Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Hard Hand to Hold

I've been going to the Listening Room since it started two and a half years ago, but tonight was the first time I ever got publicly thanked for it.

And it's not that I need the validation, but it was a kick to hear it anyway.

The evening began at Bistro 27 for a glass of Gavi and Shrimp Bobo, the menu's only tribute dish to Chef Carlos' mother.

I remember having it back before it was put on the menu and being taken with the uniquely African-influenced flavors.

A combination of yucca root, palm oil and coconut milk with jumbo shrimp over brioche is as rustic as it is rich.

Small wonder the man ended up being a chef with that kind of culinary talent at home.

There wasn't time for dessert because it's essential to get to the Listening Room in time to claim one's seat of choice.

I got a bit distracted from that purpose when I arrived because that's also when the homemade baked goods showed up.

Dedicated listeners had brought cinnamon cheesecake bites, chocolate chip cookies, lemon pound cake and mint chocolate chip cookies.

It was a veritable dessert smorgasbord. I wouldn't want it spread around, but I had four mint chocolate chip cookies.

By the time I made it to my usual seat, there was a guy in it and he wasn't holding it for me.

I took the seat next to him and headed back to mingle. By some stroke of luck, when I returned, he'd vacated my seat.

Part of me would like to think that some other regular came up to him aghast, asking what he was doing in Karen's seat and he moved accordingly.

We all make up our own fiction, let's face it.

It was the Listening Room's resident photographer Rob who took on stage duties tonight, acknowledging that, "If you're a regular of the Listening Room, then you know I'm not the regular emcee."

It was the dimpled and bearded Chris who, we were told, is busy anxiously planning his upcoming nuptials, keeping him from his usual duties.

Even a dedicated music lover like me can make allowances for absences based on true love.

Eric Hunter played first and he'd brought two guitars so he wouldn't have to tune it between songs.

You have to admire a man who thinks ahead.

He admitted right off the bat that he was just playing three chords, doing songs about starting over and relationships.

Warning us ahead of time that the next song would sound an awful lot like "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." he went on to prove it, even singing a few lines of "the Coug's" (his phrase, not mine) lyrics to prove it.

Favorite lyric: "What's the point of thinking for myself if all I think about is you?"

I could have answered him, but the time wasn't right.

After the break, it was the Dimmer Twins, or "the pretty half of Horsehead," a band I've heard several times before.

A song called "Daddy's Home" benefited from multi-instrumentalist Kevin's fine pedal steel playing.

After a couple of songs sung seated, singer John returned to his accustomed band  position standing up and seeming far more comfortable.

You don't often get to hear a song inspired by a painting, but tonight's "Night Sleeper" was inspired by an Andrew Wyeth painting of the same name John had seen in Pennsylvania.

Favorite lyric: "Unsuspecting hearts are about to meet their doom." 

During the break, I saw the scientist, who had snuck in late.

He's usually my go-to chocolate source at events, not that I needed anything after a third of a dozen cookies, but I have to ask to keep him on his toes.

"Just came from a Scout meeting," he said, pulling out his empty pockets. "Had to use it there."

Only right that the youth come before the women with the cookie crumbs on their lips.

After the break, Rob got back on stage for more show reminders and thank yous, this time thanking the regular attendees, beginning with yours truly.

It was a lovely shout-out.

James West and the Vendors played last and as is unfortunately often the case when there are three bands, some audience members had already departed.

Explaining that their bassist was new and that it was only his third time playing with them, the band began an energetic set that had them winking at the new bassist for reassurance.

James told us that the next song, "Three Miles Wide" was about when your girlfriend takes acid before you and you have to hurry to catch up with her.

I found that absolutely laugh-out-loud hysterical. You never know where the muse will come from.

When he broke a guitar strong, the drummer popped up saying,"I had the foresight to bring a spare guitar," unzipping the case of one his stepfather had apparently given him years ago.

His humor resurfaced later when James explained that their previous bassist had moved to Portland.

"God rest his soul," the drummer observed dryly from behind his kit.

Their songs covered what can only be described as American Gothic.

You know, haunted plantation houses, foreclosures, tornadoes, suicide and cheerleaders who do blow.

When their set wrapped up, James' shirt was sweaty with the exertion of it all and the others look satisfied with having succeeded at playing "three times quieter than we usually do."

It's key to play quiet so the band can revel in not hearing anyone talk while they perform.

Everyone who plays the Listening Room seems to acknowledge the novelty and satisfaction of having people give them their full attention.

And everyone who comes to the Listening Room is as important as the band onstage.

Chris and Rob have both said so, so it must be true.

Cookie monsters included.


  1. I marvel at your recollect, Karen! Accurate account. Wonderful evening at the Listening Room, as always.

  2. Wonderful evening made positively awesome because of your mint chocolate chip cookies!

    See you around J-Ward soon.

  3. It sounds like it was a good one, I'm sad I missed all the desserts. :(