When some 200 people packed McCabe's Tavern late Wednesday night, no one knew if Tab Benoit would play a note, nor if any of the Neville Brothers would make an appearance - not even the owner.
The eventual answers: Yes, and yes.
Benoit and fellow Louisiana bluesman Cyril Neville sat in with Texas-based Mike Zito's band for about a third of their three-hour set, itself an impromptu afterparty for Benoit and the Nevilles' show at the nearby Pikes Peak Center.
In true blues-jam fashion, guitarist/singer Benoit manned the drum kit for a couple tunes, and drummer Neville sang a song. Bassists and guitar players swapped out every few numbers, and the crowd was enthralled.
Benoit even stuck around past 2 a.m., chatting with fans, posing for pictures and signing autographs.
Zito, a friend of Benoit's, was en route to other Colorado shows when he arranged with local blues promoter Amy Whitesell on Sunday to do the afterparty, said McCabe's owner Greg Howard.
McCabe's books music acts at least twice a week, featuring blues two or three times a month, and has worked with Whitesell often.
"Being part of the blues community is what brought it here," Howard said, noting that this all-star combo was by far the biggest act to play the South Tejon Street bar.
Howard knew Benoit would come, but not if he'd play, by the start of business Wednesday. He thought a Neville or two might show up, but hadn't advertised, or even told his staff, for fear of disappointing customers.
But both hopes came true, and the result was a hit. McCabe's drew a bigger crowd than an average weekend show, Howard said - a perfect number, since if any more had shown up it would have been overcrowded.
Naturally, Howard says he'd love to host more surprise shows by Pikes Peak Center acts in the future. So how about the kid-favorite Wiggles, who are visiting July 29?
"Funny you should ask," he says, laughing. "The Wiggles' promoters had dinner here when they came to check the place out."
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