The Majestic marquee

Having lived in San Antonio nearly 14 years, it's always been a treat to go to events at the Majestic Theatre. Just the mere phrase, "It's at the Majestic!" meant it would be a special evening.

Whether it was Lyle Lovett or Bonnie Raitt, the symphony or Cheech and Chong, just being inside this splendid structure is a delight.

Opening on June 14, 1929, the Majestic was the first theater in Texas to be fully air-conditioned. The structure is known as an atmospheric theatre, which, according to Wikipedia, means it is a type of cinema “which has an auditorium ceiling that is intended to give the illusion of an open sky as its defining feature. The decorative and architectural elements often convey an impression of being seated in a fantastic foreign setting…”

Fantastic indeed. The Majestic Theatre has become even more special recently, thanks to them signing on as sponsors of the San Antonio Blues Society. With the Sheraton Gunter Hotel across the street also as a sponsor, the partnership has resulted in a powerhouse for blues-related events.

Both sponsors stepped up to the plate in grand fashion when blues greats Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang came to town June 19.

Granvil Poynter and the Harter Brothers

It was only appropriate that the evening started out at the Gunter. After all, it was there in November 1936 that blues icon Robert Johnson recorded 16 songs in Room 414. When I got to photograph the near-sacred spot last year, I looked out the Gunter’s windows at the Majestic and wondered if Johnson had stood in that spot. What did he think of the theater, then only seven years old? Could he have even imagined his status in the music world nearly 80 years later?

A crowd gathers to enjoy the blues.

But back to June 19. On the Gunter patio, Granvil Poynter and the Harter Brothers played to an appreciative gathering. Tables were packed with music lovers enjoying dinner, refreshing beverages and the blues. Even in the heat, the sidewalk became crowded with an SRO crowd, and people who had been just passing by suddenly found themselves rooted to the cement and getting into the blues.

Across the street, the area under the Majestic marquee was also buzzing. The excitement about the night’s show was palpable and it only grew as patrons stepped into the cool relief of the theater.

On hand to greet all show attendees were members of the San Antonio Blues Society, who were given the opportunity to set up an information table in the prime real estate of the lobby.

"All of our directors and officers were out in full force for the show," said SABS board member Victor DiValentino.

"Elaine Vandiver, Steve Schnipper and Manuel Tarin [and the Groovy Gringa as well]  were busy taking new membership applications, photographing stage, audience and venue moments, and answering questions," he said. "Other board members and officers Ross Schlichting, John Cockerell, Scott Mayo, Frank Macias and Keith Howerton were also in attendance. Many SABS cards and brochures were handed out that evening."

DiValentino said the number of SABS members and sponsors in attendance that night was incredible.

"It seemed more than half our network was there -- a great gathering of lovers of the blues."

Jonny Lang

Jonny Lang

The build-up to the show was not overkill as both musicians delivered an amazing set of music. The 31-year-old Lang was in red hot form, performing as if his life depended on it. He threw himself completely into his music. He is definitely someone who loves what he does.

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy

And the elder statesman Guy? Despite being more than twice Lang’s age, the six-time Grammy winner had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He had the entire audience on its feet when he stepped off the stage and proceeded to walk through the theater, even walking up the steps to mingle in the balcony. (His venture begins at 6:30 in this video by YouTube user DavidLPeche.)

An experience like this always renews and strengthens my love of the blues. If you missed this fine event, your next chance to experience such an epic evening will be Sunday, Aug. 19, when B.B. King comes to town.

After all…it’s at the Majestic!

Music lovers: While plans have not been finalized yet, expect to start the evening once again with dinner, drinks and music out on the Sheraton Gunter patio. Then at showtime, it's just a short jaunt across the street to see B.B. King at the Majestic on Sunday, Aug. 19!


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