I’ve been going to Fred’s as long as I can remember. Before the Seventh Street corridor was a thing, before the Food Network found it, before there was a Fred’s north or a Fred’s TCU, I’ve been a fan of the Fredburger. But with success came crowds, and the outdoor concerts are less fun in the heat. That’s why I was elated when they opened a Fred’s TCU on the site of the old Oui Lounge.
This place has the classic Fredburger, but there is also table space, so there is usually no substantial wait, and a real indoor stage so you can go see a band and know you will be able to sit down in the A/C and enjoy the music. Mind you, I miss the metal flake vinyl seats and the rubber rat that drops down out of the ceiling, but the TCU location is where I go for my Fredburger fix. I just wish they would book more shows; it’s probably the most under-utilized venue in Funkytown.
Saturday was one of those rare music nights at Fred’s TCU. Local legends Johnny Mack (vocals, washboard), James Hinkle (guitar, vocals) and Darrin Kobetich (guitar, vocals) were taking up residency on stage, and they were joined by Louisiana native Marty Christian (guitar, vocals).
All four of these guys are formidable bluesmen, with Mack playing rhythm on a washboard, and Kobetich, Hinkle and Christian providing masterful guitar work. Kobetich switched between a regular acoustic and playing slide on a resonator. Mack provided most of the vocals, which is understandable because the man has an amazing, powerful voice. But occasionally Hinkle and Christian took their turn at the mic (I’ve never seen anyone put a mic in front of Kobetich, and I’ve been a fan for years). At one point, the legendary Sumter Bruton — older brother of the late Stephen Bruton — stopped in to lend some T-Bone Walker-style guitar to this mess.
They performed a lot of blues standards, such as It’s My Own Fault (B.B. King), I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom (Robert Johnson), Hi-Heel Sneakers (Tommy Tucker), You’re Gonna Miss Me (Muddy Waters), Mean Mistreater (Muddy Waters) and Good Rockin’ Tonight (Roy Brown). But that’s not the point of a thing like this. We had a couple of generations of brilliant blues artists on stage just playing the music they love, the way they know how to play it. I will take an informal jam session from this kind of talent in an intimate venue like Fred’s TCU over a stadium show with a big-name production any day of the week. You feel this kind of music on a profound level.
With that kind of talent onstage, Fred’s TCU should have been packed last Saturday, but there were maybe a dozen people milling about during the music. Just a few blocks off of the Berry-University corner, this place has the potential to be a great place to see shows. Let’s hope the word gets out.