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Players Pub
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Bloomington, IN
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Players Pub - Cool Blues/Hot Moves - Dancing Goes Tribal in the American Heartland

by Sally McKinney
June 1, 2009
Players Pub
424 South Walnut Street
Bloomington, IN 47401
812-334-2080
When friends said people were dancing to blues in my neighborhood, I walked into the Players Pub to learn more. At 6:00 pm people were still sitting around, eating/drinking/laughing. The dance floor was empty. Fortunately, food was good, and the beer and wine choices impressive. And the green plastic club chair embraced me like a hug.

At the local Players Pub in Bloomington, Indiana, live bands play music—most of it blues—six nights a week. Music usually starts around 8:00 pm (see Calendar at www.theplayerspub.com. What it takes to kick-start the dancing is a serious one, two, three, four from the drum, assertive notes from the guitar, and a lyric like "I Don't Need No Doctor." I was pleased when one couple performed a practiced, push-and-pull swing step. Another woman came up to dance alone, swirling her long, gray hair, twirling her feet, tapping the floor. It was easy to join in as more dancers appeared: stomping and turning, stepping and clapping in time.

Scattered blues clubs and annual city fests now play a social role from Memphis to Minneapolis and St. Paul. At the local Players Pub, blues is Big Business, and business is good! Located near hotels and the main campus of Indiana University, The Pub draws a well-mannered, older crowd. Sound woman Sheryl Kay Daniels dances while she works the console. From behind the tables, she notices ". . . smiling faces on the dance floor, lots of laughter, hugs, and high-fives . . .as customers dance away their troubles." People slouching in their seats might be enjoying the jambalaya, or grilled salmon on spring-salad-greens, or fresh berries, walnuts, and vanilla cream in a thin, chocolate bowl.

Albert Murray, author of "Stomping the Blues" says "blues music regardless of its lyrics almost always. . . induces dance movement that is the direct opposite of resignation, retreat, or defeat." Social dancing at The Pub typically grooves into a positive experience, whether it's basic one- or two- steps or The Twist, the Funky Chicken, or creative new moves not yet named.

Says one woman, now a single parent, "I love to dance! At home, I dance when I vacuum." As a child, she recalls a lot of abuse. "Music and dance were my only outlets," she confides. Club owner Greg Hill, a trained massage therapist, believes "This is a place of healing. . . .a place where people can make a friend, meet a friend, let down their hair, have a good time."

No day or evening is quite the same. Expect acoustic music for Sunday brunch. On Monday night, songwriters play. On Tuesday, the audience takes part in Blues Jam. On Wednesday, there'll likely be big band swing. During the last few months the Pub has also held an inauguration ball; a Mardi Gras party; a Hoosier Hills Food Bank benefit; birthday and CD release parties.

Author Murray claims that "the blues is an affirmation of life instead of an expression of sorrow." On weekends at The Pub, dancing quite often goes tribal, becomes a transformative rite, like the supportive community dances in Africa. King Bee and the Stingers, The Blues Ambassadors, and Gordon Bonham pull in many eager dancers. Chicago-based Johnny Rawls and Nick Moss and the Flip Tops sustain Chicago Blues throughout the region. Rawls captivates with his sparkling red guitar—and deft footwork on the dance floor.  "I feel so privileged to have these guys," says club owner Hill.

The band called Superstache, lead by alpha male Skip Daley, radiates positive energy. Carlyn Lindsay and Snake Doctor play hot, loud—and very danceable—blues and songs like "Why Don't You Do Right," to "Just After Midnight." The popular Swingrays band draws enthusiastic, dancing pairs.

When the Impasse band plays, dancers—who've learned much from life experience—heartily support music like "Heartache Tonight" and "I Will Survive." Two Impasse singers rock and sway, then dance on the floor with the crowd.

A raucous "Bright Lights, Big City," played by O2R (Open to Ridicule), calls the chair-huggers onto their feet. Masses of revelers pound the floor and a male voice challenges, "Try not to dance. . .I dare you!"
Great Food Great Music: mural on the wall above Players Pub dance floor (Carol Miller created the murals for Players Pub)

Great Food Great Music: mural on the wall above Players Pub dance floor
(Carol Miller created the murals for Players Pub)

Photo © & courtesy of Sally McKinney


Dancing shown in the mural above the band at Players Pub

Dancing shown in the mural above the band at Players Pub

Photo © & courtesy of Sally McKinney


More dancing in another section of the same mural

More dancing in another section of the same mural

Photo © & courtesy of Sally McKinney


Employee Tammy Rose, on the Players Pub wait staff, beside the OPEN sign

Employee Tammy Rose, on the Players Pub wait staff, beside the OPEN sign

Photo © & courtesy of Sally McKinney


Tammy Rose welcomes Jim Sprague (of the O2R band) at the Players Pub door

Tammy Rose welcomes Jim Sprague (of the O2R band) at the Players Pub door

Photo © & courtesy of Sally McKinney


Dining corner at Players Pub

Dining corner at Players Pub

Photo © & courtesy of Sally McKinney


Especially nice shot of musicians at Players Pub on Blues Jam night

Especially nice shot of musicians at Players Pub on Blues Jam night

Photo © & courtesy of Players Pub


Sheryl Kay Daniels dancing at Players Pub

Sheryl Kay Daniels dancing at Players Pub

Photo © & courtesy of Players Pub


David Baas (at left) and Nelson Batalon (on the right) - musicians on Blues Jam night at The Pub

David Baas (at left) and Nelson Batalon (on the right) - musicians on Blues Jam night at The Pub

Photo © & courtesy of Players Pub


Sheryl Daniels, Players Pub sound woman, dancing alone with her eyes closed at an Obama Inauguration party

Sheryl Daniels, Players Pub sound woman, dancing alone with her eyes closed at an Obama Inauguration party

Photo © & courtesy of Players Pub


Dennis McClure performing at Players Pub

Dennis McClure performing at Players Pub

Photo © & courtesy of Players Pub

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