Sierra Nevada Big Room New Year’s Eve 2003

Chicago blues legend Elvin Bishop gets primal in a wild night of partying at the Big Room

Elvin Bishop, foreground

Elvin Bishop, foreground

Photo By Tom Angel

The Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. had all the bases covered for its big end-of-year, sold-out, blowout party in the Big Room. Delicious food (the appetizer plates of melt-in-your-mouth sashimi with mind-blowing wasabi alone were enough to put a person in a let’s party mood), fine jazzy dinner music (OK—I admit, it was yours truly and my excellent cohorts, pianist Jim Schmidt and guitarist Larry Peterson), wonderful waitstaff and bartenders and a most charming young coat-check man named Chris (great dancer, too), beer and wine a-flowin’ all night long, and of course the very rockin’ blues man, guitarist Elvin Bishop and his five superb band mates.

The Elvin Bishop Band hit the stage a little after 9:30 p.m., and I mean hit it with blast of fiery musical energy from guitars, vocals, bass, drums, rollicking keyboard (alternating with accordion) and excellently “wompy” trombone that got the dance floor packed in short order and kept it that way and more all night long.

Bishop worked the crowd into a frenzy over and over. A handful of shimmying women in lovely little sleeveless black dresses were pressed as close to the front of the stage as possible in order to be as near to him as they could, and at one point Bishop dropped down from on stage into the excited crowd with his cordless guitar and disappeared into the sea of people until he reappeared onstage again at the end of the song to joyful hooting and hollering from the audience.

During one song, he even had the people on the dance floor barking like dogs!

He and his band were clearly having as much fun as the exuberant crowd. “I knew that was the end of the song,” Bishop said at one point, “but the guitar didn’t want to stop!” Everything they played was supremely danceable, from the stuff on their new CD to, of course, the big Bishop favorites, “Travelin’ Shoes,” “Rock My Soul” and “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” (right after the New Year’s toast).

Bishop told me afterwards, "Chico people don’t seem to need no help havin’ a good time!"