Tonight: Vince Agwada brings 'cutting edge' blues to The R Bar


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A year ago, lifelong Chicago resident Vince Agwada and his wife were faced with a choice. Stay in Chicago or move to either Fort Smith, Ark., or Beaver Falls, Pa.

It wasn't easy. Not only did a move involve a new job for Mr. Agwada's wife, it meant Mr. Agwada -- a software engineer by day -- would be playing the blues for an all-new audience.

Tomorrow marks their one-year anniversary in Western Pennsylvania.

"I did a lot of research. I was pretty enthused about coming to Pittsburgh," Mr. Agwada said. "The music scene is awesome. The blues are well-received here. I didn't have any reservations about it.

"There's a whole lot of guys like me in Chicago, all fighting to get into the same clubs. I've been there my whole life, and I like to think I learned my lessons fairly well. So maybe it was time to leave the nest."

Tonight he'll be playing at The R Bar in Dormont.

"Although I'm not a stranger to the music business, I'm new to this area," said Mr. Agwada, who marks his 54th birthday tonight. "I've played with Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor and Sugar Blue and just about everybody out of Chicago. I grew up around them, I've played with them, I've jammed with them since I was a teenager.

"When I grew up in the '70s and '80s, we also had Jimi Hendrix, Santana and Zeppelin and all of that. I love jazz as well. And there's some of all those elements in my music as well. I get lumped in the blues-rock category and I do some gut-bucket blues, but I like to think I'm doing much more than that. My music is rooted in the blues, but it's much more cutting edge. We rock out, too."

He takes the stage with a band he has pieced together since coming to town.

"It's A-list, cream of the crop guys," he said. "April was pretty busy. We had eight gigs and worked every weekend. So it's picking up. We're building a following."

About 90 percent of the music is written by Mr. Agwada, most of it from two CDS -- "Basic Blue" and "Eyes of the City."

The nice thing about the eyes of Pittsburgh is that they seem to focus on him more than the eyes of Chicago.

"The audiences in Chicago are so spoiled," Mr. Agwada said. "You can walk into Buddy Guy's and Buddy Guy is over there at the end of the bar. Otis Rush is over there shooting pool. And then Robert Randolph walks in. On any given night you might see anybody. And so people in Chicago kind of take it for granted. And the next thing you know, they've got their back to the front of the stage and they're talking loud.

"I noticed that, here, the audiences really listen. At first it freaked me out. Maybe I've been lucky. The people are very attentive and seem to be into the music. I'm digging it so far."

Tonight's show at The R Bar will be Mr. Agwada's first visit there. Gary Hodell, who owns the bar with his wife, said he first heard Mr. Agwada perform in a recent blues competition.

"I'm a member of Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania and Vince was in the competition for going to Memphis. I heard his set," Mr. Hodell said. "He's very talented. I've been in this business for a long time. I'm not a psychic or anything, but sometimes you can just tell."

You can tell for yourself at 9 tonight at The R Bar, 2883 W. Liberty Ave., in Dormont. There is no cover.

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If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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