As part of the official soft-opening of the newest Wheeler wine and dine establishment, The Salmonberry Saloon gathered invited guests, ticket holders and locals down to an evening of quality cocktails and world-class blues with renowned modern musician Chris Thomas King.
By Brian Cameron
The weather couldn’t have been better for the first banner event for the Salmonberry Saloon, the new establishment to take the reins of the former Tsunami Bar and Grill. After spending a great amount of personal time and effort to remodel the entire structure, interior and exterior, owners Patrick Rock and his wife Chantelle Hylton took to the microphone before the concert began to thank everyone for their support and say a few uplifting comments about what it is to be opening the Saloon in Wheeler.
“We are so happy to be here in Wheeler,” said Hylton. “And we are thrilled to have this be our first event, with such excellent music and guests, we couldn’t ask for more.”
Featuring specialized Wheeler-oriented cocktails such as their signature Wheeler Manhattan and a Cucumber martini that delighted the evening guests with themed cocktails, beers on tap and numerous other specialty drinks to enjoy.
After an hour of friendly conversation Chris Thomas King and his band began to ready the stage as people began to sit in the arranged rows to catch a closer view of some of New Orleans’s finest blues.
Starting off with classic blues sets from BB King, they performed a variety of blues songs, even from the films Chris Thomas King starred in such as ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou,’ and ‘Ray.” The concert took place during the sunset which provided an ideal light and mood for authentic New Orleans area blues music.
After the band had finished up the remaining crowd enjoyed nightcaps and the North Coast Citizen was granted a one-on-one sit down with all the band members, though their time was short to talk they all had a common comment in regards to what they all thought about the community of Wheeler.
“Oh man, we love it here, everyone is so laid back, the people are so nice here,” said bassist Danny Infante. “It really reminds me of Norway, we’ve been invited to play there a number of times.”
Infante has been playing professional blues for 37 years and he met up with King while in New Orleans over 12 years ago.
Catching up with the band’s drummer Jeff Mills, who joined the band shortly after the events of Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city of New Orleans in 2005, Mills started his musical career playing piano and to this day can play the keys. Mills currently resides in Atlanta but still visits “Nawlins” frequently.
“It’s a wonderful place here, it reminds me a lot of Norway,” said Mills.
When Chris Thomas King himself finally had a moment to sit down he was visibly exhausted from playing a few hours worth of quality blues music he did say this about what he thought of Wheeler.
“I love this town,” King said. “It reminds me of Norway.”
Clearly Wheeler has a Scandinavian likelihood that rivals only that of Norway, and as far as King and his band, according to him he can’t wait to return for the one-year anniversary of the Salmonberry Saloon.