"The blues are truly timeless," says Lenny Terenzi of Mighty Lester and the new president of the Triangle Blues Society. "A recording that came out in the last year, you put it on and you'd swear it was made in the '50s."
Sure, the blues keep floating in time, but the venue that's become the Triangle's main headquarters for blues—Hillsborough's Blue Bayou Club—feels wonderfully frozen in time. "The Blue Bayou is stuck in 1972—in a good way," Terenzi says. It's a sentiment shared by juke-joint warrior Bob Margolin, who, according to Terenzi, walked in, did a sweep of the place, and asked, "What year is this?"
Margolin no doubt took note of the other musician-chummy aspects of the Blue Bayou. There's the shape of the club, with all points focused on the stage, and there's all that glorious old wood, which makes the joint a sonic heaven. Taking the stage, Margolin probably also noticed the air traveling underneath, forming a natural subwoofer. And when he met Gary Lee, he encountered the Bayou's most friendly and welcoming aspect: an owner who cares about the bands and the folks who come out to watch them.
With Lee's Blue Bayou entering its fifth year—"that alone is a milestone for a blues club," offers Terenzi—it's ready for some upgrades. The stage monitors are going, and it could stand a board with more mixes. And for the crowds, more air scrubbers and more air conditioning. Terenzi and his society are putting their money where their music is for the club they adore: They've organized the Chillin' on the Bayou Blues Revue, and the Bayou gets every dime. It's both recognition of the club's status as a central North Carolina treasure (with, courtesy of mentions in noteworthy blues publications such as Blues Revue, a national reputation) and a payback. The Bayou has hosted several Blues Society benefits over the last half-decade.
In a bit of a twist, the four acts scheduled for the gathering are a step or two away from the hardcore blues that's the club's bread and butter. Bayou regular Will McFarlane and his wife will lead off as an acoustic duo, followed by Raleigh's Baltic Avenue showcasing the jazz-conscious side of the blues. New outfit the HELP supplies a hybrid rock in which blues is just one of a half-dozen landmarks, and R&B staples Skeeter Brandon & The Prime Rib Blues Band close things out. They'll be looking to bring their A games: "You want to live up to the room," Terenzi says. No pressure, really.
The Chillin' on the Bayou Blues Revue is Saturday, May 19, at the Blue Bayou Club on 106 S. Churton St. in Hillsborough. The music starts at 8:30 p.m., and the minimum donation is $10. For more, see www.triangleblues.com or www.bluebayouclub.com.