Guest Column: Reviewing a weekend in the River District

Our circle of friends usually start planning for weekend playtime way in advance, with many options in consideration. For many reasons, “the District” figures in most of the plans. Several of us live in the old city.

March 31 and April 2 weren’t any different. Our part-time cruise director, Jim Kelley, had lots of ideas for our hedonistic pleasures.

So early Friday evening, Jim Reed and I stop in Serrano’s Mexican restaurant for some savory delights, of course, planning on meeting up later with more friends. Serrano’s is a regular hangout for us when Charlotte’s Web has gigs at Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center, Memorial Hall or Krypto Music Lounge.

As usual, Anita is behind the bar at Serrano’s, and Cande is minding the kitchen. Cande has been fine-tuning a shrimp dish special with grilled onions and bell peppers over Mexican rice with a chipotle sauce topped with fresh cilantro and accompanied with beans and tortillas. Regular guy Matt says it’s outstanding without blowing the top of your mouth off. Avocado salad with the thinnest fresh-made tortillas, the best Mexican rice in town, tostadas and plump tacos finished us off. Oh, yeah! Beer, too.

From Serrano’s, we headed south one block to Kortman Gallery for the opening reception of John Deill and Jim Julin. Here’s where we ran up against some more of our loosely-held crowd who were enjoying the free champagne with much gusto. And they weren’t the only ones there; the place was jumping!

Long-time good artist friend Jim Julin has completed some of the most outstanding pieces I’ve ever seen him do, and I’ve been watching Jim for more than a couple of years. His new collection of wood shields and springbok antelope horns are so compelling, I found myself staring at them with no knowledge of anyone around me. He had a totally unusual, tall, thin piece of varying woods in a corner that blew me away. A friend scooped that one up within an hour of the opening.

Jim’s talent just keeps expanding. I consider myself extremely fortunate to own one of Jim’s shields. I purchased it about eight years ago. It’s a white oak piece a little more than 6 feet in length and 12 inches wide with six horns (and cobwebs).

John Deill’s works are not as familiar to me as Jim’s, but if I had any wall space left, it might have a Deill hanging on it. There were quite a few red dots on pieces by the time we left, so the guys were having a good evening. Attending this show should be on any art lover’s list, and it runs through May 2.

Jim Reed, another Jim, and I head off across State Street to Krypto for some music, leaving friends to further enjoy the show and a late dinner elsewhere. Dennis Stroughmatt & Creole Stomp is on stage tonight, and there is no way we’re going to miss this band. How often do we get a cool band like this in town? Well, thankfully, we can count on the Howards and Charlotte’s Web to bring us a well-rounded assortment of entertainment.

This band kept us jumping with their French Creole/Zydeco mix. And they were fun to talk to.

Krypto is doing a fine job this year hosting some of the Web’s bands, and they have a great crew and good bar specials. So! We finally get to hear good music and enjoy a cocktail, too.

Who could resist going to hear a band called “REVEREND RAVEN AND THE CHAIN SMOKING ALTAR BOYS”? This band was banging the blues at Big Cities Lounge, our main blues club on East State Street. All I can say is…WOW! This four-piece band was super with a lead guitar player and a harp player that could play any gig around. They kicked our fannies. Nino says they’ve been there before. If they come back, and you like the blues, don’t miss them.

Well, we were down to just one Jim and myself by the end of the night, and we decided to close it down. The best thing about the evening was that we spent it all in “the District,” my favorite part of town. And we walked to three out of the four venues. Come downtown sometime and join us.

What’s up for Saturday night? Well, there’s a pretty big birthday party for most everybody, but my sister Donna and I are off to hear a little Mozart, Strauss and Beethoven using our RSO season tickets at the Coronado.

Where? “The District,” of course!

Mike Newman is a local art collector and music aficionado.

From the April 26-May 2, 2006, issue

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