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Shows with Mississippi Heat in them

Mississippi HeatWelcome to Mississippi Heat, one of the most adaptable blues bands in the world. I've seen Mississippi Heat as a four piece in the back room of Jazz Record Mart in Chicago. Later that same day, the band included a horn section and female backup singers at the Chicago Blues Festival. No matter what the size or the lineup, Mississippi Heat is a perfect example of ensemble work. If a band member can sing, that flavor is added to the gumbo. Even when there's a special guest on an album (Billy Boy Arnold, Carl Weathersby, Zora Young, Peter "Madcat" Ruth and Ken Saydak have all felt the Heat), their musical contribution blends right in.

The band has been in every kind of live situation in the Chicago-land area. Heading around the Midwest, there are places like The Knickerbocker Saloon in downtown Lafayette, Indiana. Across the state, they're favorites at The Key Palace Theater in Redkey (about half-hour northeast of Muncie). They've also played France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Venezuela and Canada (including The Montreal International Jazz Festival). The band were even featured on national television, during a broadcast of Monday Night Football. The game was in Indianapolis and at the time, ABC would highlight a couple of host city hot spots. The cameras showed St. Elmo's Steakhouse and The Slippery Noodle Inn. As the voice-over was indicating what the club was and did, there's a shot of bandleader Pierre Lacocque on stage, wailing on harmonica.

Pierre Lacocque was born and lived in Israel with stints in Belgium, France and Germany before arriving in Chicago in the summer of '69 at the age of 17. That summer Pierre got his blues baptism. According to Pierre, his papa gave him his first harmonica at age 3 or 4. He had a good start because of his young appreciation for the soul giants of the '60s (Aretha, Otis, and Ray). By the time he arrived in Chicago, he was washed over by the blues harp power of his first concert: Big Walter Horton Horton at Ida Noyes on Dorchester and 58th. This was followed by a healthy blues diet of Little Walter, Junior Wells, James Cotton and Carey Bell. According to Pierre, it was older brother and future Mississippi Heat manager Michel who persuaded him to check out Junior Wells at Theresa's.

It's nice to see a family working together. Sister Elisabeth has designed the band's album covers on previous recordings. The next generation of Lacocques is also musicians in various degrees. Talk about a Thanksgiving jam session.

After a college stint in Montreal (along with nourishment of the music of John Mayall), Pierre returned to Chicago where he raised a family and made a career in the non-music world. All the while he was friends with fellow Chicago musician Tad Robinson, whom he met at church, of all places. See, there's always a link between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Pierre was reintroduced to members of the Chicago Blues community. Mississippi Heat was born in 1991 and has been continuing the city's blues heritage.

Pierre likes to try out a new song at every gig. That's right. Every gig. He's constantly writing new material. A tune like "Rosa's Strut", gives folks an instant taste of what the evening holds in store. Like a good boxer, he picks his harmonica punches instead of Blues Traveling you to death with a flurry of notes. His playing is smooth but can pack a wallop. Pierre Lacocque is the blues equivalent to a bottle of Chimay.

Following in the grand tradition of female soul shouters is Inetta Visor. The lady of the band since the band's Footprints On The Ceiling, Visor is a Chicago storyteller who can hold her own with the boys. She can sing gutbucket blues and smack you with the bucket if need be. As she mentions at Rosa's, "A true diva ain't scared to sweat." Refreshing to hear since nowadays terms like "Diva" and "Drama Queen" have become euphemisms for "Great big pain in the "

Mississippi Heat continues the fine tradition of Chicago Blues. Street harmonica, a bold lady vocalist, guitarists and keyboards from deep in the city gelling with a rhythm section that just won't quit. Plus the band's leader is writing original material as you read this. In today's blues times, it's real easy to put on a blues show with all the greatest hits of the 50s and early 60s. It's real easy to be a human juKeb' Mo'ox and please the beer drinkers in the house.

The band has an impressive lineup of alumni players including: Billy Flynn, Sam Lay, Calvin Jones, Shirley Johnson, Ike Anderson, Deitra Farr, Katherine Davis, George Baze, Bob Stroger, Mary Lane, James Wheeler, and Robert Covington.

On July 18, 2005, Mississippi Heat was a septet at Rosa's. Lurrie Bell (whose Delmark albums are also must-haves) was the band's guest weapon on guitar and vocals. Mississippi Heat and Delmark are a perfect fit. Both are time-honored institutions, celebrating the past and spotlighting the future. Enjoy.

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Matthew Socey is host of THE BLUES HOUSE PARTY on WFYI 90.1 FM and a contributing writer for NUVO Newsweekly, both in Indianapolis. His articles have appeared in Down Beat, Blues Access, Big City Blues and Blues Revue.