David and I dined first at Grafton Street, where I have to applaud the waitress for handling a situation well. She sold me on the special - a "sea bowl" of aquatic treats on a bed of linguine. It was savory - mussels, calamari, salmon, and other tasty bits in a tomato broth - but nary a string of linguine to be found. I pointed this out gently - "Someone in the kitchen is lying to you" - which resulted in a slice of chocolate stout cake, which is pretty much the equation chocolate + Nutella = paradise.
We ankled over to the Lizard, a new destination for both of us. Subterranean, deep red, and unrelentingly LOUD, I could hear the opening act with no difficulty as soon as I opened the door . . . on the floor above.
One of my anxieties about Life in general and barrooms in particular is being in the way. I like to be established in a seat, or at least against the wall, in such a way that I am not going to be in anyone's way*. At the foot of the stairs, in the dark low-ceilinged room, we had only one full row of tables between us and the right side of the band. It appeared the only seats available were at the very far side of the room, and that we'd have to circle the performance area to reach them. So I sort of barreled my way over there, and we got a small table in the back near the fire exit (don't forget that), directly in line with the entrance stairs. And we saw Tim coming down them mere minutes later.
The opening act, the Claudettes, were marred by over-amplification in my view. It gave an unjust harshness to their material (which had much to commend it), so much so that I could almost feel the wax dribbling out of my ears after the impact. One of their ballads included the lyric "Kill all the sound," and I thought "Yes, please! or at least just turn it down two thirds!"
At some point during this act (or was it the next?) I started to smell something burning. Others could smell something, too; I could tell by their body language. My first thought was "We're right by the fire exit," and then "This month is the 75th anniversary of the Cocoanut Grove Fire, which started in the basement Melody Lounge." Tim the Intrepid investigated, and discovered it was the electric heater turning out. Problem solved.
The next act, Bryan Carpenter and the Confessions, smoother, less harsh, like well-aged whiskey. I let that slip through me while sipping on a tumbler of merlot. I watched the lead singer, a slim woman, swivel her hips back and forth in a long pleated skirt, plaid in the way my fifth-grade jeans were plaid. Sitting in the back, on the side of the performance space, I had the stage lights in my eyes. I put my hat back on to let the brim block them out. One of their lyrics was something like "Look into the blinding light," and I thought "I am! AIGH!"
Tim and David know the Big Lazy guys pretty well, and Tim had been tipped off that a table would be opening up in the front row right before their set. So we got upgraded! For me that meant moving from a padded banquette to an uncomfortable wooden chair; I may never get the dents out of my ass now, but we had a great view of the proceedings (see photo above), and no lights in our eyes.
The Big Lazy set was fantastic: some familiar tracks from their album that I have, as well as new material for a nascent album. The audience loved them, and called them back twice for encores. The lead was telling a story to introduce a number, and when he said "And what do you say to a comment like that?" I heard the bartender in the background reply to someone: "And three pinot noirs?"
On a couple numbers Bryan Carpenter jumped in with his trumpet and mute to create some unexpected magic with them. Fantastic.
I confess that I coveted the lead's hat (again, see photo above), which he told me afterwards was a Stetson Stratoliner. He, in turn, commented approvingly on my all-black fedora - "not everyone can do that!"
By this time it was well after midnight, and Tim and David and I sallied forth into the not-as-cold-as-expected night to hike to the far side of the squayah to their car. Along the way, convulsed in laughter over a "Cash For Your Warhol" sticker.
I walked into my home at 1:24 AM after a fun, LOUD evening in a new venue, having heard some great music that was new to me. Next time: ear plugs.
*This also applies to Manhattan, where the locals are keen not to let anyone get in their way.