POMEROY — Any true baseball fan knows the most revealing moments come during batting practice. Watching elite talents going at their craft informally demonstrates their skill in a way that elude words.
Recently and for 180 minutes, blues musician Davy Knowles made Court Street Grill a stadium.
From the first silky bass groove to the last blistering guitar solo, it was apparent how Knowles has seized such a large following, and the audience could sense what is best described as the real deal.
Knowles and his band plunked a night in Pomeroy between performances in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
With appearances at music festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza under their belt, a feature on NPR’s World Café, and an album produced by Peter Frampton – yes that one – another act might easily overlook a sometimes sleepy spot on the river.
But not these guys.
“This has just a true, good juke joint vibe,” said Knowles, referencing that all bands find their sound in bars along a local music scene.
“It’s a really small kind of village where I’m from,” which is Port St. Mary on the Isle of Man, a 220 square mile island just off the coast of Ireland.
“I know all about small towns,” he said with a smile.
But how does this small town keep hosting high profile blues acts – Cyril Neville or Johnny Rawls, and so on- to match much larger venues.
The lion’s share arrive through Jackie Welker’s industry contacts. Owner Court St. Grill, Welker has helped quietly make Pomeroy a destination for blues music.
As both Court St. Grill, and Pomeroy’s Blues Bash summer blues festival, have increasingly landed large names, Welker says all those contacts come from being a fan.
“I have searched them out, for 20 years now. It’s become part of my business, but I’m really just an enthusiast.”
He gives a buoyant recap of blues history amid the pre-show din, before concluding “I’m thrilled, truly thrilled, to host someone like this.”
As they prepare to go on stage, plenty of bands swan dive into an antisocial haze, forming a protective bubble for artistic energies.
Not these guys.
Minutes before lighting up the audience, the bandmates are cracking jokes and finishing each other’s sentences.
“This is what happens when you stay together on the road too long,’’ said drummer Jeremy Cunningham, as he jokingly adopts Knowles’s mannerisms.
Good thing they only have three months left on the tour.
Knowles gave his own small history lesson while trying to trace why he, and so many others from across the Atlantic, adore the genre.
“John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Alexis Korner…even the Rolling Stones to some extent…really reinvigorated the American scene. It’s a bit of a British tradition,” at this point.
Music is an optimistic business by necessity, overflowing with touring bands who are enjoying every moment because they know it won’t transform into more.
“With blues, there’s room to put our own stamp on it, which is a really gratifying thing to do as a musician, put that mark while respecting what came before,” ended Knowles.
A lot of bands can respect the establishment but are unable to leave an imprint.
Not these guys.
Michael Hart is a freelance writer for The Daily Sentinel