Last night I enjoyed a pleasant pub crawl with my pal Don. Being of a certain domesticated temper these days, I spend far less time in bars than I once did, and a salutary survey of the local watering holes was well in order.
We began with the newest kid on the block, Clever Dunnes’, an Irish pub that opened about a year ago. They have great food and a good selection of beers, and sometimes they even play Irish music in weekend nights. There was an irish football game on the telly, and we had a pleasant meal and a couple pints of Guinness. I was struck by the low smoker quotient.
(I should note that my old band, the Bare Knuckle Boxers, occasionally plays there. The picture on their site is from a June gig in that location.)
We then headed over to Pike (or is it Pine? after thirteen years, i still can’t get it straight) and wandered into Kincora’s, another joint that the Boxers have been known to play from time to time. In fact, I’ve played gigs there going back at least ten years, starting with a Halloween gig (in a different band from the Boxers) in which our guitarist yanked the neck of his Mosrite Black Widow in such a way as to chip the tooth of our lead singer – I was wearing a full-head mask, which made it impossible to see what had happened – I just saw Tod go down like a sack of bricks, and when he got up, there was blood all over his face. He just kept singing, though. What a trouper.
Kincora’s has clearly become the hipster destination of choice on the lower hill – it was appropriately seedy and featured a wide variety of creatively dressed pierced, and tattooed young people. It was interesting to me that as far as I could tell, I did not recognize more than one of the people in the bar by sight, presumably a testament to my domesticated status.
From there we wandered up to Linda’s, crowded as ever on a weekend night. Linda’s crowd remains young, but unlike the aggressively uber-hip crowd I recall from the joint when it first opened, the youngsters bellying up were much less prone to be wearing a mesh-back baseball cap with a seventies satin shirt, for example, or to sport a septum ring. Now, I’m not saying that the bar was full of puffy-haired yahoos, but the overall hipster quotient was quite low. In a way, it’s almost a relief to know that there’s a place for these folks on the Hill.
Next, we wandered up to the Bad Juju Lounge, which Don had never dropped by before. His curiosity was piqued by my semi-joking characterization of the place as ‘the goth bar.’ As advertised, there was a distinct preponderance of black garb in the bar; but, as with Linda’s, I was somewhat surprised at the diminution of concern with costume among the clientele. I suppose that the presence of the Vogue right next door probably draws off the folks who are most focused on latex-wear and so forth.
We then wandered vaguely by Barca and over to the corner by the Wild Rose – I was surprised to see that apparently the teahouse in the condo building had closed down. We debated the options, but were drawn down toward the bar that I’ve inhabited more than any other, the sainted, beloved Comet (another place I’ve gigged, too). They were having a show, and the loud rock was pouring into the street. We stopped by the corner windows and looked in – you can see and hear the bands playing with no difficulty.
It quickly became apparent that the band playing was fantastic. I recognized the imposing bulk of their guitarist, who Karel had introduced to me at the Comet a few months ago. The Comet is right around the corner from a major practice hall, known as the Chophouse, where tons of bands practice; gigs at the Comet can have a kind of hometown vide as a result, since the musicians that pass one another in the fetid, loud, smoky halls of the practice space will frequently adjourn to the Comet for a cold one and conversation. It was clear that this gig was one of those, the musicians interacting with specific people in the crowded space, the play area mapped out on the floor only by the monitors. It was punk rock the way punk rock is at its’ best, and Don and I quickly realized it would be better to stand inside the bar with a beer than outside without.
The band was Midnight Thunder Express, and they were playing a farewell show before they head out on a six-week European tour. I can’t begin to convey the excellence of the show and the band’s sound. It was a perfect way to close out the night – the serendipitous nature of finding the show was wonderful.