WEEKEND: Rick Estrin & the Nightcats strut into Port Townsend

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Mark Cole, former Upstage nightclub owner, is at it again, bringing a nationally known blues act to town.

California-based Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, touring in support of their Alligator Records CD “One Wrong Turn,” will pull into the Highway 20 Road House this Saturday night, bringing Estrin’s own blues and rock ’n’ roll songs.

The harmonica player, who picked up a Blues Music Award in Memphis, Tenn., this past May, is also a songwriter who pens numbers such as “I Met Her on the Blues Cruise,” “The Legend of Taco Cobbler,” “Desperation Perspiration” and “You Ain’t the Boss of Me.”

Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $25 for general admission or $28 for reserved seats at 360-385-2216 or via www.UpstageRestaurant.com.

Estrin, known as the “wise guy” of the blues scene, has been the frontman for Little Charlie & the Nightcats for more than 30 years and nine albums.

With Little Charlie Baty’s guitar acrobatics and Estrin’s harmonica in the foreground, the band toured the world repeatedly. Then Baty retired in 2008, and Estrin went looking for an equally intense guitarist.

As luck would have it, Kid Andersen, who had been working with harp icon Charlie Musselwhite, became available.

“Kid’s a fearless nut on the guitar,” Estrin says. “He’s really the only guy who could fit in with us.”

The new lineup released an album, “Twisted,” in 2009 and has been on tour ever since.

Estrin has “got to be the coolest and funniest performer in blues,” said Cole. As for Andersen, “it’s as if he’s playing the entire guitar, not just the strings.

“Add drummer J. Hansen, who at times plays drums standing up,” Cole added, “and you’re in for a show."

The first time Cole heard Estrin play live, he was in the kitchen at The Upstage. He heard what he thought was a Hammond B-3 organ. But he hadn’t seen any of the band members bring in such a thing, so he left the ovens and rushed out to see where they put it.

“It was Rick playing his harmonica,” Cole recalled.

He added that the Highway 20 Road House is no Upstage in terms of atmosphere. But its dance floor is bigger — while the venue is one of the smallest to host an act of the Nightcats’ stature.

“This means that everyone is close to the show,” Cole said.

More about Estrin and the Nightcats can be found at RickEstrin.com, while the Highway 20 Road House, at 2152 W. Sims Way, can be reached at 360-385-7747.

Last modified: December 05. 2013 8:12PM
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