Sunday, October 18, 2009

Music at the Soul Kitchen

Music is one of my passions in life, especially live music. I truly enjoy watching talented musicians and singers practice the craft they love. So last week when I learned that The Rebirth Brass Band was appearing at the Soul Kitchen I decided it was time to finally check out this popular music venue.

Located in downtown Mobile at 219 Dauphin Street, the Soul Kitchen has a reputation for booking great bands and I must say that Rebirth Brass Band was awesome! This group's music has the feel of a New Orleans second line band with a dash of jazz, funk, and hip hop added for fun. The music was great and the crowd had a great time. There was a genuine Mardi Gras feel to the night.

That being said, Soul Kitchen is in a building that once housed Woolworth's and I'm willing to bet that the place hasn't been cleaned since Woolworth's occupied the building. This place is a filthy dump. I've seen some nasty bathrooms at convenience stores and gas stations but the Soul Kitchen takes top honors for disgusting bathrooms. My daughter asked for an ashtray and was told to throw her cigarette butts on the floor. The employee actually said "that's why we pay a guy to sweep up." Looking around I would guess that the "sweep up guy" doesn't come very often.

The beer is cold and the bartenders are talented and friendly. All of the staff was very affable. There are two stage areas in the club, a large stage and bar in the back part of the building for big crowds and a smaller more intimate bar and stage at the front. Neither area provides tables or chairs so wear comfortable shoes because you'll be standing all night. Rebirth Brass Band played on the front stage, I assume because the audience was only about 100 people. I didn't mind standing since my daughter forewarned me to wear flat shoes, but really, if I shell out $15 for a ticket and another $2 for a membership card I think I should have the option of sitting if I want to.

The bands don't start at Soul Kitchen until very late. The doors opened at 9:00 but the band didn't begin until 11:30. We made the mistake of showing up at 9:00 and had to sit through an hour long sound check with the first band. This is a major annoyance of mine. I think sound checks should be done before opening, not in front of the audience. The opening band was the Revitalists from New Orleans and their music sounded good but I couldn't understand any of the lyrics because the sound was turned up too loud. Everything was distorted beyond recognition. In fact, when we left at the end of the night my hearing was severely impaired. It didn't return to normal until noon the next day. Apparently this is the normal volume level because the bar staff all wear ear plugs. The management needs to learn that louder does not equal better, it just equals louder.

Lest anyone think my poor review of the Soul Kitchen is a by product of my advanced age let me point out that I spoke to many, many people that night who were my daughter's age (early 20's) and they had the same complaints I am voicing now. The fact that this age group continues to return to the club, in spite of their complaints, shows they're more forgiving than I am. I have no problem with dive bars and this place has all the makings of a great dive bar. Just clean it up!

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