By Salma Rios
Downtown Iowa City was filled with the sounds of blues and boogie-woogie on Nov. 10 at the Englert, 221 E. Washington St., as Chase Garrett’s Blues and Boogie-Woogie Piano Stomp kicked off its eighth year.
The house was packed, and it seemed as if the Englert was going to burst at the seams.
Chase Garrett started out the show in a Jimmy Kimmel-esque backstage camera footage sequence, in which he went into the musicians’ dressing rooms and caught them horsing around and partaking in various shenanigans.
The festival kicked off with 14-, almost 15-year-old Nirek Mokar from Paris. Mokar has been a fan of boogie-woogie since the age of 9, when he heard it being played in a speakeasy in Paris. Garrett discovered him in Paris and brought him into the fold of the Piano Stomp.
Mokar’s playing was an thing to behold. His energy was contagious and got the audience members stomping their feet and clapping their hands.
The band that was playing alongside Mokar was getting in on the fun as well. Tenor sax player Sax Gordon was dancing along with the music and having a good time on stage.
At one point during his set, Mokar started pounding on the piano with his feet, played it while lying on the piano bench, and he even played it while practically lying underneath the piano.
Garrett came out on stage, where he and Mokar played a song together called “Hawkeye Boogie,” which was adorable to watch as Mokar kept putting his arms around Garrett in order to get access to the keys.
After thunderous applause and a standing ovation, Mokar gathered his discarded clothing and left the stage in order to make way for the next musician, 18-year-old Ben Levin of Cincinnati.
Levin, like Mokar, started playing boogie-woogie at a young age. This year, he will be able to perform internationally at the 19th-annual LaRoquebrou Boogie-Woogie Festival in LaRoquebrou, France.
Levin was also incredible and played a variety of songs from both his album Ben’s Blues and songs from Fats Domino’s illustrious career as a tribute to him.
Toward the end of his set, Garrett and Mokar came back onstage, and the trio played a song together.
After a brief intermission, Garrett also got the opportunity to show off some of his own talent during his set. Like Levin, he also sang some of the songs he played.
Emilie Richard of St. Louis, vocalist and Garrett’s girlfriend, showed off her vocal talents with him and accompanying band.
The show closed off with Garrett, Richard, Levin, and Mokar all coming onstage and performing one last song together.
The Piano Stomp is an example of the vibrant music scene Iowa City has to offer. Next year’s festival is sure to be one to look forward to.