Saturday, August 28th, was an appropriate time to be a night owl, as it was the final hootenanny to ever be held at the 49'r lounge at 49th and Dodge Street. The capitalists plan to build a CVS pharmacy on the site, and the local establishment will be torn down - along with other adjacent buildings - in a few weeks.
It was also Dundee Day about the business district over near 50th Street and Underwood Avenue, so there certainly was a party attitude in the neighborhood.
The hootenanny kicked off soon after 6 p.m., as jukebox tunes suited to the situation set the scene; featuring, prominently, classic songs by pioneers of the genre, Ralph Emery and Johnny Cash.
Food - an essential for this sort of event - was BBQ sandwiches, corn on the cob, potato salad, veggy salad and chips. My contribution was a bag of sun chips, and a $7 cover charge, which was apparently the day of cost, as an earlier figure mentioned had been $5, but the difference was nothing to quibble about.
It was a great meal spread to start things in the evening. My quip about the buffet: "It looks good ... smells good ... and tastes even better!"
Chris Kaan, a.k.a. "Kwami" was the man of the day, putting everything in order. He did a fine job, returning to his former digs to arrange for the food, bands and the necessities for a good time. A big shout of thanks to him.
Western Electric was the first band of the night, with their five men pumping out a lively set of tunes. A couple of their selections were "Driving Nails in My Coffin Over You" and another song called "Train Wreck." This is a great band, with distinctive sounds - including a unique steel guitar player - and they have always given a rousing performance at the 49'r, having also been featured at a previous hootenanny.
Western Electric at the 49'r Hootenanny.
With the arrival of dusk, my local scene changed to that of the nearby "martinpalooza." It was a real joy to see the many people gathered, in what was a distinctly family event. There were perhaps a few future birders based upon seeing some small tykes with binoculars and cameras to document the spectacle and many eyes to the sky for a free performance, which seemed to have a few added attractions since it was a Saturday evening.
Back at the local establishment a few blocks to the west, the hootenanny was going along with Sarah Benck singing her heartfelt tunes at the microphone. She noted that her first gig at the 49'r had been ten years ago, when she was just 17. "It is very special to me" to be playing at the last hootenanny.
Next on the stage was "Shift on the Fly" with a rocking set of tunes. The lead singer noted that "you can't have a hootenanny without a song about truck driving," then let it go. Their tune fit the mood perfectly. He then worked the crowd to get them on their feet, dancing and stepping out. He made certain that this would happen with words of encouragement and how the crowd needed to get expressive. It worked.
One of his best comments was a recognition for Kwami, and the heartfelt expressions - shouted again and again with encouragement - by the patrons in appreciation for this event. Kaan also played the harmonica, joining in with several sets.
There were more cowboy hats seen here than have been seen in a long time. Perhaps even more than seen at a ranch in the western Sandhills, during June at a branding time not forgotten but distinctly now ignored. Some of the boots made for walking were more for show.
Cass Brostad, i.e., Cass Fifty, was the second female balladeer to take control of the mic, with profound songs in a compelling set appreciated by the crowd. A song named "Dust Out of My Eyes" was quite expressive in conveying the attitude of the listeners.
Among the attendees were a couple of artists from the Bemis Project ... one from New York, and the other from San Francisco, whom happened to venture from downtown to the bar along Dodge Street. They did not realize the significance of their visit to this place at 49th and Dodge Street. Michael was inspired to sketch some views of the place, which are perhaps, the first ever, original 49'r hootenanny art ever created, which were done because of the ready availability of paper and two sharply pointed pencils.
We had some good discussions of the Omaha scene, including night life - including the need to visit Benson and, that based upon an obvious personal bias, that they should experience the martin gathering which is one of the hottest places to be on these late August evenings, bar none.
Music went on and on, sometimes inhibiting conversation. Oh well... . The crowd was mixing it up, with some dancing and the usual antics of late night in a bar. Band tunes were more expressive as time went onward and it was soon after 1 a.m. It was a unique experience to still be out at this hour, but it was necessary to continue being at the scene.
As the hands of time were moving towards 2 a.m., it was time to go. The departure was, however, cut short, by an appreciably fine, tattooed women - with special skills in dancing - whom said just the right things to keep my attention from wavering. We - and that would include the Bemis artists - had a hoot of a time at the picnic table out back, a.k.a. the smoking section outside, where nary a puff occurred amongst our cozy group, including a curvalicious, and vividly expressive woman.
Overall, it was a grand success at the 49'r. Other attendees would certainly have their own appreciative expressions for the time, something will be sadly missed since their cannot be anything similar once the building is demolished. The local landmark will be gone, with memories of the place fading to dim recollections of times gone by, including those of the last hootenanny in the Dundee district of Omaha.