By Rick Mason
|Photo by Danny Sigelman|
|Bayport BBQ's Chris Johnson with Black Diamond Heavies' James Leg|
Just off the main drag in an unassuming Minnesota river town is an outpost of the deep South and an underground musical phenomenon whose ripples extend far across the globe. Bayport, on the St. Croix just south of Stillwater, may be home to a state prison and a massive windows factory, but it has a small-town, Midwestern feel that's been sharply tinged lately by the pungent aroma of southern barbecue and the hard-edged sounds of the blues.
Chris Johnson is the equally unassuming owner of City Pages' Best Blues Club of 2012
, Bayport BBQ, whose menu sports barbecued ribs and white whiskey, and whose tiny performance space regularly hosts artists like Scott Biram, Rev. John Wilkins, T-Model Ford and Buffalo Killers, representing the raw, surprisingly diverse movement collectively known as deep blues. A former insurance man, Johnson is also the founder of the Deep Blues Festival, which has miraculously survived despite myriad problems since its 2007 debut.
In fact, survival could be the theme tonight as Bayport BBQ celebrates its second anniversary with a show featuring Tav Falco and Panther Burns along with Texas one-man-band John Schooley. Falco is a former Memphis running mate of Alex Chilton who has been based in Europe for a couple of decades. He could almost be a godfather of the deep blues movement since his music is a surreal blend of rock'n'roll, country, blues, rockabilly, tango and European cabaret, all slathered in Memphis soul. The evening will include a short film Falco made in 1974 featuring hill country blues icon R. L. Burnside.