If he doesn’t start making some money, 20 Miles’ Judah Bauer will wish he’s in Blue Explosion


By Steve Newton

20 Miles doesn’t seem like the most appropriate name for Judah Bauer’s band. The singer, songwriter, and guitarist—also known for his six-string work with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion—should be in a group called 2,000 Miles, as he always seems to be covering ground. When the Straight catches up with Bauer on his cell, he’s pounding the sidewalks of New Orleans, just in from Jackson, Mississippi, in search of a free meal.

“My friend called me and said she’d made some beans and rice,” he explains between reading off house numbers.

The Manhattan-based Bauer is in the Big Easy for his first-ever gig at a place called the Mermaid Lounge. Previous stints in the city haven’t exactly packed ’em in.

“It’s kind of a slow town for me,” he confesses. “You’ll get people that really know the music, but I never had big turnouts in New Orleans.”

After Louisiana, 20 Miles travels to Oklahoma and Texas, where it’s scheduled to play a Dallas bar named Muddy Waters. Evidently that’s a blues-oriented venue, but Bauer will make his first appearance there as well.

“It sounds good,” he says. “We’ll see how it is. I got a new booking agent, so we’re playing a lotta places that I don’t know, but I’m into that.”

While hitting those unfamiliar night spots and racking up all those kilometers, Bauer gets around in a cramped little van, which he never drives himself. “I live in New York; I can’t parallel park.” With either drummer Jeffery Ansourin or bassist Franz Hausammann behind the wheel, 20 Miles will steer up the West Coast and into Vancouver for a show at the Brickyard on Friday (November 7).

That’s the same night as the first of two Commodore dates by Nashville roots diva Lucinda Williams, for whom Bauer wishes he’d scooped the opening spot.

“I think her crowd would dig us,” he notes. “But we’re gonna be competing, so…who are you gonna see, me or Lucinda?” After explaining to the blues rocker that I haven’t planned that far ahead, I suggest that economics will probably dictate who sees whom come Friday. Local roots-rock fans can either shell out $50 for Williams or lay down $17 for an evening with Bauer and his mates.

“We’ll be for the people!” he points out with a laugh.

20 Miles is currently touring behind its third Fat Possum CD, Life Doesn’t Rhyme, which sports both upbeat, riff-driven boogie-blues and languid, introspective ballads. Bauer’s scheduled to start working on the next JSBE album in December and says he doesn’t mind switching back and forth between bands.

“I’d rather be in 20 Miles this week,” he relates, “but if I don’t start makin’ some money, I’ll wish I was in Blues Explosion.”

Thank God for free helpings of beans and rice.

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