equipment. That's it I'm done. I walk back to my car satisfied knowing that I caught the moment. (A good photographer always knows when you get the shot before you ever see the negatives or digital playbacks.) My "to do list" has another entry crossed off and I can finally go home and sleep soundly.

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