Sunday, November 25, 2012

Taking Jersey Shots

The city is still operating in holiday mode.

Parking spaces abound. Few cars are on the road. It doesn't even feel like a Saturday.

Driving up Main Street in search of dinner, places appear to be lightly populated.

The emptiest of all is Mediterranean Bistro on the corner of South Addison, a three -week old  '70s-era Mediterranean restaurant we soon learn.

Walking in, it seems familiar.My companion thinks he knows why.

"It's like every Greek diner in Jersey," he opines.

I think I've eaten in Jersey maybe twice so I am unsure what that involves.

I find out. Red plastic water tumblers.  Two big screen TVS, both on and blaring. A menu of Greek and Italian dishes.

Taking seats at the bar, I immediately ask our affable bartender if he can mute the TVs since we're the only customers.

He obliges.

When it comes time to choose music, he defers to us.

Despite being a metal fan, he admits to liking D'Angelo, so he uses that as a starting point for a Pandora station.

"We can change it if you don't like it," he says accommodatingly.

Bowing to the menu, we choose Elios Red, a fruit-forward blend from Greece and then a Greek salad.

As we shared the salad, the bartender brought us small bowls.

"The kitchen just took some rice pilaf out of the oven," he said. "Here, try some."

Try some, you'll like it. It was a family thing to do.

A traditional menu calls for a traditional dish, so we ordered the handmade eight-layer lasagna to share.

We'd banked on typical Jersey proportions and boy, did we get them.

An enormous piece of lasagna came doused in dried oregano but otherwise perfectly satisfactory for the place and the price.

It'll be interesting to see what crowds they'll draw being on the main drag but being of the plastic-covered menu variety.

That and the butter coming in small plastic containers kind of place.

Despite a valiant attempt on both our parts, part of the lasagna left when we did.

Call me demanding, but a meal evocative of the Jersey turnpike was not enough to soothe my soul tonight.

There were shows galore, but I opted for the Long Arms show at Poe's Pub.

Walking in, I saw the usual Poe's crowd of neighborhood men and die-hard smokers/drinkers, aka the Poe's regulars.

Nearer the back room, I ran into Long Arms' leader, James, a fellow history nerd and lecture attendee.

He gave me a hard time about finally coming to see his band (alright, it had been over a year) but seemed genuinely glad to see me.

Black Brothers was already playing so I quickly found an empty stool and planted it.

The band was a standard rock trio (guitar, bass, drums) with the unexpected addition of trumpeter Lucas Fritz, whom I'd seen many times in various permutations at the Camel.

It didn't take long to be hooked on their Southern take on alt-rock with horn and I got the sense that many in the room felt the same.

After their interesting set, the guitarist said, "We're the Black Brothers and we have a couple t-shirts and CDs in case you want them. But you probably don't."

I have to admit, I admire that kind of anti-marketing.

And, just so you know, there are two brothers named Black in the band.

Truth in rock and roll.

Despite Poe's being an infrequent destination for me, I ran into several friends, resulting in several hysterical conversations.

Favorite line from the a handsome bass player: "I mean, how do people go out and do stuff like you do and still have time to clean house and do laundry?"

We all do what we gotta do, maybe just a little faster, my friend.

By the time Long Arms took the stage, I was deep in conversation with another friend, this time about women who send texts to male friends about their significant others.

Best line in that chat: "Tuesday's generally the big hookup day, right in the vortex of the work week."

I swear, I just sat down in a stool and they talk to me.

Not all of them because many of them were outside on the deck smoking away.

Poe's is nothing if not smoker-friendly and I couldn't get over the clutch of smokers in heavy coats and hats out there throughout the evening.

Violinist Treesa Gold of Long Arms had told me that anytime you see a picture of her playing in the band, she looks happy because she enjoys it so much.

Actually, they all- two guitars, keys, drums, bass, violin- looked like they were having a blast.

The music is fun, part rootsy, part punk and part alt-country with James wowing the girls with his casual indifference and earnest energy.

And he's funny, too, saying things like, "Being pretty's my full time job."

"That's the stuff bumper stickers are made of," a friend said sotto voice afterwards.

Songs rolled out seamlessly from James saying, "This song is about a gunslinger" (he's no doubt an expert) to "Downtown Dreamer" to dedicating a song to "A guy I met in Memphis and I'm looking at him right now."

From the band's opening notes, an uber-fan danced directly in front of the band, clearly having too much fun.

When James wanted to get really earnest, he pulled out his harmonica and made the little girls swoon.

"Get it cookin', Son!" someone called from the crowd.

Man-about-town Prabir joined me for the set, an interesting companion because he used to be in Long Arms.

Watching intently, he commented on how weird it was to be watching another guitarist perform the parts he'd written.

After a particularly tasty little part, he noted with satisfaction, "Well done."

The man should know.

"Great drummer," a friend observed to me. "He never misses a beat."

After one particularly rousing song, "New Lovers' Dance," James announced, "That song was dedicated to Karen," although neither I nor Prabir could hear his explanation why that was.

It's not the why, James (although I'd love to know), it's the act.

Treesa's violin (like Lucas' trumpet in the last band) added an unexpected dimension to the band's already dynamic sound.

To close the show, James pulled out all the stops (meaning his harmonica) and the dancing man was joined by a certain violinist's husband, dancing mightily with his dashing hat in hand.

Nobody was happy when the show ended because everyone was having such a good time..

Waiting in the perennially long post-show bathroom line with other women, I promised the girl behind me I'd be quick.

My bathroom speed has long been legendary.

When I stepped out moments after going in, she bowed to me.

The next girl in line was even more direct.

"We should all buy you a shot!" she exclaimed, speaking of herself and the others still in line.

Yea, you should, honey.

But we're still operating in holiday mode, so I'll let it slide.

No comments:

Post a Comment