2003-08-28 Holland Sentinel Uppity blues women return for charity gig

Uppity blues women return for charity gig
Holland Sentinel

A song on a forthcoming Christmas blues recording on the Chicago-based Alligator Records label is entitled “Really Been Good This Year.” “You can believe that if you want to,” said a chuckling Gaye Adegbalola, 59, co-founder of Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women, who perform the song.

Saffire returns to Holland Sept. 5 to play a fund-raising concert for the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance. “They’re a great band,” LEDA Executive Director Gail Harrison said. “They have a reputation for putting on a great performance. We wanted to bring in a blues band because it fits with ethnic diversity, and the band is an interracial band, so that also fits with our mission of inclusion.”

Saffire is scheduled to perform from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 5. Tickets to the show cost $20 at the Knickerbocker box office or online at www.ethnicdiversity.org; online orders cost an additional $1. A meet-the-band session is scheduled after the show until 10:45 p.m. for an additional $10; meet the band ticket sales are limited to 100.

Saffire is known for its saucy lyrics, although Adegbalola says the band is no one-trick pony. “As a writer you try to write about universal things from a different angle so the audience can identify with the song but show a fresh way to look at it,” Adegbalola said. “You try to extract some humor from the pain. If it’s shocking, sassy or uppity, so be it. Songs that have become quote-unquote hits for us tend to be of that first direction. At the same time, we can write something really heart-wrenching.”

The band’s name comes from the blue September birthstone-“We changed the spelling from sapphire to saffire to put some ‘fire’ in the word,” according to the band’s Web site-and from Sapphire Stevens, the wife of Kingfish Stevens on the “Amos ’n’ Andy” show.

The trio consists of Adegbalola on guitar, Ohio native Ann Rabson playing a bluesy, honky-tonk piano, and Andra Faye on standup bass, fiddle and mandolin. “There are no drums. We’re piano-driven,” Adegbalola said. “That gives us a unique sound. We always prefer the real acoustic instruments.”

The band last performed in Holland’s Knickerbocker Theatre during the winter of 2000 as part of the Hope College Great Performance Series. “We brought them in because we were looking for something a little different, to liven up the series, something a little more blues based,” said Derek Emerson, Hope College arts coordinator. “”They have a great reputation; especially for their live shows…They appeal to more than blues fans. My mom likes Saffire, and she’s not the biggest blues fan.

“They are known as a pretty fun, easy-going and very personable group,” Emerson said. “More importantly, they are all very talented musicians. They get a crowd into their performances. Some bands relate well with crowds; others don’t. Andy they do.”

Although the college has no connection to the band’s Sept. 5 show, Safire will again perform in the knickerbocker Theater. This suits the band just fine. “I like a medium size listening room where the crowds are still able to talk back atcha,” Adegbalola said. “And I also like horizontal rooms: I can look around the room virtually into someone’s eyes.”

The Friday night Holland gig is a warm-up session for the bands, which is scheduled to perform Saturday and Sunday at the 30th annual Wheatland Festival.