Written by James Killen
Jul 05, 2013 at 08:00 PM
ImageI got a message early last week from Eddie Ferranti asking if I wanted to join him and Rose to see Mitch Jacobs at the Re:Hab Bar on Friday night. I have been hearing of several musicians doing gigs there over the last few weeks, so I sent him a note back saying “I do want to go to rehab, yes, yes, yes”.

On Friday evening, I arrived at a little square cinderblock building on the corner of Houston and Spring with parking out back. I came in through the side entrance to a cozy little honky-tonk with a nice bar and a drum set in the corner next to an old upright piano. The jukebox was finishing up a Tom Russell song and starting one by Dave Alvin, but something was a little incongruent. There were outlines of bodies on the floor, filled in with black paint and dabbed with red paint. There weren’t just bodies, but body parts and all sorts of guns and knives, like a gruesome battlefield. It seemed to have been put down recently, because it wasn’t worn or faded.

I made a trip to the men’s room and found a grotesque, black silhouette of a man making water, painted on the wall next to the toilet. As I took my stance, the silhouette seemed like a most disturbing shadow of myself, disturbing, but somewhat flattering in that it was “slimming” for a man of my girth. Posted behind the toilet was a note that explained what seemed to be a strategically planned campaign of graffiti. The Re:Hab was closing. The lease had not been renewed and the plan was to replace this honky-tonk haven with condos. July 10th would be the last night with a big music show and then everything would be broken down and moved to another location, to open at a later date. There was nothing on the notice complimentary of condos, those who built them or those who inhabited them. Truly, the fight to keep the location must have felt like a war to the owners and the loyal patrons.

When I got back in to the main room, Eddie and Rose were coming in and Mitch Jacobs was setting up his gear. I’ve seen Mitch several times and he has always impressed me with his guitar skills. A Telecaster is a dangerously entertaining tool in his hands. His band for the evening included a keyboardist, a bass player and a drummer. The room was small enough that no central PA was needed and all of the instruments were played through the amps directly. The room was familiar to them though because the levels were set with no sound check and Mitch kicked the show off with “This Ain’t No Beer Joint (It’s a Tear Joint)” and then we were honky-tonking.

The evenings fare included covers of country classics like “Wild Side of Life”, “Wreck of the Old ‘97”, “Guitars and Cadillacs”, as well as some of his own songs like “Happy Hour Bound” and “Pettin’ Party”. He threw in a couple of Roy Orbison favorites, “Dream Baby” and “Lonely Tonight”. He even did a fine rendition of Chris Isaak’s “I Wanna Fall in Love”.

Mitch’s voice and choice of guitars makes covering Johnny Cash favorites a natural occurrence, telecasting magic on “Train of Love” and “Folsom Prison Blues”. Junior Brown was in the mix as the band rocked through “Too Many Nights in a Road House” and Jacob’s bottomed out his vocals on “Highway Patrol”.

ImageThroughout the evening, the band mixed in some surf guitar favorites like “Secret Agent Man” and Dick Dale’s “Miserlou”. They even took a stroll through the blues with the Elvis hit “Mean Woman Blues” followed by an instrumental that reminded me of some old Gatemouth Brown works, that Jacobs called the “Shovelhead Shuffle”. Mitch and the band performed a number of instrumentals through the night that seemed to wander between melodies as diverse as “Heartbreak Hotel” and the theme song from “The Munsters” TV show.

We started to feel our years after the second set, as midnight drew near and the three of us hit the road. Before we got into our cars, we stopped to admire the mural of stick figures with guns, bazookas and tanks fighting an invasion of condos from outer space, painted on the outside wall facing Spring Street.

I was glad to have gotten a chance to see the Re:Hab in its original form and hear some real honky-tonk sounds before it, like Blanco’s will soon do, fades from the urban Houston scene. Mitch, the master of the Telecaster, will be back on the 10th to lead the final farewell. Then the owners of Re:Hab will begin their “Trail of Tears” to the new location at 1658 Enid Street. You can check for the opening date of the new establishment at rehabar@rehabar.com .